HKHC Speaker’s Series, Prof Philip Thai, Northeastern University
Topic: A Hole in the Bamboo Curtain: Hong Kong in the Cold War
Speaker: Prof. Philip Thai, Northeastern University
Date and Time: 28 November 2023, 3:30 – 5pm (GMT)
Venue: Online (Zoom)
To attend, please register on this form.
During the Cold War, Hong Kong played a crucial role supporting the economic and foreign policies of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The British colonial enclave helped the PRC circumvent an array of embargos and trade restrictions imposed by a hostile international community. This paper examines the histories of “red capitalists” and Chinese Communist front companies who operated within the interstices of Cold War rivalries and fractured jurisdictions. The former were shadowy middlemen who brokered connections between the PRC and the global economy, while the latter were businesses that served the geopolitical aims of the PRC by promoting Chinese exports, earning foreign exchange, cultivating overseas ties, and collecting outside information. Though they remain relatively understudied, red capitalists have amassed vast fortunes while front companies rank among the largest firms in China and the world today. This talk will consider how the history of both red capitalists and front companies could address critical questions in the history of Hong Kong and the Cold War more generally.
Philip Thai is Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies and Director of the Global Asian Studies Program at Northeastern University.