Decolonisation in the Age of Globalisation: Britain, China, and Hong Kong, 1979-89

Research output: Book/ReportBook


In the 1980s, Britain actively engaged with China in order to promote globalisation and manage Hong Kong’s decolonisation. Influenced by neoliberalism, Thatcher saw Britain as a global trading nation, which was well placed to serve China’s economic reform. With her conviction in free-market capitalism, Thatcher was eager to extend British rule in Hong Kong beyond 1997. During the 1982-84 negotiations, British diplomats aimed to ‘educate’ China about how capitalist Hong Kong worked. Nevertheless, Deng Xiaoping held an alternative vision of globalisation, one that privileged sovereignty and socialism over market liberalism and democracy.

Drawing extensively upon the declassified British archives and Chinese sources, this book recounts how Britain and China negotiated for Hong Kong’s future, culminating in the signing of the Joint Declaration on its retrocession in 1997. It explores how Anglo-Chinese relations flourished after the Hong Kong agreement but suffered a setback as a result of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. This original and comprehensive study argues that Thatcher was a pragmatic neoliberal, and the British diplomacy of ‘educating’ China in global free trade and democracy yielded mixed results.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages266
ISBN (Print)978-1-5261-7132-0
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

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