Leo F Goodstadt – Expediency or Principles in Managing Political Crises: the Hong Kong Experience

Leo F Goodstadt was Chief Policy Advisor to the Hong Kong Government, 1989-1997
Seminar on 8 September 2004

The end of British rule in Hong Kong could be discussed in terms of the final act in Asian colonial history: the conclusion of China's experience of foreign invasions and the demise of the last significant possession of the former British Empire. Or the transfer of sovereignty to the Chinese Government might be analysed as an important chapter in Britain's post-imperial foreign policy. To focus on the diplomatic process would be justified by the way the transfer was constructed around the 1984 Sino -British Joint Declaration, reportedly the sole example of a major British treaty achieved without United States involvement since 1945. Or, the analysis might be set in a wider context: the increasing difficulties of modern governments in managing situations which significantly affect the wellbeing of large numbers of people – in this case, Hong Kong's population of six million people.

Mega-crisis

The aim of this presentation is to explore how the art of diplomacy applied to Hong Kong became affected by much the same dilemmas as the management of community-wide problems by governments in general. These tend to differ from the crises that confronted governments in the past because of the following four factors that characterise what might be labelled a “mega-crisis':