It is often said that expatriates in Hong Kong can be divided into two groups: those who have arrived in the last 10 years or so and the ever-shrinking crowd of 1997 handover holdovers. Both groups would probably find Muhammad Cohen’s Hong Kong On Air fun.
Cohen, a New Yorker, actually falls into the first expatriate group, having moved to Hong Kong in 1995 to work at CNBC Asia, which was then just starting up in the region. The book is very much a medley of his experiences there.
A little heavy on clichés, Hong Kong On Air follows the careers of Laura Wellesley, a former news reporter who is taken on by a TV station owned by fictional conglomerate Franklin Global Networks and her husband Jeff Golden.
Laura sees the return of Hong Kong to China as the watershed event for both her career and the city, and is blind to all else. Jeff has little to do but try to figure out a way to make millions.
There are plenty of interesting – if a little one-dimensional – characters and the interplay between those who have some insight into China’s true role as an emerging power and the shortsighted expats who dismiss it as a place badly in need of an education, is particularly interesting.
More than anything, though, Hong Kong On Air is a fun read, particularly for expats who may find more than a little of themselves and people they know in its pages.