British Colonial Interests in Southeast Asia

  • James Tuck-Hong Tang


The presence of a large ethnic Chinese population in British territories in Southeast Asia and the traditional links between overseas Chinese and their country of origin meant that internal developments in China had always affected local politics in places like Malaya and Singapore. Hong Kong, situated on the doorstep of China, was even more vulnerable to political changes on the mainland. This was true when the Kuomintang was in power; the communization of China accentuated the linkage. Precisely because of the different locations of these territories, their distinctive domestic political situations, and degrees of dependence on China, British colonial administrations in Southeast Asia reacted differently to the London’s decision to recognize the Beijing government. As demonstrated in Chapter 2, while the Hong Kong government supported the decision, the administrations in Malaya and Singapore accepted it with great reluctance.


Chinese Government Public Announcement British Government Diplomatic Relation Colonial Authority 
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  1. 1.
    Memorandum prepared for British Far East representatives meeting in London in 1946 by the civil planning unit, F0371 54052 F6208/2129/G6, see Chapter 1; see also 76386 5572/3/500G PUSC(32); also see Alan Bullock, Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary 1945–51 (London: Heinemann, 1983) pp. 743–750.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    For an account of the policy of the Malayan authorities towards Kuomintang activities see, V. Purcell, The Chinese in Southeast Asia, 2nd edn (London: Oxford University for the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1965) pp. 213–301.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    MacDonald and Gimson to CO, 1 April 1950, F0371 83549 FC1903/43; FC1903/42. A. Short, The Communist Insurrection in Malaya, 1948–60 (London: Frederick Muller, 1975) p. 215.Google Scholar
  4. 26.
    W. Wallace, The Foreign Policy Process in Britain (London: The Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1975) p. 77;Google Scholar
  5. the consensual style of Cabinet decision-making has been demonstrated by C. Hill’s The Decision-Making Process in Relation to British Foreign Policy, 1938–1941 (D.Phil. thesis, 1978, Oxford University) p. 230.Google Scholar
  6. See also C. J. Hill, Cabinet Decisions on Foreign Policy, The British Experience, October 1938—June 1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 28.
    F0371 83552 FC1903/91, FC1903/92. For an account of Wang Renshu’s (Wang Yen-shu) activities as the PRC’s ambassador to Indonesia see D. Mozingo, Chinese Policy Towards Indonesia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1976) pp. 90–98.Google Scholar
  8. 50.
    A colonial official told the Governor of Hong Kong that ‘what actuated the government was the thought that if Hong Kong were lost it would rebound to the government’s disadvantage at the next election’. This, the Governor thought, was ‘perhaps unduly cynical’, Sir Alexander Grantham, Via Ports: From Hong Kong to Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1965) p. 143.Google Scholar
  9. 51.
    S. Y. S. Tsang, Democracy Shelved: Great Britain, China, and Attempts at Constitutional Reform in Hong Kong, 1945–1952 (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1988) p. 130.Google Scholar
  10. 66.
    See Peter Wesley-Smith, Unequal Treaty, 1898–1997; China, Great Britain and Hong Kong’s New Territories (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1983);Google Scholar
  11. see also David Bonavia, Hong Kong 1997: The final settlement (Bromley: Columbus Books, 1985);Google Scholar
  12. Ian Scott, Political Change and the Crisis of Legitimacy in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1989).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© James Tuck-Hong Tang 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Tuck-Hong Tang
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Hong KongChina

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