Contextualizing the 1967 Riots in Cold War Politics: The Roles of the United States and Taiwan in Shaping the Colony's Response to the Leftist Challenge

Project: Research

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The 1967 Riots have been seen as the turning point of British colonial rule in Hong Kong. Although there appears to be slightly increased interest in this important episode, academic works on the subject remain thin and limited. There is one glaring gap in the existing literature: the dimension of Cold War politics. The question of how Cold War politics had affected the colony’s response to the left challenge in 1967 is neglected in most accounts, which are either preoccupied with the details of the unfolding of events in 1967 or focused on the role of Communist China in directing the leftist struggles in Hong Kong. The ebb and flow of global politics, however, has always had a critical impact on Hong Kong. After the Second World War, the rise of new superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, and Hong Kong’s physical proximity and moral attachment to China meant that the ideological conflict between capitalism and communism became an integral element in the political landscape of the colony. Partnership with the United States and support for the American campaign against the Communist camp thus appeared to be the dominant strategy for maintaining Britain’s own influence in this new world. Friendship with the Americans also entailed some acquiescence in Taiwanese activities in the colony. These concerns set the general parameters for British diplomacy and strategic pursuits across the globe and made the task of governing Hong Kong itself dependent on British positioning in world politics. To exclude the United States from an analysis of the 1967 riots, especially when Britain believed it needed American support to deter Communist China’s aggression towards the colony, is a serious shortcoming. Similarly, the lack of attention to the activities of the Taiwanese during the riots also needs to be addressed. This project proposes to fill the gap by focusing on four specific areas: evacuation planning, military deployment, British initiatives to restore confidence in the aftermath of the riots, and the counter-mobilization efforts of the KMT in Hong Kong. The findings should provide an accurate, comprehensive and balanced narrative of the 1967 Riots which is long over-due. It should also help uncover the multi-faceted reality of colonial rule: colonial rule is never solely determined by domestic concerns but is more likely to be outcome of the interaction between London and Hong Kong. Most importantly, the project reminds us of its vulnerability to global conflicts. 


Project number9042747
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/19 → …