8 - Conclusions: endgame  pp. 164-183


By Roger Buckley

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Only the French and the Chinese keep through twists of fortune a firm confidence in their own future.

(Douglas Hurdj An End to Promises)

It is ironic that Hong Kong, under British rule, has always given Beijing the best of all possible worlds: vast economic gain, political neutrality and no responsibility. But once Hong Kong is Beijing's responsibility, China will find itself with the worst of all worlds: an economic burden, a political thorn, a cultural contaminant and a threat to the very unity of China.

(George Hicks, International Herald Tribune, February 23 1994)

Hong Kong's postwar history is without parallel in Asia. It has been a strange tale of confronting successive domestic and international crises, intermixed with lengthy periods of stability resulting in considerable affluence. No one surveying the dilapidated territory of August 1945 could have dared imagine the prosperity and sense of identity that Hong Kong would exhibit half a century later. Few even would have risked betting on Britain retaining sovereign power for so long, particularly against the tidal wave of global decolonization and Europe's own inward-looking quest for federalism.

Hong Kong has survived for fifty years since 1945 as an off-shore speck on the South China coast under British administration. This has been the first and most important foundation for a range of unexpected achievements. Hong Kong, until the summer of 1997, remains a British colony. Although diplomats and lawyers prefer to describe the political arrangements under which it has been governed in more neutral terms, it serves no historical purpose to disguise this reality.

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