Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
The initial British presence in Hong Kong was completely military. The excessive Chinese imports created a trade deficit that Britain tried to resolve with opium. This only led to a military confrontation. As the Opium War escalated, Britain got a foothold on Hong Kong in 1841. (1) Though the military presence would continue under British rule, the base purpose for colonization was not to be a buffer though it did serve that purpose. Britain looked to it for the economic benefits.
Prior to the Opium War, Britain did a huge amount of trading with China. That was not to end after the war. It increased. The desire to make Hong Kong something more than a military stronghold came from a bigger desire to make Hong Kong a “base for their dealings with the Chinese mainland.” (2) Hong Kong gave Britain much more possibilities in economic growth. Removing the military personnel, most residents that called Hong Kong home saw the island as a base of operations. Merchants found the perfect foothold to ensure growth and prosperity. (3)
Hong Kong was taken for military and strategic reasons. It was kept as a military buffer and a great ‘home’ for anyone British traveling. It grew due to economic growth. It became a merchant’s dream. The reasons for British colonization of Hong Kong could never be explained in one word or for one reason. There were a myriad of reasons with the strongest being that of commerce. The argument that “it was a colonial state captured by business interests” seems to be highly appropriate. (4)
(1) “Hong Kong History,” California State University, Long Beach, accessed August 30, 2012, http://www.csulb.edu/~jwinter2/chin490/f2000/akira/history.html.
(2) Cindy Yik-yi Chu, ed., Foreign Communities in Hong Kong, 1840s-1950s (Palgrave MacMillan, 2005), accessed August 29, 2012, NetLibrary e-book.
(4) Tak-Wing Ngo, ed., Hong Kong’s History: State and society under colonial rule (Routledge, 1999), accessed August 30, 2012, NetLibrary e-book.