The Imperial and Transpacific Origins of Chinese Capitalism

This article restores early colonial Hong Kong to a key role in the history of capitalism and the integration of the Pacific. It argues that in the 1840s Hong Kong became the first identifiably capitalist Chinese society and a nexus between the China coast and both the expanding British and US imperial systems. It first demonstrates how Hong Kong's colonial regime swiftly re-structured the island's social-property relations and scaffolded its residents toward the ceaseless accumulation of capital. It then examines how this nascent node of Chinese capitalism integrated with the westward expansion of American capitalism amid the California Gold Rush and concludes by analyzing how Hong Kong's transpacific networks facilitated the expansion of capitalist systems into late nineteenth-century China, most especially Shanghai.