Between 1927 and 1949, a civil war in China was fought between the Nationalist ROC-led government led by Chiang Kai Shek, and the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong. These two forces put their differences aside to fight off the Japanese in WW2. However, they turned on each other soon after when unable to resolve their differences. The incompetency of the communist army led to them making many mistakes, allowing the nationalists to retake the mainland and forcing the communists to retreat to Taiwan. After securing his authority in blood, Kai Shek set about remaking China in his image, instituting a system of "democracy with Chinese characteristics". As such, China retained close ties with western nations, spurring the false promises of the Soviet Union upstarts.

In this scenario, British leaders are more far-sighted about their dealings with China, understanding that it will become the dominant economic power of the world in the 21st century, rivaling the United States in power after experiencing a record boom in growth. To get in on the action, they intend to retain the British colony of Hong Kong, a dependent territory of the British Empire since it was seeded to them by the Quing Empire after the Opium War in 1841. This would keep Britain very close to China, allowing it to be first in line to benefit from its economic growth. Unfortunately, this territory was ceded to Britain for a period of 99 years, at which point the territory would legally be returned to China. This acquisition had always been a sore spot for the Chinese people, who saw their country being exploited and dominated for decades by various foreign powers. This anger and resentment came to a head with the boxer rebellion, which helped bring down the Qing Empire.

Britain needs a way to make this lease permanent, similar to Northern Ireland becoming part of the UK. Failing that, it would at the least want to extend the lease as part of the Commonwealth of Nations, a political association of 54 member states, nearly all of which used to be territories of the British Empire. What set of circumstances need to occur in order to bring about this eventuality?

  • $\begingroup$ Which PM is seeing into the future? The one in 1841, the one in 1911, the one in 1927 or the one in 1944? Answers could range quite a bit depending on when the UK decides to act on such knowledge! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jan 13, 2021 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ Does the rest of the prediction have to come true, i.e., China is a unified state and an economic powerhouse? $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Jan 13, 2021 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence not necessarily. $\endgroup$
    – Incognito
    Jan 13, 2021 at 20:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ (1) Seeded and ceded are different words. (Note that cession is forever.) (2) Northern Ireland, or any part of Ireland for that matter, has never been "annexed" to Britain. (3) You are confusing the island of Hong Kong and the territory of Kowloon, which had been ceded (= forever) to the United Kingdom by the Treaty of Nanking (1842) and the Convention of Peking (1860), with the New Territories, which had indeed been leased to the UK for 99 years by the Second Convention of Peking (1898). In short, the UK had solid title on Hong Kong and Kowloon, but chose to avoid a war with China. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 13, 2021 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP, re the last part of your comment, I'd say that the UK saw Hong Kong as not viable without the New Territories.So returning the ceded part went into the pot as a bargaining chip. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Jan 14, 2021 at 5:18

2 Answers 2


Trade the Isle of Wight for Hong Kong

There is no realistic prospect of the UK retaining Hong Kong indefinitely unless it can satisfy China by offering something of comparable value in return. One way to do this would be to offer a portion of England to China to establish a permanent trading center. This would align with your narrative of the UK and China building closer trading ties.


You could have them get it through spoils of war.

If you're already playing with history, expand on the Boxer Rebellion a tiny bit, or to be more specific, expand on the Boxer Protocol. Have the Brits add in a bit about how, "In due part to the expense of the equipment, transportation, and men's lives spent in this unnecessary and pointless war, Hong Kong, Kowloon, and more recent territories outlined in previous treaties are now ceded to the Empire of Great Britain in perpetuity."

Or some other form of diplo-speak for, "you annoyed us, we won, this is ours now."

Of course if you go this route the other seven nations of the alliance will have to take a slice of the pie as well. Though you might be able to avoid that by stating that the Brits had already owned those places to begin with and this was simply them cementing the fact in place.

You also might have to turn the intervention of the 8 nation army into a bit more of a curb stomp for the Boxer and Qing side. Nothing really gets the message through like being beaten into utter submission. It may cause resentment to linger however....

  • $\begingroup$ You are right, and if nationalism is the same, or even higher than they are during the pre-1937 era (before Japanese Invasion), then KMT is going to need to satisfy this burning rage--Chinese really don't like the foreigners who come into their land like they own it. $\endgroup$
    – Faito Dayo
    Dec 14, 2021 at 2:58

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