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Is China coming to a city near you?

Hong Kong is being transformed by the influx of mainland tourists, some say Chinese tourism magnets such as Paris, Seoul, and Taipei should prepare to deal with something similar.

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For 15 years Hong Kong has fought to maintain its local identity, language, and culture despite formal unification with mainland China. But as more and more wealthy mainland tourists flood the territory looking to shop, the Hong Kongers’s way of life is being challenged.

Hong Kong, which has a population of 7.15 million, logged 28.1 million tourists from the mainland last year, up from just shy of 7 million in 2002. Chinese tourism magnets such as Paris, Seoul, and Taipei are watching. 

Chinese visitors are pumping money into Hong Kong’s vast, thirsty retail sector, which is a good thing for the economy, but not good for every local. As international companies catering to tourists have expanded, they’ve driven up rent, pushing out small shops catering to locals. Prices of daily goods and real estate are also rising, frustrating locals and highlighting significant changes underway in Hong Kong as it modernizes.

“There’s a little bit of emotional adjustment,” says Joseph Cheng, political scientist at City University of Hong Kong, noting that the territory once considered itself, in no uncertain terms, better off than the mainland. “Now it’s the other way around. They buy our real estate and go to the luxury shops. But on the whole, simply put, this integration is inevitable.”

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