This account of Patten's five years as governor of Hong Kong (1992--97) is a rarity among books by politicians: it's candid,...


"EAST AND WEST: China, Power, and the Future of Asia"

This account of Patten's five years as governor of Hong Kong (1992--97) is a rarity among books by politicians: it's candid, well-written, and it has something to say. The travails Patten experienced in being published are an ironic confirmation of his thesis that European businessmen and politicians prostrate themselves shamefully and unnecessarily in their efforts to get more business with China. Rupert Murdoch, anxious to do just that, canceled the book contract. The book docs not deal with that experience but is almost a primer about such illusions, for Patten encountered all of them as he made a modest improvement in the democracy of Hong Kong. This was bitterly opposed by the Chinese government and by businessmen in Hong Kong and elsewhere who wanted to ingratiate themselves with the Chinese, as well as by the old Sinologists of the British Foreign Office, who argued that the Chinese didn't want democracy or that Hong Kong was ""just a pimple on China's backside."" ""Some pimple!"" writes Patten, since it is equivalent to 20 percent of China's GDP and has accounted for 60 to 80 percent of foreign direct investment in China. Nor is there a correlation between the sycophancy of a country's diplomatic approach to China and its success in getting business. The country with the biggest increase in trade with China over the last ten years has been the US, which has taken the toughest attitude. Patten notes that China ""is not an economic superpower today and is a very long way from becoming one,"" and that it's in China's national interest to see that Hong Kong succeeds; He praises the US approach and, writing about Asia more generally, is appropriately cynical about the EU's readiness ""to say something strong and principled about Burma every now and then. That should keep up morale."" Patten uses his experience to develop a political philosophy, which is less interesting, but he is always engaging, thoughtful, provocative, and ruthless with cant.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1998


Page Count: 320

Publisher: Times

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998

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