Freie Universität Berlin
The University of Hong Kong
To appear in:
Running Head: Hong Kong 1997
The transition from British to Chinese rule in 1997 is a unique example of a predictable stressful event that affects the community of Hong Kong in various ways. The present paper describes the historical and political context preceding this transition characterized by high sociopolitical volatility, as suggested by some objective data (e.g., emigration) and subjective data (e.g., opinion surveys). Psychometric items designed to assess threat/worry, challenge/self-efficacy, and benefit were administered to two groups, a large random sample of the ethnic Chinese Hong Kong population and a sample of Chinese university students. About half the random sample reported to be seriously concerned about the future after 1997, whereas in the student sample only about one fifth did so. Neither group expected advantages from the political transition. The students felt somewhat less challenged or less self-efficacious in dealing successfully with the upcoming event. In discussing these findings it is argued that first-year students might have other concerns shortly after being admitted to college as opposed to the average population, which might be more involved in sociopolitical matters.
Keywords: community stress, threat, worry, challenge, self-efficacy, anxiety
The British "dependent territory" of Hong Kong will be handed over to the People's Republic of China (PRC) on July 1, 1997, to become a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the latter. Among the many political and economical implications of such an event, there will be psychological and social changes that occur not only during and after the transition, but also prior to it, while people anticipate the uncertainty of what may be coming.
The present research aims at the personal experience of this critical life event before that date. It examines, among other issues, to what degree the event is appraised as a challenge, threat, or benefit-three cognitive appraisal categories that have been found useful in the investigation of stress and emotions (Lazarus, 1991). Because of such appraisals, people may respond with optimism, hope, arousal, anxiety, anger, or depression and disappointment. Moreover, people tend to act according to their stress appraisals and emotions. They may emigrate, save or spend money, cultivate their social networks, give up trying, abuse substances, file divorce petitions, invest political efforts, and so on, depending on whether they perceive future events as challenging, threatening, or beneficial. A range of attitudes, emotions, and behaviors can be expected as a result of diverse cognitive stress appraisals.
This paper is addressed to readers unfamiliar with the situation in Hong Kong. Thus, the historical and sociopolitical situation is described in detail before moving on to the actual empirical research conducted by the present authors.
In a treaty between the British Queen and the Chinese Emperor in 1842, the island of Hong Kong was given the status of a British crown colony. It was later joined by the peninsula of Kowloon, and in 1898 by the New Territories, which was leased from China for 99 years. Thus, in 1997 the New Territories will be returned to China. Since Kowloon and Hong Kong Island would probably be unable to exist without the New Territories, and due to diplomatic pressure, the entire colony will be taken over by the People's Republic of China.
Today, Hong Kong is an affluent city-state with about six million inhabitants, ranking as the world's number one port and tenth largest trading state. In terms of "purchasing power parity", the inhabitants in Hong Kong earn more per capita (US$18,500) than those in Britain (US$16,600), and about forty times as much as in the People's Republic of China (US$435) (cited after Yazhou Zhoukan, "The International Chinese Newsweekly," December 25, 1994). It is a showcase for economic success and prosperity, high technology, and modernity with a rapid pace of life. Further, it is a highly urbanized civic society characterized by cultural diversity, openness, and innovative power. Thus, it has become also the media and cultural center for Asia and for the global Chinese diaspora.
In the early 1980s, the governments of Britain and China held diplomatic conferences to negotiate the future of Hong Kong. They resulted in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 that set down the terms agreed by both sides. It was promised that: (a) Hong Kong would exercise a high degree of autonomy from the Mainland's government and (b) would keep its own executive, legislative, and independent judicial power, (c) its legislature would be constituted by elections, and (d) the preexisting freedoms and rights would be protected. The political development in the time span between the declaration and today, however, leads to serious doubts about the trustworthiness of these promises (Loh, 1994).
On April 4, 1990, the President of the People's Republic of China signed the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) which was then adopted by the Seventh National People's Congress. This law spells out in more detail how the People's Republic of China interprets the Joint Declaration and how it is to be implemented. In particular, it states that "the socialist system and policies shall not be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years" (Basic Law, 1991, Article 5). It defines who is considered a "permanent Hong Kong resident" and therefore is eligible to receive a permanent identity card. The government of the HKSAR is supposed to issue passports to all Chinese who hold such an identity card (Article 154).
It is of note in this context that presently about half of the Hong Kong inhabitants hold "British Dependent Territory Citizens" (BDTC) passports that expire on June 30, 1997. This is the predecessor of the new British National (Overseas) (BNO) passport that would allow free travel after the transition. Some deadlines for the issue of the BNO passports have passed. An estimated one million Hong Kong residents, only a minority of the eligible population, have obtained it so far. The Government is scheduling its issue by stages to avoid a last-minute bottleneck. This BNO passport will coexist with the HKSAR passport to be issued in 1997, but it remains unclear how the right of abode, nationality, and freedom of travel will differ for holders of these two documents. BNO holders are ethnic Chinese, not British nationals, and do not have the right to abide in Britain, not even if they should be expelled from Hong Kong after 1997. It merely entitles the holder to British consular protection overseas (Skeldon, 1994).
The Basic Law guarantees, among others, freedom of speech, demonstration, strike, travel, and emigration. Moreover, it spells out the planned political structure including the Chief Executive, the Legislative Council, the judiciary, and the role of the public servants. In line with this law, localization of the civil service is presently in progress, which implies the early retirement of many top expatriates in favor of hiring local staff (Lee, 1994). Further, it is stated that the first Government and first Legislative Council will be formed "in accordance with the principles of state sovereignty and smooth transition".
Overall, the people of Hong Kong were seen as basically optimistic and pragmatic when facing their uncertain future (R. T. Y. Chung, 1994). However, as the critical deadline approaches, and after a series of adverse events have occurred, trust in a smooth transition and bright future of freedom and prosperity might become shattered. A major event of this kind was the crackdown of the student demonstration in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, in June 1989. This event raised doubts about the degrees of freedom that would be granted to the HKSAR after the British leave.
In 1992, Britain appointed a new governor, Chris Patten, who initiated a democratization process that sparked disapproval in Beijing. Since his noteworthy policy speech in October 1992, the Sino-British relationship has turned more difficult. The Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG) had been established to achieve a smooth transition, but has not made much progress in finding a consensus over the major issues. Another group that is working out the details of transition was inaugurated in 1993 by the People's Republic of China, namely a 57-member Preliminary Working Committee (PWC) for the HKSAR Preparatory Committee. The PWC meets behind closed doors, so any information that leaks to the public receives a great deal of media attention.
In spite of the ongoing political disputes between Britain and China, there are no signs of an economic decline. In contrast, the Hang Seng Index (a stock market index) finished 1993 at 11,888 points, which is 115% up on the year. Obviously, investors ignored China's saber-rattling over the democratization in Hong Kong. By the end of 1994, however, this index had gone down to 8,268 points (December 28, 1994), which reflects the volatility but this was attributed to world money market factors rather than to Sino-British conflicts.
The BBC showed in 1993 a television program about "The secret life of chairman Mao" that included information about his predilection for young women. This airing was heavily criticized by China. Media tycoon Robert Murdoch was unwilling to address China's complaints in a manner satisfactory to China, and he finally dropped BBC World Service Television from the Hong Kong STAR TV network in 1994. It is seen by some as a compromise by STAR TV to get onto the satellite market in China. This event has sparked a debate about "self-censorship" of the Hong Kong media, an attitude to avoid conflicts with the People's Republic of China at the expense of freedom of the press. In a similar manner, publishers have become reluctant to issue school textbooks that contain materials incompatible with the PRC's interpretation of events or its focus on national identity. In 1994, two textbook publishers have stopped their production of new history textbooks because they believed that their use would be discontinued after 1997, putting them at a severe economic disadvantage. Some secondary schools have decided to teach core subjects no longer in English but in Chinese, a move that has found disapproval from many parents and legislators.
In April 1994, the Hong Kong Journalists Association protested over a 12-year sentence passed upon the Hong Kong journalist Xi Yang, after a secret trial in Beijing on charges of spying and stealing state secrets. It remains unclear how state secrets are defined and which constraints will be set after 1997 for routine journalistic research to collect data for the media. Some journalists who signed a protest were not allowed to enter China afterwards. China, in June 1994, issued a code of conduct for Mainland journalists which stresses that they must pledge their loyalty to socialism and to the Communist Party. One wonders, therefore, how long press freedom can prevail in Hong Kong under circumstances such as in Mainland China.
Patten's electoral reforms that come into effect for the 1995 elections were passed into law on a third reading vote after a night-long debate on June 30, 1994. Most Hong Kongese, however, were ignorant about the significance of these constitutional reforms, as a poll showed. In 1991, the first elections for the Legislative Council were held, with the next ones scheduled for September 17, 1995. These 1995 elections to the Legislative Council were considered to be the most "democratic" ones in Hong Kong history. They could also be the last, however, because People's Republic of China officials have suggested that the Legislative Council will be "reformulated" after the takeover.
In sum, recent years have provided a series of events that might undermine trust in the People's Republic of China and, thus, contribute to stress and volatility.
Sociopolitical volatility can express itself in many ways, including emotions, attitudes, and manifest behaviors. Among the latter, emigration and social deviance might serve as indicators of stress.
Emigration and immigration are closely related phenomena that depend upon many factors in the countries of origin and destination, such as employment opportunities, social networks, and political circumstances. The anticipation of political threat and pessimistic concerns about the economic future are merely two influential factors among others that might lead people to think about leaving, pushing them to take precautions and to plan for departure, or provoke the actual emigration procedure. One could expect that the emigration rates will continuously rise as 1997 approaches, but such an assumption disregards the complexity of the issue. Many Hong Kong residents have already emigrated over the last decade, possibly influenced by the negative prospects since the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 and the events that followed. Thus, the pool of concerned residents who feel inclined to emigrate may have become successively smaller over the years. The more are gone, the smaller the potential for further emigration becomes However, as adolescents grow up and become mature adults with the legal and material means for emigration they may replenish the pool of potential migrants. Actually, the present issue in Hong Kong is more one of immigration than one of emigration since the excess of arrivals over departures has reached 76,500 persons in 1993 (Skeldon, 1994).
Emigration has slowed, with a government estimate of about 53,000 leaving Hong Kong in 1993, compared with the peak year of 1992 when about 66,000 left; these numbers, however, might be an underestimation (Skeldon, 1994). The most important emigration destination remains Canada (more than half), followed by Australia, New Zealand, USA, Britain, and others. The host countries impose restrictions on the influx, with different target rates over recent years. The overall fluctuation of migrants and the destination-specific emigration rates, therefore, are influenced by policy measures, maybe more so than by individual preferences. Further, domestic unemployment rates were about 10% in Canada and Australia, and of similar size in most Western nations that were hit by the recent world-wide economic recession, whereas unemployment is almost nonexistent in Hong Kong. This difference in labor market conditions might have further reduced emigration. Moreover, many emigrants have returned to Hong Kong either temporarily or for good after meeting difficulties abroad. There is an increasing trend for bilocality, that is, the fact that there are more persons who obtain foreign passports without giving up their residence in Hong Kong. These global commuters are locally called "astronauts". This bilocality is supported, for example, by the Australian immigration policy that grants passport applicants the option to return to Hong Kong for up to three years before eventually taking residence in Australia. About one third of the applicants have used this option (Skeldon, 1994). Migrants then continue to enjoy the economic prosperity and their family networks in Hong Kong for a while before they finally move to their destination country, where they either retire or try to find employment, sometimes under less advantageous working conditions.
The Hong Kong population is steadily growing, an outcome that is mainly due to immigration, less so to natural increases (births over deaths, with yearly rates slightly above 40,000). The intake of immigrants more than doubled from 56,457 in 1986 to an estimate of about 120,000 in 1994 (Skeldon, 1994). These are mostly immigrants from Mainland China. Starting in 1994, the Hong Kong government has allowed 105 Mainland Chinese to enter the territory legally per day ("one-way exit"), which amounts to an annual rate of 38,325 immigrants. Due to the chronic labor-force deficit in Hong Kong, workers are in demand, for example for the many construction projects such as the new airport Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island. For the latter project, up to 25,000 Mainland Chinese workers were permitted to immigrate on a temporary basis. In a similar manner, the Hong Kong service industry has a high demand for workers, such as domestic helpers who predominantly come from the Philippines. The number of foreign nationals (excluding Chinese) has more than doubled in the last eight years and reached 358,700 in early 1994, the majority being Filipinas, followed by Americans, British, and Canadians, some of whom might be former Hong Kong residents (ethnic Chinese) who have obtained foreign passports (Skeldon, 1994). There is no way to establish to which degree immigration and return movements are intertwined.
One outcome of migration is the spread of extended family bonds across the globe. No population has such a large network of relatives abroad as the Chinese. One indicator for recent enlargement of such networks can be found in the travel statistics. By analyzing the departure of Hong Kong residents by destination, it is found that departures have doubled for Australia and New Zealand (combined) from 1988 to 1993 (from 70,196 to 147,814 persons traveling outbound). Similar rates are documented within the same time span for Canada (from 78,118 to 132,854), USA (from 113,086 to 154,060), and Britain (from 89,415 to 123,520). These figures are not to be confused with emigration rates, since they include multiple family visits, student travel, etc. (Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics, October 1994). Nevertheless, it illustrates the potential for further emigration. Being more embedded in family ties abroad provides an excellent opportunity to emigrate on short notice should matters become worse in Hong Kong.
There is a clear upward trend from 2,857 divorce decrees in 1983 to 5,650 in 1992. Actual divorce petitions rose continuously from 3,734 to 8,067 in 1992. Both indicators have more than doubled within the ten-year period (Hong Kong Annual Digest of Statistics, 1993, p. 20). This is a remarkable trend that, however, need not be attributed necessarily to sociopolitical volatility. Are there other factors that might account for this trend? The annual marriage rates have been rather stable, ranging from 45,238 in 1983 to 41,681 in 1993 (Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics, October 1994). The population rose by 11.34% during the time span from 1983 to 1994 (from 5,345,000 up to 6,061,000 inhabitants; Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics, October 1994). This growth rate cannot explain the more than doubled divorce rates; rather, it might be that sociocultural norms have changed and the society had adopted a more liberal or permissive stance toward divorce. It remains undetermined whether such a normative trend or the overall community stress accounts for the doubling of divorce rates.
As with migration and divorce rates, crime rates may also indicate community stress, but they are subject to many influential factors other than stress. The available statistics distinguish between violent and nonviolent crime, and further, between cases reported and persons arrested. Obviously, the likelihood of reporting a crime and the efficiency of authorities to pursue the case successfully are major determinants for the resulting statistics. For the one-year period between the second quarter of 1993 and the second quarter of 1994, no changes in the incidence rates of violent crime can be found (Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics, October 1994). As for nonviolent crime, there is a continuous increase in persons arrested, from 8,456 to 9,538, with a discontinuous increase in cases reported from 15,951 to 17,172.
The number of suicide deaths in Hong Kong has gone up from 579 in 1988 to 735 in 1992 (A. Chung, 1993). The suicide rates, however, that take population growth into account did not change very much. Only among those older than 55 years and those younger than 24 years has an increase of suicide rates been observed. Statistics about unsuccessful suicide attempts are not available.
The public opinion about Hong Kong's future has been examined in a number of polls (R. T. Y. Chung, 1994; DeGolyer, 1994). One aspect of public interest was the constitutional reform package that Governor Chris Patten had announced in 1992 and which resulted in a major Sino-British dispute over more than seven months. The Social Sciences Research Centre (SSRC) of the University of Hong Kong has surveyed a random sample nine times (tracking poll) to explore the degree of optimism or pessimism about the outcome of the 17 rounds of Sino-British talks behind closed doors. Initially, the information leaked so far caused optimism, but the trend was reversed over the last six points in time (R. T. Y. Chung, 1994).
People's trust toward the governments of Hong Kong, China, and Britain has dropped from 1993 to 1994, as two polls conducted by the SSRC have shown. In the 1993 poll of 7,572 respondents, 54.7% indicated to have trust in the Hong Kong Government, 23.9% were trusting the Chinese Government, and 27.6% the British Government. One year later, of 6,325 respondents, 47.1% indicated to have trust in the Hong Kong Government, 19.2% were trusting the Chinese Government, and 22.4% the British Government. Trust has dropped toward all three governments, but the Hong Kong Government is still much more trusted than the two others. The 47.1% trust level could be considered as "fair". This could be explained by the fact that people tend to better understand local policy than the policy of the more remote "sovereign" powers, and they could exert considerable control over local affairs.
In spite of some lack of trust, general confidence in the future of Hong Kong seems favorable, as the 1994 poll of the SSRC shows. At this time, 56.5% felt confident, against 22.3% who lacked confidence, and 21% who responded with "do not know". Although Hong Kong people generally have reservations about the performance of the three governments, they seem still moderately confident of Hong Kong's future development. Other poll results, however, might lead to different conclusions, for example, when people are surveyed about their worries.
The Hong Kong Transition Project, a government-funded research center located at Baptist University, has started in 1989 to conduct sociopolitical volatility surveys (DeGolyer, 1994). The four most recent series of polls refer to the time span from November 1991 to February 1994. One aspect studied was the degree of worry about life after 1997. The questions of interest here are: "At present, do you worry about (a) personal standard of living after 1997? (b) personal (security and) freedom in Hong Kong after 1997? (c) the prospects of Hong Kong after 1997?" The responses document that about half the population worried about the future and that this amount was rather stable over time with a slight upward trend, although its significance cannot be gauged from the descriptive statistics without access to the original data base. This epidemiological information is of limited value from a psychological point of view because these were no panel data, there were no group comparisons, and, most important, because the construct of worry was not well elaborated and the psychometric properties of its measure were unknown.
The same research team examined plans to leave or stay in Hong Kong after 1997. Data were collected at three points in time: February 1993 (n = 615), August 1993 (n = 605), and February 1994 (n = 636). Option 1 was worded "Will stay under any circumstances", endorsed by 38%, 42%, and 43%, respectively. Option 2 was "Plan to leave", endorsed by 51%, 44%, and 46%, respectively. Option 3 was stated "Would leave or seek means to leave if changes after 1997 are unsuitable", affirmed by 51%, 44%, and 46%, respectively. Between 6% and 9% answered with "Don't know" (DeGolyer, 1994). This documents that there is a large potential of Hong Kong residents who consider the option to leave if things get worse. More than half the respondents (who are considered a representative sample of the adult population) either plan to leave or would leave under certain circumstances. Given the extended kin network of the Hong Kong Chinese all over the world, such an exodus could become real if the destination countries would keep their gates open for it.
The team of the Hong Kong Transition Project further asked which particular circumstances would elicit the desire to emigrate. In a poll of 293 persons in February 1994, it was inquired "What is the MAJOR change which you would find so unsuitable as to make you seek to leave?" Personal freedom (37%) was given as the main cause for emigration plans, followed by personal standard of living (24%) and Hong Kong's politics (19%) (DeGolyer, 1994). As indicated above, people worry about personal freedom after the Chinese takeover, and consequently, consider the possibility to emigrate if necessary. Should the new HKSAR Government decide to limit the freedom of speech, travel, strike, demonstration, etc., granted in the Basic Law, then this change could become a major cause for political unrest and emigration.
The present study was designed to further explore the subjective experience of stress as the critical transition to Chinese rule approaches. Based on today's most widely accepted theory of stress and emotions (Lazarus, 1991), threat, challenge, and benefit were chosen as stress appraisal constructs. The fourth theoretical category, harm/loss, was of no relevance here because it has a bearing only upon past events. Challenge and threat refer, according to the theory, to the anticipation of a critical future event perceived as taxing or exceeding one's personal coping resources. The cognitive appraisal of threat results in the emotion of anxiety, the chief component of which is worry (Eysenck, 1992; Schwarzer & Wicklund, 1991). The cognitive appraisal of challenge results in energetic arousal, leading to enhanced coping efforts. Thus, the notion of challenge is somewhat similar to that of perceived self-efficacy (Bandura, 1992, in press; Jerusalem & Schwarzer, 1992).
The focus of this research is not on the mere description of threat, challenge and benefit levels, although these have to be reported first. Rather, it is on group comparisons. It is of main interest whether university students differ from the average population of Hong Kong in terms of stress appraisals when asked about their life after 1997. Since these students might constitute a future elite of the territory, it is important to learn how they feel about the transition. Their assessment of the situation would influence their loyalty toward the new government or their tendency to leave the SAR.
The present study is based upon the responses of two samples to the same set of variables. A random sample of 501 Hong Kong citizens responded to a telephone survey. There were 269 men and 232 women with an average age of 37 years (Median = 36, Mode = 40, SD = 12.88) with the age range of 18 to 81 years. There were no statistically significant age differences between men and women. Broken down by level of education, 23% of valid cases had attained primary level or below, 50% secondary level, 8% hat attained matriculation, and the remainder had a post-secondary education (13% with a degree and 6% without). As for present occupation, 50% of valid cases were professionals or semi-professionals, 27% clerical workers, and 23% production workers.
A second sample consisted of 293 undergraduates at the Chinese University of Hong Kong taking an introductory psychology course. Most of them were not psychology majors. There were 94 men and 199 women with an average age of 19.56 years (Median = 19, Mode = 19, SD = 1.34); the age ranged from 18 to 34 years. There were no statistically significant age differences between men and women.
Data collection took place simultaneously in both samples in the first week of November 1994. The telephone survey was conducted by the Social Sciences Research Centre (SSRC) of the University of Hong Kong. Only Chinese persons who spoke Cantonese were interviewed. The students attended three classes of an introductory course on general psychology taught by different lecturers. They received a Chinese questionnaire with 35 psychometric test items that included, in random order, a subset identical to those in the telephone survey. The data collection was anonymous and lasted about 10 minutes.
The telephone survey and the student questionnaire served a number of purposes. Only the overlap of the two is of interest here. There were six variables, given in Chinese and spread throughout the interviews:
Responses were made on a four-point scale, ranging from 1 (not at all true), 2 (hardly true), 3 (moderately true), to 4 (exactly true).
About half the random sample voiced earnest concerns about their future by acknowledging that they were preoccupied with thoughts about life later, that they perceived a serious threat, and that they worried. The category "exactly true" was the most strongly endorsed one for all three variables (34.6%, 29.8%, and 28.3%, respectively). In line with this finding, less than one fifth saw "lot of advantages" in the upcoming Chinese rule, whereas 52% disagreed strongly to this item (Item 5). The two challenge items (4 and 6) showed a more balanced result pattern, with an even distribution across all four response categories (Table 1).
Insert Table 1 about here.Table 1.doc
The results for the students were in sharp contrast to those of the normal population. About 80% of the students were not or hardly concerned about the issue (Table 2). More than half of them disagreed strongly with the notion that the upcoming political changes would pose a serious threat, and one third also disagreed strongly with the worry items.
Insert Table 2 about here.Table 2.doc
One would expect from these results that the students look optimistically into the future and anticipate benefits after the transition. However, about 90% did not see "lots of advantages" (Item 5), and more than half of them doubted that they can meet the challenges (Items 4 and 6). This pattern of results looks inconsistent and needs to be scrutinized in more detail.
To further examine the differences between both groups, considering gender as an additional potential source of influence, univariate two-factorial (2 x 2) analyses of variance were computed separately for each of the six variables. A multivariate approach was carefully thought about but seemed inappropriate because the assumptions of multinormality and homogeneity of dispersion matrices were violated. Also, due to missing data, the cell sizes would have shrunk to an undesirable level. For the univariate analyses, the assumption of variance homogeneity was also violated, but in all cases the largest variance was associated with the largest cell size, which results in a more conservative significance test (Stevens, 1990p.42).
For the first variable ("I am preoccupied with thoughts ...") a statistically significant difference between the random sample and the student sample was found (F[1,727] = 134.9, p < .001), but no gender difference was evident. The means for the random sample (women: M = 2.84, men: M = 2.76) were far above those for the students (women: M = 1.84, men: M = 1.96). Partial eta square6
This pattern of results was repeated for the second item ("The upcoming political changes pose a serious threat..."). A statistically significant difference between the random sample and the student sample emerged (F[1,746] = 137.9, p < .001), but no gender difference turned up. The means for the random sample (women: M = 2.67, men: M = 2.45) were far above those for the student sample (women: M = 1.64, men: M = 1.60). Partial eta squared.16
For the third item ("I worry about things..."), again this finding was replicated. A difference between the random sample and the student sample was found (F[1,771] = 51.55, p < .001), but no gender difference was present. The means for the random sample (women: M = 2.64, men: M = 2.44) were far above those for the students (women: M = 1.92, men: M = 1.99). Partial eta square6
The perception of challenge or self-efficacy however, was different for men and women in both samples. For Item 4: ("I certainly can meet the challenges..."), a statistically significant difference between the sexes emerged (F[1,676] = 8.85, p < .01). Also, the random sample and the student sample differed (F[1,676] = 7.14, p < .01). Random sample women (M = 2.13) and men (M = 2.44) felt less challenged than the students (women: M = 2.41, men: M = 2.58). Partial eta squared01 & .01
The cognitive stress appraisal of benefit (Item 5: ".. lots of advantages") was different for the sexes in the student sample, but not in the random sample. An ordinal interaction between gender and sample turned up (F[1,675] = 6.38, p = .01). Random sample women (M = 1.69) and men (M = 1.77) felt similar about the benefits. However, within the student sample, the men were much more optimistic than their female counterparts (women: M = 1.54, men: M = 1.96). Partial eta squared02 & .01 & 0!
For Item 6 ("I am confident that I can deal successfully with the challenges...") a difference between the sexes also emerged (F[1,694] = 14.72, p < .001). In addition, the random sample and the student sample differed (F[1,694] = 4.80, p = .03). Random sample women (M = 2.46) and men (M = 2.78) felt more self-efficacious than the students (women: M = 2.30, men: M = 2.59).
02 & .01
In sum, for the three negatively worded items, no gender differences were found. Both sexes in the random sample were much more concerned than both sexes in the student sample. For the three positively worded items, men scored higher than women. The anticipation of benefits was different for men and women in the student sample, but not in the random sample.
It was further explored which of the six variables alone would discriminate best between the students and the Hong Kong population. Both stepwise logistic regression and stepwise discriminant analyses agreed upon the second item ("..political changes pose a serious threat..") with M = 1.6 for the students and M = 2.5 for the random sample, the difference of which accounted for 16% of the variance.
According to the earlier mentioned theory of stress and emotions (Lazarus, 1991), a distinction can be made between the appraisals of threat, challenge, and benefit. According to anxiety theories (Schwarzer & Wicklund, 1991; Jerusalem & Schwarzer, 1992) and social-cognitive theory (Bandura, 1992, in press), the construct of worry is closely related to the experience of threat, and the construct of challenge is closely related to perceived self-efficacy. The present item set had to be very parsimonious and could not comprehensively tap these dimensions. However, the three negatively worded items were designed to assess worry/threat, and two of the positively worded variables were specific self-efficacy items. The remaining item ("...lots of advantages") was considered to refer to the benefit appraisal. Intercorrelations between these variables were computed to examine whether the empirical data confirmed the hypothesized structure. Table 3 contains the correlation matrices for both samples.
Insert Table 3 about here.Table 3.doc
It turned out that the two within-groups matrices were different. In the student sample, the three worry/threat items formed a homogeneous subgroup, whereas this was less evident for the random sample. On the other hand, the distinction between the two challenge/self-efficacy items and the benefit appraisal was nonexistent in the student sample, but apparent in the random sample. This was further examined in principal component analyses, separately for both samples. Two components were extracted as suggested by the eigenvalues. In the student sample, the two components accounted for 55.1% of the total variance and had three high loadings each. The first component represented the three positively worded items. The second one was made up by the three negatively worded items, fitting very well the demand for simple structure. In the random sample, the two components accounted for 50.7% of the variance and resulted in almost the same structure, failing, however, to assign the benefit variable to one of the two components.
As a consequence of these analyses, two composite scores were set up, comprising the three worry/threat items (labeled "Threat") and the two challenge/self-efficacy items (labeled "Challenge"). Within the student sample the three-item Threat scale achieved an internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha) of .72, within the random sample of .61. The homogeneity of the Challenge scale is indicated by the intercorrelation of its two items (r = .64 in the student sample, but only r = .26 in the random sample). The correlation between both composite scores was negative, r = -.22 in the student sample and r = -.16 in the random sample, which may be a bit lower than the usually expected association between such constructs. However, these coefficients were not corrected for attenuation and, thus, represent only the lower bounds of the true relationship.
After having achieved a somewhat better psychometric basis than that given by the single indicators, group differences were determined again. For the three-item Threat scale, there was a significant difference between the random sample (M = 7.96, SD = 2.55, n = 409) and the student sample (M = 5.44, SD = 1.94, n = 293), which did not come as a surprise (F[1,700] = 202.4, p < .001, eta2 = .22). Also for the two-item Challenge scale a statistically significant difference emerged (random sample: M = 5.15, SD = 1.82, n = 340; student sample: M = 4.62, SD = 1.33, n = 293). However, as for explained variance, this difference was small (F[1,631] = 17.35; p < .001; eta2 = .03).
This study has explored levels of worry within the population of Hong Kong. In line with previous research there is evidence that people are very concerned about their future after the 1997 transition to Chinese rule. This was in particular true for the random sample of 501 adult men and women across all age groups. In contrast, 293 male and female university students were much less concerned. This group difference is the most striking finding in the present data set. Why are the students less concerned than the average Hong Kong resident? It cannot be the age difference of the 19-year old students compared with the more mature population, whose average age was 37 years. There was no association between age and any of the six variables within the random sample. There was also no relationship between the variables under study with education and occupation levels or interactions among any of these.
Rather, the students represent a unique young cohort of well-educated freshmen who have other things on their mind than future politics or the standards of living more than three years in the future. First-year students are typically more involved in adjustment to college (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992), coping with separation from their families, and knitting bonds with others on campus to overcome loneliness. Klinger (1987) has described motivational processes as alternating sequences of commitment and disengagement. According to his theory, people are driven by "current concerns," which makes them to some extent ignorant of other concerns for the time being. College freshmen are in a critical life transition stage that is much more proximal than the more distal upcoming political transition. Thus, their current concerns may be different from those of the average adult population.
Their low level of worry cannot be explained by a high level of self-efficacy to meet the challenging demands. There is only a negligible mean difference in self-efficacy (in favor of the average population). Moreover, the general self-efficacy levels of Chinese students in Hong Kong is quite low compared with those in Germany and Costa Rica, as a recent cross-cultural study has shown (Schwarzer, Bäßler, Kwiatek, Schröder, & Zhang, in press). The lack of worry in conjunction with low or moderate self-efficacy rather points to the possibility of political apathy. The students may be simply less involved in this matter.
It must be kept in mind, however, that this study suffers from a number of limitations. First, only very few variables, excluding well-established psychometric scales, could be studied due to a lack of funding. Second, this study was cross-sectional and only highlights one point in time. Thus, the data might have been influenced by day-to-day circumstances and would level off if subsequent data collection waves could be considered. Third, the method of data collection in the two samples was not quite identical, and it remains undetermined to what degree the telephone survey format has elicited responses different from those animated by the questionnaire format. Fourth, there is only a weak, nonempirical relationship between subjective and objective stress indicators so far. It is assumed that community stress is reflected by indicators such as suicide, crime, divorce, or emigration rates. However, it still has to be determined to what degree these indicators are specific to the upcoming political transition, not to other sources of stress. It is of further interest how different subgroups of the Hong Kong population respond to the imminent threats, benefits, or challenges, for example mainly British expatriates, Chinese or foreign business people, civil servants, and other groups that might be affected in particular by the upcoming changes. In-group identification and intergroup differentiation might be influenced by the anticipation of the transition (Bond & Hewstone, 1988). Since the present samples consisted only of Cantonese-speaking ethnic Chinese who represent the vast majority of the population, minority concerns were not taken into account. These are limitations that have to be kept in mind in interpreting the present findings.
On the other hand, it has to be acknowledged that this is a timely study on a burning issue. Its strength lies in the fact that the larger of the two samples has been recruited at random, allowing a generalization of the findings to the Hong Kong population. Further, the use of multiple indicators makes this study superior to previous surveys that have tried to assess the degree of a variable such as worry by a single question. Future research could benefit from two approaches: First, to examine the development of stress appraisals within the Hong Kong population as the transition comes closer, longitudinal designs should be adopted that include psychometric scales to tap the underlying theoretical constructs more accurately. The currently conducted and planned tracking polls in the Territory (R. T. Y. Chung, 1994; DeGolyer, 1994) are very promising, but a genuine panel design would be superior. Future research into this field should also try to disentangle reactions toward stress that are specific to the 1997 transition as opposed to reactions toward overall stress that is abundant in Hong Kong. Second, in order to examine the unique situation of Hong Kong university students, a broader scope of constructs seems appropriate to investigate a larger number of "current concerns" that may be predominant in this segment of the population. Also, the range of students needs to be enlarged to comprise those who no longer have to adjust to a new life on campus, but who are already facing the end of their studies and their entry into the job market. It might be that their political concerns augment as they outgrow their initial adjustment concerns. In sum, the present research can be seen as the very first psychological contribution to this issue that has been investigated so far from political, economical, and sociological perspectives.
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Helpful comments by Fanny Cheung and Michael Bond, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, are very much appreciated.
Percentages of Responses to Six Items in the Random Sample (Columns 1-5) and Means, Standard Deviations, and Sample Size
Not at all Hardly Moderately Exactly Item Standard n true (1) true (2) true (3) true (4) Mean deviation
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Preoccupied thoughts 17.4 20.4 27.7 34.6 2.79 1.10 437 Serious threat 25.4 24.1 20.8 29.8 2.55 1.16 457 Worry 26.2 22.9 22.7 28.3 2.53 1.16 481 Can meet challenges 26.6 25.1 19.4 28.9 2.51 1.17 387 Lots of advantages 52.2 27.6 14.5 05.7 1.74 0.91 387 Can deal 20.8 24.5 25.5 29.2 2.63 1.11 404 successfully
Percentages of Responses to Six Items in the Student Sample (Columns 1-5) and Means, Standard Deviations, and Sample Size
Not at all Hardly Moderately Exactly Item Standard n true (1) true (2) true (3) true (4) Mean deviation
Preoccupied thoughts 33.0 51.4 10.9 4.8 1.87 0.79 293 Serious threat 52.9 34.1 10.6 2.4 1.63 0.77 293 Worry 34.4 42.9 17.3 5.4 1.94 0.86 293 Can meet challenges 14.0 52.9 29.7 3.4 2.23 0.72 293 Lots of advantages 43.5 45.6 8.6 1.4 1.68 0.69 292 Can deal 9.2 49.3 34.7 6.8 2.39 0.75 293 successfully
Correlations Between the Six Variables (With Student Sample Above and Random Sample Below the Diagonal)
Item 1 Item 2 Item 3 Item 4 Item 5 Item 6
Item 1 1.00 .38** .44** -.07 .14* -.08
Item 2 .18** 1.00 .58** -.19** -.03 -.15**
Item 3 .28** .56** 1.00 -.27** -.09 -.20**
Item 4 .05 -.10* -.19** 1.00 .35** .64**
Item 5 .02 -.07 -.03 .03 1.00 .32**
Item 6 -.07 -.15** -.12* .26** .08 1.00
Note. *p < .05; **p < .01