Christopher Patten is modest about being the Last Governor ("a title invariably given capital letters to denote," he supposes, "its historic significance") of a British-ruled Hong Kong, and about his role in the transition of the colony to Chinese rule in 1997. The first third of East and West
recounts Patten's struggle to leave the colony's residents with some assurances that they would have certain democratic rights once they became Chinese subjects, and he is frankly regretful about the extent to which those efforts failed. The tortuous diplomatic maneuvering of those years and the colorful players are depicted with vigor and humor, and Patten adds lively first-person anecdotes absent from Jonathan Dimbleby's detailed analysis of the handover in The Last Governor
East and West then moves to a much wider arena. "I believed," Patten writes, "that the values Hong Kong represented were the values of the future in Asia as everywhere else." With common sense and a wealth of statistics, Patten refutes the notion that distinctly Asian values can explain the success of Asia's economic "tigers." The book becomes a well-argued and sometimes passionate exploration of the universal relevance of liberal democracy, human rights, and market economics. Patten is a sharp, well-read statesman, and though he downplays his role as that of a political functionary, one might well wish that higher-ups displayed some of his insight and clarity.
From Publishers Weekly
Asia-watchers can't afford to miss Patten's trenchant book, which is part memoir, part political treatise and part rattling secular sermon. As the last British governor of Hong Kong (he took the job in 1992), Patten steered the negotiations for the handover of the colony to China in 1997, while still working to strengthen Hong Kong's institutions and infrastructure. As well as detailing the transition, he wittily and intrepidly tackles broader, highly topical issues. How should we view the stunning growth and recent crisis of Asian "tiger economies" such as Singapore and Taiwan? Patten's crisp and commonsensical answers leave no room for wishy-washy cultural relativism. "The same laws of political gravity apply to everyone, everywhere," he says; "the apples and the lychees descend perpendicularly on every continent." And how should we treat China, which many Western observers consider enigmatic and culturally unique? Forthrightly! urges Patten, and delivers a blistering indictment of the Chinese government's treatment of its own people and the West's cosseting. A self-styled "liberal conservative," Patten champions small, thrifty governments, well-regulated financial institutions, rule of law, guarantee of individual rights and a safety net protecting workers. The roar of this book was apparently too loud for Rupert Murdoch, who refused to let HarperCollins U.K. publish it. The controversy should simply heighten the buzz among pundits and policy makers, both in East and West. Editor, Peter Bernstein; rights Chelsea West Inc; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.