Hong Kong, with its expansive skyline and deep harbor is located on the southern coast of China within the Pearl River Delta. Hong Kong is currently a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, and is a leading international financial center known for its free-wheeling market economy, business-friendly taxes, and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Hong Kong also boasts a highly developed transportation system, modern architecture, and in past decades has been known as the gateway to mainland China.
History & Culture
The area in and surrounding modern Hong Kong first became well known during China’s Tang Dynasty, when the entire Guangdong (also known as Canton) region of China flourished as a major trading center. This continued until the mid-16th century when under Ming decree, China shut its doors to maritime commerce and foreigners were prohibited from trading at Chinese ports. Later, under the decree of the Kangxi emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Hong Kong was opened as the first of several ports at which foreigners could trade. Trade in Hong Kong was soon dominated by the British, specifically the East India Company which had great success initially in the import and sale of opium. Tensions over the sale of opium eventually led to the outbreak of the Opium Wars in 1839 and 1856, with the end result of Britain taking control of Hong Kong as a crown colony. Hong Kong flourished under British rule with a steady influx of settlers from the Chinese mainland and after the end of World War II began a prolonged period of development and industrialization. Hong Kong became well known as a trading hub through its proximity to Guangdong and earned the reputation as a gateway to mainland China. Hong Kong slowly shifted away from the manufacturing sector in the 1980s and 1990s due to the increased manufacturing competitiveness of mainland China and saw increased growth in the service sector. Sovereignty of Hong Kong was officially transferred back to the People’s Republic of China in 1997 with Hong Kong becoming a Special Administrative Region, keeping many aspects of its successful capitalist economy and political autonomy that allowed its people to enjoy many benefits unavailable on the mainland.
Hong Kong currently exists as a vibrant modern metropolis, a product of unique fusion between its colonial British history combined with traditional Chinese culture and values, a place where East meets West. In addition to high class educational and business institutions, Hong Kong also possesses many government sponsored music and cultural institutions and a variety of green spaces and leisure areas. Hong Kong also enjoys its status as an entertainment hub, possesses a notable history producing Chinese cinema and martial arts films and known for such starts as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and others.
Economics & Politics
As one of the world’s leading financial centers, Hong Kong possesses a capitalist and service based economy, and is known for its low taxes, free trade, and high standards of living. Hong Kong was known as one of the Asian Tigers (also including Japan, Korea and Singapore) due to its rapid growth between 1960 and 1990, and currently is an international hub for finance and trade, also possessing the greatest concentrations of multinational headquarters in the Asia Pacific region. The Hong Kong stock market was ranked 7th the in the world as of 2009 and was one of the largest centers for worldwide IPOs. Due to its history as a British colony, Hong Kong continues to possess a large degree of political autonomy following its return to the mainland. As part of the “one country, two systems” agreement, Hong Kong’s economic system, its local autonomy, and the rights of the Hong Kong are guaranteed until 2047.
Places to Visit & Cuisine
Hong Kong is a wonderfully dynamic city with plenty of sights to take in. For those looking to take in the city’s breathtaking skyline, the best location is Victoria Peak, which is accessible by tram ride. Nathan Road and Temple Street allow visitors to take in Hong Kong’s traditional narrow roads as well as to go shopping in the multitude of small shops that line the streets. Hong Kong is also home to its own Disneyland, as well as a local marine park, Ocean World.
The chief cuisine prevalent in Hong Kong is Cantonese cuisine, originally from Guangdong province. It is known primarily for its light and seasoned flavors. Portions are smaller, with residents eating more than three times per day, and meals are usually accompanied by noodles or rice. International cuisine is also very prevalent in Hong Kong due to the territory’s long history as a British colony and the large population of expatriate workers stationed there.