Review Essay

The Asian Values Ballyhoo: Patten's Common Sense on Hong Kong and Beyond

In This Review

East and West: China, Power, and the Future of Asia

East and West: China, Power, and the Future of Asia
By Christopher Patten
Times Books, 1998, 307 pp. $25.00 Purchase

What are we to make of Asia today, with its "miracle" economies in nose dives? And what is to be the fate of now-sputtering Hong Kong, once a humming engine for regional economic growth? In his new book, Christopher Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, writes that he does not want "to contribute to the temporarily discontinued library of books puffing Asia. Tiger virtues, tiger values, tiger miracles, tiger futures have been so recklessly celebrated that we find ourselves, boom or bust, told that all the tigers are skinned and stuffed. What has happened in Asia has been remarkable; once exaggerated, it is now belittled." In a spirited but thoughtful way, Patten provides "some middle ground in this important debate about Asian development."

In 1992 Patten, a committed and liberal Tory politician, was given the challenge of guiding Hong Kong through the remaining five tense years before it reverted to Chinese control. His mission was beset with controversy over how best to manage relations with Beijing. Since the 1997 reversion to China, however, the turmoil of the Patten years and the anxieties over whether "one country, two systems" could work for Hong Kong have become faint memories for the island's people, who suddenly find themselves beleaguered by circumstances not of China's making. Engulfed in the larger Asian economic crisis, they found their wealth evaporating because of falling real estate values, tumbling stock markets, and rising unemployment. Patten, by contrast, spent a much more pleasant year reflecting on his experiences and thinking about Western policies toward Asia in general. His book goes beyond Hong Kong, confronting the grand issue of how the West should deal with a China emerging pell-mell as a great power and, even more broadly, the questions of the likely future of Asia as a whole and of ensuring that East and West can become partners in world politics. Despite his denials that he has written a memoir, Patten's personal report of his Hong Kong experiences certainly fits the

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