Mon, Feb 18, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Asia’s new fad: the Union Jack flag

By Stephen Whitehead

The age of globalization brings with it another interesting issue and that is how national symbols, such as the Union Jack, become taken up by those who would otherwise have little or no personal association with them.

The Thai, Chinese, Cameroon, Singaporean, Taiwanese each sense, and can personally relate to something in, the UK flag which maybe the British themselves have overlooked. They see it as “cool,” and a valued symbol, something they desire to be personally associated with.

Today, wearing the British flag raises a person’s own cultural capital and in a way no other national flag quite does.

This is “soft power” at work, though I do wonder whether the British government appreciate it.

So, from Taiwan to Thailand to Hong Kong to the remote jungles of Southeast Asia, the Union Jack flies once again. If Queen Victoria came back today she would imagine her empire had never gone away.

Stephen Whitehead is visiting professor of gender studies at Shih Hsin University in Taipei and Keele University in the UK. He lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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