In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

256 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995 Jung-fang Tsai. Hong Kong in Chinese History: Community and Social Unrest in the British Colony, 1842-1913. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. 375 pp. Hardcover $45.00. With its 1997 retrocession to Chinese sovereignty looming closer every day, Hong Kong has, during the past decade, appeared frequently in the headlines ofdie international press and as a subject ofacademic discussion. Yet despite die proliferation of tides on Hong Kong, there is still an obvious lack ofserious scholarship in English on die historical development ofHong Kong, especially its local Chinese community. This volume goes a long way toward filling the gap by offering a very solid, original, and penetrating study ofthe first seven decades ofHong Kong society under British rule, from the Opium War to the aftermath ofthe 1911 republican revolution. Based on extensive documentation in both Chinese and English, this book delineates die gradual yet significant social and political changes that transformed colonial Hong Kong during a crucial stage of Sino-Western interaction and die global expansion ofcapitalism-imperialism. By placing his study in the context of modern Chinese history, Tsai offers an effective rebuttal to what he strongly criticizes (pp. 2-4) as the Eurocentric historiography of Hong Kong which is written from the perspective ofthe European elites and focuses on British colonial administration and formal institutions. In restoring the principal Hong Kong Chinese actors to center stage, this book reminds us ofRichard Hughes' famous title, Hong Kong: Borrowed Place, Borrowed Time (New York: Praeger, 1968)—and as this reviewer would like to add, "widi borrowed people." Tsai examines three main themes in Hong Kong's development: the birth of an urban community and its social relationships, the changing nature and patterns of social unrest, and die growth of nationalism among the Chinese mercantile elites, intelligentsia, and die laboring masses in colonial Hong Kong. The first four chapters of the book chart the economic conditions and sociopolitical structure ofHong Kong from its founding as a British colony in 1842 to the eve ofthe First World War. The following five chapters analyze the nature and significance of social unrest in Hong Kong—including patriotic and politically motivated collective actions such as the 1884 popular insurrection at the time of the SinoFrench War, the 1905 anti-American and 1908 anti-Japanese boycotts, and die 1912-1913 tramway boycott, inspired by die 1911 revolution, as well as the socioeconomic struggles which, like the labor strikes from 1861 to 1895, were protests© 1995 by University agamst colonial regulations. oj awai ? PressTsai's findings are, on the whole, persuasive and relevant to the major discourses in the study ofmodern Chinese history. For instance, one readily accepts his characterization ofthe common folk as "conditional patriots" responding Reviews 257 tìirough a rational articulation oflocal issues and socioeconomic self-interest to the appeal ofclass consciousness and the impact ofimperialism, both ofwhich were "situational" according to Tsai. His differentiation between "elite nationalism "—on the part Hong Kong Chinese mercantile elements and those intellectuals who practiced "cultural hegemony"—and die patriotic outbursts from the grassroots adds a useful dimension to our understanding ofthe rise ofpopular nationalistic consciousness in urban China. Several points in this book deserve further elaboration or more refined articulation . For instance, in Tsai's depiction of "Chinese patriots," he repeatedly includes die name ofRobert Ho Tung (pp. 161, 165, 169). In fact, Ho Tung was not a full-blooded Chinese, but a Eurasian with an English father and a Chinese mother. However, in the prewar official Hong Kong categorization, there were only "Chinese" and "European," with no separate or distinct provision for Eurasians . Furthermore, among the local Hong Kong Chinese populace and in the eyes of mainland Chinese officialdom, Robert Ho Tung was never regarded as genuinely Chinese. Even during the major strikes of the 1920s, when he was severely denounced by labor leaders and left-wing activists for his part in the British colonial state-Western capitalist oppression against workers' interests, he was never condemned as a "traitor," simply because he was not regarded as a Chinese and tiius could not be accused ofbetraying the interests of fellow Chinese compatriots. In drawing attention...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 256-260
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.