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Undoubtedly, the history of Hong Kong, and perhaps too that of China as a whole, would have been very different. As it was, in October Communist Chinese troops stopped when they reached the border with Hong Kong. And there, despite occasional clashes over the years, they would remain until July 1, , watched by and watching their British counterparts.

One major impetus driving the establishment of the CCP had been deep Chinese resentment of the concessions at Chinese expense that Western powers had made to Japan at the Paris Peace Conference in The May Fourth movement radicalized a generation of young students. Opposition to the special privileges and territorial enclaves that Western powers had won in China since was one factor fueling both Nationalist and Communist policies. Equally, the CCP, far from being simply a collection of peaceable agrarian reformers, was a group of rather hard-line, battle-tempered Communists, who deliberately and consciously aligned their country with the causes of international revolution, decolonization, and the Soviet Cold War with the Western powers that had developed after the Second World War.

Yet from onward—as Soviet leaders occasionally and rather unkindly observed after the Chinese split with them—where Hong Kong and Macau were concerned, Communist China followed its own poli- cies of peaceful coexistence, totally at variance with Chinese claims to represent the vanguard of revolution. In late , it was far from certain that the tentative understanding the British and Communist China had reached would hold. The British undoubtedly hoped to keep Hong Kong, but they recognized that—even with US assistance—Hong Kong was fundamentally indefensible against a determined mainland assault.

From Britain and China alike, maintaining the status quo demanded rather impressive juggling talents, diplomatic, intellectual, and practical. Hong Kong exemplified the saying that the true mark of high intelligence is the ability to hold two conflicting beliefs at the same time. Nothing was ever quite what it seemed. As with a hologram or the uncertainty principle in physics, in Cold War Hong Kong, two or more opposed and seemingly incompatible realities could simul- taneously be true and often were. Churchill Archive Centre. Churchill College, Cambridge, England.

Printed Works Bullock, Mary Brown. A Concise History of Hong Kong.

Chan, Man-Lok. China, Britain and Hong Kong — Clayton, David. Houndmills, UK: Macmillan, Fursenko, Aleksandr, and Timothy Naftali. New York: Norton, Guerrero, Leon.

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The First Filipino. Manila: Guerrero, King, Frank H. Law, Yuk-fun. Lombardo, Johannes Richard.

Oxford: Clarendon Press, Ng, Chak-Nam. Quinn-Judge, Sophie. London: Hurst, Share, Michael. Tsang, Steve. A Modern History of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong and the Cold War: Anglo-American Relations 1949-1957

Tucker, Nancy Bernkopf. New York: Twayne, Ure, Gavin.

Welsh, Frank. A History of Hong Kong. London: HarperCollins, Zaide, Gregorio F. Manila: National Bookstore, Or perhaps it is fairer to say that the territory epitomized to the ultimate degree many of the ambiguities and contradictions of the Cold War, a confrontation that, however fierce its rhetoric, was usually characterized by pragmatic caution, at least where the major powers were concerned. Hong Kong would survive two major Asian wars, lengthy conflicts that constituted the most significant of all Cold War military engagements, at least in terms of US involvement.

In the first of these, the Korean War, British troops together with their US counterparts actually fought Chinese soldiers in Korea from late to mid Likewise, one may speculate whether mainland-backed firms provided some of the goods and services that kept the American forces in Korea and Vietnam operational. During both wars, mainland China made occasional protests against British policies but left British control of Hong Kong undisturbed. Here, too, Hong Kong would have a crucial role to play.

Even the British themselves at times drew that analogy. But there were important differences. When the Soviet Union attempted to cut off all supply routes by land to Berlin, for many months the Americans and British mounted an airlift that assured Berlin sufficient necessities to survive. In the second Berlin crisis of the late s and early s, triggered when defections from East to West Germany became so large in number that they embarrassed the Soviet bloc, Western powers resolutely opposed Soviet and East German demands that would have effectively brought West Berlin into the Communist zone.

Ultimately, the Soviet bloc responded by building a wall to separate the divided city.


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The same was never true of Hong Kong. Despite British reluctance to countenance an official main- land presence in Hong Kong, in reality it was never absent. From onward the office of the Communist-backed Xinhua News Agency functioned as the de facto rep- resentative of the Chinese Communists in Hong Kong. Despite the conciliatory Communist attitude in , prospects for the continu- ance of the colonial regime were decidedly precarious.

For almost fifty years, it would survive on what was ultimately the grace and favor of the Chinese Communists. The latter did not even need to use military force to take Hong Kong. Tauris, , This never happened. The British deliberately attempted to suggest or imply that any Chinese attack on Hong Kong would provoke a response not just from their own forces but also from the United States, initiating a conflict with China that conceivably might trigger World War III.

But did the leaders of Communist China really credit this scenario? Did even the British themselves believe it? Or was it a clever conjuring act, a sleight-of-hand heavily reliant upon blue smoke and mirrors?

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The United States never made any firm commitment to defend Hong Kong. Would American airpower really have been used against invading Chinese forces? It seemed more likely that in any such crisis the Americans would have restricted their actions to assistance to the British in evacuat- ing Western nationals and others who sought to flee Hong Kong, something top US military officials feared the British might be unable to accomplish without American help.

These included reductions in the Hong Kong garrison to a level only adequate to maintain internal security in the colony. Although the Chinese Communists gradually nationalized most important sectors of the Chinese economy, China was not an autarky. In , China was recovering from close to three decades of war, internal and external. With virtually all foreign firms forced to cease operations in China in the early s, Hong Kong still served as a conduit for some such transactions.

Goods from China were on sale in the local mainland-run China Products Stores, not to mention many smaller shops. Hong Kong was also usually the route whereby external remit- tances sent to the mainland by Chinese overseas reached their destination. Drastic cutbacks in trade with China occurred during the Korean War, which were highly detrimental to Deborah A. Judith M.

The United States broke off all commercial relations with China, freezing Chinese assets in the United States, embargoing all imports originating in China from entering the United States, and forbidding the export of either American raw materi- als or manufactured products that might ultimately be destined for the mainland.

Truman was also instrumental in persuading the United Nations to impose severe economic sanctions upon China that banned trade in a numerous commodities defined as stra- tegic. Despite protests from the British government and Hong Kong businesses, these controls, which brought major economic hardships to Hong Kong and its population at all social levels, were not relaxed until , by which time the Hong Kong economy had been substantially reoriented. At the time, however, they were a remarkably well-disguised blessing, causing severe distress to the entire community, to the point that at least some Hong Kong people felt lasting resentment toward the United States.

Hong Kong—based shipping lines carried most of this trade, and leading Hong Kong business figures maintained close relations with China. See esp. Mainland Chinese institutions likewise set up offices in the territory.

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Since the mid- nineteenth century, Hong Kong had been part of global networks of capital. During the Cold War years this pattern was intensified, as—thanks in part to the absence of any other such center in mainland China—the territory became a key hub where top- level economic decision makers encountered and worked with each other. Communist officials clearly perceived this embargo as embracing not just the economic but also the intellectual and informational sphere. Loh, Underground Front, 84, 94— Pressure from London soon caused the colonial government to reduce or reverse these penalties, while Beijing reined in the journalists responsible for produc- ing these newspapers.

Their coverage of events in Hong Kong quickly became far less confrontational, belligerent, and ideologically slanted, with greater emphasis on entertainment and local news. Circulation of the leftist media increased, in large part because the papers adjusted themselves to appeal to the local Hong Kong market. Especially after the massive refugee influx of the s, many of its inhabitants lived and worked in the most primitive of conditions, often crowded into dangerous hillside squatter villages, lacking running water or electricity, with access to little or nothing in the way of social services or labor regulations.

As with so much else in Hong Kong, the labor movement was politically fragmented, with pro-Com- munist, pro-Kuomintang, and independent trade unions.

The Everyday Cold War

The ethos of self-reliance was—and even today still remains—strong in Hong Kong. But social tensions and frustrations could have significant implications for British rule. From until the mids, labor relations in Hong Kong were fundamen- tally peaceful. This changed dramatically with the Star Ferry riots of , outbursts that, like the far more extensive and politically freighted disturbances of , were rooted in the grievances of working class Hong Kong people, even though the riots also became heavily politicized and took up Cultural Revolution themes of class warfare and anticolonialism.

After repressing the riots rather efficiently, the British authori- ties moved to address some of the underlying discontent that had prompted them. On the attitude of the central Beijing government to the Hong Kong riots, see, e. Britain, a leading ally of the United States in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, was heavily dependent on the United States in terms of both its economy and its own defense. Both were partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Western security alliance established in , in part at British instigation.

As Communist forces won control of ever-larger portions of China in the late s, hundreds of thousands of refugees flocked into Hong Kong.

Why OSA? Research in the archives. Space Race and Science Fiction in the Cold War (2019)

Many of these were defeated Nationalists and their families, some at least of them vehement anti-Communists who were determined to reverse the outcome of the Chinese Civil War. Lu Xun and Tracy Steele build in this volume on earlier work by Chi-Kwan Mark and Steve Tsang to describe in detail various aspects of just how the British government attempted to maneuver and negotiate among these opposing forces, clamping down on Nationalist operations and Communist excesses in Hong Kong, while allowing the United States a carefully circumscribed sphere of action within the territory, one that would in practice be acceptable to the mainland authorities.

The British government in London, concerned primarily with broader Cold War strategy, often proved readier to conciliate the United States at mainland expense than the Hong Kong administration would have wished. This was particularly apparent in Donovan, former head of the wartime US intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services, to surrender the airplanes to the Nationalists. In this case, in the eyes of London, the need to conciliate the Americans took priority over maintaining reasonable relations with China.

During the s, the Hong Kong government won itself increasing finan- cial autonomy from London, in terms of setting budgets and managing its own affairs. Grantham also demonstrated considerable skill in limiting the amount of funds the Hong Kong government handed over to the British Treasury as a contribution to the expenses of maintaining British military forces in Hong Kong.

Grantham, Via Ports, Ure, Governors, Politics and the Colonial Office, ch. Five thousand people entered and left Hong Kong every day, he said, many of them Chinese.