Hong Kong and the world

Wai Ting, Ellen Lai

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Despite the vicissitudes of its transition from a British Crown Colony to a Special Administrative Region (SAR) within the People's Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong remains an international city where Western nations, especially the Western triad (United States, Japan and European Union), as well as China, possess strong vested interests. This is the reason why the Hong Kong SAR government has baptised Hong Kong "Asia's world city". From the perspective of international relations and geopolitics, Hong Kong has always been considered part of the West. That is to say, the capitalist enclave serves first of all Western interests. Western countries prefer to have a "bridgehead" in Asia where freedom is well safeguarded by the rule of law, and which Westerners can use as a base to develop their economic and political activities in Asia. The role of Hong Kong for the West has been very clear to several generations of PRC leaders, but at the same time they also understand the usefulness to China of having such an international city as a window to the outside world. The resumption of Chinese sovereignty imposed a significant change of Hong Kong's geopolitical status, from part of the West to part of China. The future scenario does not appear to be too pessimistic, as the Cold War has ended and China's interests in the era of openness and reform are not necessarily contradictory to Western interests. Now Hong Kong, though part of China, is also conscious of its role for the West and its unique international status in comparison to other great Chinese coastal cities. National as well as Hong Kong leaders are fully aware of the subtlety involved in maintaining the external relations and international status of Hong Kong. Though ideological and political considerations may diverge, there is a convergence of Western and Chinese interests in preserving the status quo in Hong Kong. However, China and the West after the end of the Cold War have still been entangled in political controversies due to different cultural values and world views. How can Hong Kong living under Chinese sovereignty serve at the same time the interests of China as well as the West? Can Hong Kong's transformation to a Chinese city not be detrimental to its original role as an international and cosmopolitan city? If the autonomy, international status and institutional framework that buttress the proper functioning of the socio-economic system of Hong Kong are affected by the China factor, how would the Western triad react in order to defend the status quo of Hong Kong as a free port and international financial and commercial centre? This chapter analyses the complex relationship between the theory and practice of "one country, two systems" and the external relations of Hong Kong. In particular, it seeks to determine whether there is a clash of Western and Chinese civilisations concerning the future of Hong Kong. While in the past as a British colony the encounter of the two civilisations did not prevent Hong Kong from becoming a "paradise" in the Asia-Pacific, under Chinese sovereignty might the "clash" appear and be detrimental to the "Western" institutions firmly established in the city?.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Hong Kong Politics
Subtitle of host publicationGovernance in The Post-1997 Era
PublisherHong Kong University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9789622098299
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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