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Reviews 275 Steve Tsang, editor. A Documentary History ofHongKong. Volume 1, Government and Politics. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1995. xii, 312 pp. Paperback $27.00, isbn 962-209-392-2. Hong Kong became a British Crown Colony in 1841. Today, it is the United Kingdom's last significant colonial possession. Since 1945, its six mülion inhabitants have transformed an impoverished and largely immigrant community into a major player in the global economy, despite an absence of any significant financial or development assistance from the British Government. Its GDP per head exceeds that ofthe United Kingdom, Canada, or Australia. It is the fifth largest banking center in the world, and the eighth largest trading economy. Although a thoroughly sophisticated open society, its political development has been much slower. As late as 1985, Hong Kong's political institutions were still a faithful mirror ofthe classical imperial system ofVictorian Britain, and fhe colonial legislature's first direcdy elected members did not appear until 1991. On June 30, 1997, British rule ends, and sovereignty wül revert to the People's Republic of China, whose people have a GDP per head ofonly 2.5 percent of their Hong Kong compatriots and whose political leaders still proclaim their aUegiance to Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. Witii diis transfer of sovereignty, a treaty will be implemented fhat was negotiated in secret by fhe Chinese and British Governments between 1982 and 1984 and whose terms were not subject to consultation with fhe community whose fate was being decided. For historians and social scientists generally, Hong Kong's history provokes several questions. The most obvious is how Hong Kong managed to avoid being swept away by the wars, civil wars, and revolutions that have racked China in this century up to 1949. And how did Hong Kong find a modus vivendi with fhe New China, which, under Mao Zedong, became one ofthe most radical societies in the world, staunchly anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist? A related question is why Hong Kong's people refrained from agitating for the implementation ofthe democratic reforms promised to the colonial empire by the British Labour Government in 1946. How, in the final decades ofthis century, did the British colonial administration manage to retain the cooperation ofan increasingly affluent, welleducated , and weU-traveled population, deeply attached to its Chinese culture and identity? Economic issues cannot be ignored—in particular, how fhe free trade and laissez-faire policies transplanted from Victorian Britain survived intact and© 1997 by University transformed a trading and farming district on the South China coast into today's ofHawai'iPressflourishing first-world city.' Over fhe last two decades, Hong Kong scholars have tried to tackle diese questions. The earlier studies were mainly descriptive and attempted to explain 276 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 how Hong Kong functioned efficientìy in spite ofits political and economic incongruities and anomalies.2 However, since 1984 and the Sino-British agreement on the transfer ofsovereignty, Hong Kong studies have become an industry in their own right.3 The focus ofscholarly research has changed, with greater interest in the impact offhe transition to Chinese sovereignty and how to define the special Hong Kong "systems" that the Chinese Government has promised to preserve intact after 1997. More recendy, concern with Hong Kong's past has taken on greater importance. The Hong Kong University Press has now produced die first volume ofa new documentary history ofHong Kong, edited by Dr. Steve Tsang, who has already made a substantial contribution to Hong Kong studies with his account of the abortive bid to introduce democratic reforms after World War II.4 This volume is concerned almost exclusively with political institutions and their development. It has virtuaUy nothing to offer on the way in which the economy has been managed even fhough the community traditionaUy deemed fhe annual budget speech by the territory's financial secretary to be more important than the annual policy review by its governor. The volume contains only a limited account ofmaterial on social development aldiough Hong Kong's performance suggests that it must possess highly unusual social characteristics. (For example , how has it managed to maintain such a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 275-279
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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