From Bilateralism to a Common Approach? The EU, China, Hong Kong and Macau

  • Miguel Santos Neves
  • Brian Bridges


Since the days of Marco Polo, China has exerted a fascination for Europeans even if the cultural and trade interactions have been both intermittent and variable. But, in the nineteenth century the Sino-European relationship was traumatized not by trade flows or cultural cross-fertilization but by the Europeans also becoming involved in the imperial game of territorial acquisition in China, just as they were to be in other parts of Asia. The British colonial presence in Hong Kong, established as a result of the Chinese defeat in the Opium War, finally came to an end at midnight on 30 June 1997. In a no doubt somewhat similar ceremony at midnight on 19 December 1999, the Portuguese-administered territory of Macau will also revert to China, thereby allowing China to reclaim its two ‘lost’ territories before the new millenium begins. The political symbolism of these two handovers and the recreation of the two territories as SARs within the new China is clear. Although continuity has been proclaimed as the keynote of both these transitions, it is also clear that the complex relationship between China, its two new SARs, and the European powers (not just the former colonial powers but Western Europe as a whole) cannot but be unaffected by these transitions. As the Sino-European relationship approaches the new century, the two SARs are destined to play an important role in both the economic and political dimensions of this new ‘triangular’ relationship.


Member State Foreign Policy Business Association European Economic Community Common Policy 
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© Miguel Santos Neves and Brian Bridges 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miguel Santos Neves
  • Brian Bridges

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