Between 1949 and 1997, Hong Kong transformed from a struggling British colonial outpost into a global financial capital. Made in Hong Kong: Transpacific Networks and a New History of Globalization (Columbia University Press, 2021) delivers a new narrative of this metamorphosis, revealing Hong Kong both as a critical engine in the expansion and remaking of postwar global capitalism and as the linchpin of Sino-U.S. trade since the 1970s.
In Made in Hong Kong, Peter E. Hamilton explores the role of an overlooked transnational Chinese elite who fled to Hong Kong amid war and revolution. Despite losing material possessions, these industrialists, bankers, academics, and other professionals retained crucial connections to the United States. They used these relationships to enmesh themselves and Hong Kong with the U.S. through commercial ties and higher education. By the 1960s, Hong Kong had become a manufacturing powerhouse supplying American consumers, and by the 1970s it was the world’s largest sender of foreign students to American colleges and universities. Hong Kong’s reorientation toward U.S. international leadership enabled its transplanted Chinese elites to benefit from expanding American influence in Asia and positioned them to act as shepherds to China’s reengagement with global capitalism. After China’s reforms accelerated under Deng Xiaoping, Hong Kong became a crucial node for China’s export-driven development, connecting Chinese labor with the U.S. market.
Peter E. Hamilton is a historian of China and the World. From fall 2021, he will be Assistant Professor in World History at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. His research has been published in Twentieth-Century China, The International History of Review, The Journal of Historical Sociology, and numerous media outlets.
Ghassan Moazzin is an Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong. He works on the economic and business history of 19th and 20th century China, with a particular focus on the history of foreign banking, international finance and electricity in modern China. His first book, tentatively titled Banking on the Chinese Frontier: Foreign Banks and Global Finance in Modern China, 1870–1919, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.