A major intellectual breakthrough I made in the last 10 years (one of very few) is to recognise and begin to incorporate in my thinking the dynamic nature of culture — in other words how culture both changes for reasons internal to societies and can be changed via policy intervention. I started to understand this working on Asian Godfathers, partly by spending time with ethnic Chinese, Arab, Tamil and Indian tycoons in south-east Asia, and partly because I tripped over, and then read, the extraordinary anthropological work of G. William Skinner from the 1950s*. Then I just started reading more anthropology (also known as ‘journalistic reportage for grown-ups’).
Anyhow, if you want to understand what is going on in Hong Kong and Taiwan just now, you need to fit the cultural piece of the jigsaw. As luck would have it, here is a new paper dealing with just this issue, across the three societies of mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is free, easy to read and enlightening.
* The core Skinner opus:
G. William Skinner, Chinese Society in Thailand: An Analytical History (Cornell University Press, 1957)
G. William Skinner, Leadership and Power in the Chinese Community of Thailand (Cornell University Press, 1958)
G. William Skinner, ‘Creolized Chinese Societies in South-east Asia’, in Anthony Reid, ed., Sojourners and Settlers: Histories of South-east Asia and the Chinese (Allen & Unwin, 1996)