chapter  7
Labour–Intensive Industrialization in Hong Kong, 1950–70:
Pages 14

Hong Kong was a small city-state whose economy was traditionally reliant

on tertiary trades, such as shipping and financial services. It industrialized in

the twentieth century, as did other parts of China, where a large proportion of

world production of consumer goods (such as clothing, footwear and electronics)

is now located. Although there are parallels between industrialization in Hong

Kong and the current process of structural change in contemporary China, these

can only be drawn imprecisely because historians have not had the necessary raw

materials: written sources documenting Hong Kong’s industrial past. Published

time-series data is limited and unreliable, and, as shown here, fails to reveal an

important feature of industrialization in Hong Kong: the existence, alongside

factories, of numerous small workshops. New macro and survey data derived

from archival sources allows a partial and patchy reconstruction of a more

realistic (that is, dualistic) industrial landscape. These findings set up a

larger project on ‘Industrialization and Institutional Change in Hong Kong’

(funded by the Leverhulme Trust), which sets out to analyse how businesses

were affected by, and helped shape, legal and customary frameworks regulating

industrial employment, the use of intellectual property rights, and access to

overseas markets.