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Open Access Time-space Punctuation: Hong Kong's Border Regime and Limits on Mobility

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One of the most powerful metaphors for globalization is David Harvey's "time-space compression." The speeding up of economic and social processes has experientially shrunk the globe. As with all metaphors, it both offers important insights and is potentially misleading. The world is not shrinking in a uniform manner. Compression is uneven for different kinds of actors, objects and ideas, and discontinuous across space. We supplement the imagery of time-space compression with that of time-space punctuation. Punctuation identifies symbols that break up the flow of speech. The space of flows that make up a globalized world is also punctuated by a variety of barriers. Securitization since 9/11 and increased surveillance of emerging infectious diseases also heighten the importance of borders. These issues are explored through a case study of how Hong Kong's border is managed and transformed. A crucial "punctuation" function of this border continues despite the resumption of Chinese sovereignty. Increasingly, the border has become a complicated system of punctuation in a region that has become intensely integrated. Hong Kong residents can move more freely across the border than can residents of the rest of China, but movement into Hong Kong is differentiated in relation to family status, economic desirability, capacity to spend as a tourist, and the possession of valued human capital. These barriers to mobility have important impacts on restructuring both Hong Kong and the neighbouring region of China.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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