What? Yes, not a misprint. The handover of Hong Kong to China occurred 23 years ago this month. Oh, sure, it was ill-gotten in an Opium War. So what? China had been ripping off The West in trade for 5000 years and refused to accept any payment but gold for tea.
Gold for tea? You’ve got to be kidding? No, actually, not. Dire circumstances called for dire measures. You can’t really run a global empire without caffeine.
In 1842 in the Treaty of Nanking HK was ceded “in perpetuity.” By 1898 the British, feeling guilty already, rephrased it as a 99 year lease. Brilliant. No wonder the British Empire is no more. I could say something, maybe about Queens or something, but I’ll just let you ponder it. Napoleon at least lost fair and square in a fight.
A little connection with America too. Remember the Boston Tea Party? To help pay for their tea, the British Royal shareholders were granting the East India Company a tax-monopoly on tea imports to the colonies. Exploitative bourgeois American businessmen and slaveowners like George W. didn’t go for it, and fought an 8 year war to protect their own interests. The proletariat went along because they had all lost relatives and land in the French & Indian War (my ancestor in South Carolina – see you didn’t even know the war went that far south).
The real reason the British gave Hong Kong back was they were physically unable to keep it. It is barren rock. All the food and water are in Kowloon and China, which is not Argentina (Falklands, remember?), promised to march in the PLA. See The Globalist for this admission. Stuck with a poor strategic decision, in 1898 the British invented the “fiction” of the 99 year lease thinking they would solve the problem later, not really give it back. But later, beat by two World Wars, seeing the US unwilling to go against China in Korea, they started optimistically rationalizing.
Later, during the Thatcher era, and still later when accomplishing the handover, British desire to sell to the Chinese market was used as leverage by China to secure the Hong Kong deal. The British, in a way, simply sold it. Businesses in Hong Kong also were willing to kowtow to China for profit. See The Last Governor.
But the rationale was that China was softening, and this would soften them even faster. Hong Kong would not become like China. China would become, at least “more like” Hong Kong.
Even the Chinese were overly optimistic. “In 1984, China’s then senior leader Deng Xiaoping told Margaret Thatcher that if China did not become more like Hong Kong when it was time for the area to be fully integrated with China, then they would probably have to wait a bit for the transposition.” Even the protesters are overly optimistic:
The end of the Cold War, the belief COVID could be “contained,” the idea Democracy was a cure for all ills, that Globalism would make people more cooperative not just extorted and defiant? Optimism will end us.