“One Part in Concert, and One Part Repellence”:
Liu Waitong, Cao Shuying, and the Question of Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese Sinophones

By Lucas Klein

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 30, no.2  (Fall 2018), pp. 141-172

Is Hong Kong poetry Chinese poetry, poetry in Chinese, Sinophone poetry, or something else? For that matter, what is the relationship between Sinophone literature and Chinese literature? Scholars have often called on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s notion of “minor literature” to explain, expand, and expound upon the concept of the Sinophone. But if the proper –phone of Hong Kong literature is not Mandarin but Cantonese, then D & G’s specification that a “minor literature doesn’t come from a minor language” but is instead what “a minority constructs within a major language” should both raise doubts about the applicability of the Sinophone designation to writing from Hong Kong and open up new possibilities for thinking about a Sinophone literature written by non-minority writers from mainland China. To that end, this paper reads the recent work of Hong Kong-based poet Cao Shuying 曹疏影 (b. 1979), a woman raised in Harbin who writes in Mandarin, and her husband, Liu Waitong (Liao Weitang) 廖偉棠 (b. 1975), who grew up in Zhuhai, writes in both Mandarin and Cantonese, and has gained prominence in Hong Kong as a cultural commentator and public intellectual. Looking in particular at Liu’s poem “Over the Counter-Revolution” 鳩嗚之詩, written in the aftermath of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, and Cao’s 2012 poem “Hong Kong” 香港 (from which the title of this paper is derived), it discusses how their engagements and positioning vis-à-vis the broader circles of Hong Kong and mainland poetry and their dialogues with the traditions of Chinese literature offer answers and visions for the Sinophone status of Hong Kong writing and the possibility of a minor mainland literature that could satisfy the Sinophone. The paper ends with a consideration of the Sinophone vis-à-vis another of Deleuze and Guattari’s influential concepts, the rhizome.