Case #1048.0

A Big Dark Pond: Britain, China & Hong Kong, 1979

Publication Date: January 01, 1991
Current Stock:

Educator Access

A review copy of this case is available free of charge to educators and trainers. Please create an account or sign in to gain access to this material.

Permission to Reprint

Each purchase of this product entitles the buyer to one digital file and use. If you intend to distribute, teach, or share this item, you must purchase permission for each individual who will be given access. Learn more about purchasing permission to reprint.

When the governor of the British crown colony of Hong Kong is invited to an unprecedented meeting with top leaders of the People's Republic of China, he suddenly faces a decision about a crucial and delicate matter: the status of booming capitalist Hong Kong once the British territory reverts, by treaty, to communist mainland China in 1997. Far-off though that deadline seemed, Governor Sir Murray MacLehose has been concerned with the effect of the prospect of 1997 on prospective Hong Kong business arrangements. The Chinese invitation prompts in him the idea of using a relatively narrow technical matter--the length of leases the British government will permit in Hong Kong--as a means of unthreateningly, he hopes, bringing up the 1997 issue. But the governor's inner circle of advisers is split as to the wisdom of this strategy, a split based both on different readings of China and different approaches to negotiations.

Learning Objective:
This case is designed to raise a negotiations issue: is it best to bring up a potentially troublesome issue early and try to set the negotiations agenda? Or are there reasons to "muddle through" and see how the issue plays out? This case, written by Emily MacFarquhar, a longtime China watcher for the "Economist" and "US News and World Report," also provides new historic details about the British view of its negotiations with China over Hong Kong.

Other Details

Case Author:
Emily MacFarquhar
Pages (incl. exhibits):
Asia, China
Funding Source:
Pew Charitable Trusts