Rethinking the Origins of China's Reform Era: Hong Kong and the 1970s Revival of Sino-US Trade

This article reframes China's Reform era by highlighting China's expanding ties to global capitalism through Hong Kong in the 1970s. It demonstrates that the British colony was a hub of commercial activities that were reconnecting the People's Republic of China (PRC) with the global economy before 1978, from renewed Sino-US trade and the importation of foreign technology to compensation trade ventures and the distribution of international publications. These activities and warming Sino-US relations convinced elite Hong Kong executives that substantial economic reforms were coming to the PRC. As a result, throughout the 1970s, the multinational corporate community connected with Hong Kong's American Chamber of Commerce actively prepared for future opportunities by studying the PRC's economic and legal systems and cultivating both PRC and US officials. The article concludes by showing how these pre-1978 activities molded China's post-1978 efforts to pursue export-driven development.