Mark Hampton
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Hong Kong and British culture
Postwar contexts
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This chapter provides the context in which Britain’s post-war cultural engagement with Hong Kong occurred. At the end of World War II, the Colonial Government resumed control over a now depopulated city in which many buildings were in ruins. However, with civil war in mainland China, and the establishment the People’s Republic in 1949, Hong Kong saw its population explode, with many people living in ramshackle squatters’ huts. Throughout the post-war period, Hong Kong’s relationship with China was its most important one, and the Colony’s economic miracle developed against the backdrop of the expectation that China could resume sovereignty over Hong Kong at any time, but certainly by 1997 when Britain’s lease of the New Territories expired. Hong Kong was also a key site in the Cold War, serving for the United States as a post for “China-watching” and, during the Vietnam War, as a recreation spot for soldiers on leave. Hong Kong’s population and economic growth occurred against the backdrop of Britain’s decolonization, so that in the first three post-war decades, this formerly insignificant colony became Britain’s most important imperial territory. Finally, the chapter examines the types of British expatriates and settlers who lived in Hong Kong during the post-war period.

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