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Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink

Jeffrey Wasserstrom draws on his many visits to Hong Kong and knowledge of the history of repression and resistance to help readers understand the deep roots and the broad significance of the events unfolding day by day in the city.

February 6, 2020

About the Book

The rise of Hong Kong is the story of a miraculous post-War boom, when Chinese refugees flocked to a small British colony, and, in less than fifty years, transformed it into one of the great financial centers of the world. The unraveling of Hong Kong, on the other hand, shatters the grand illusion of China ever having the intention of allowing democratic norms to take root inside its borders. Hong Kong’s people were subjects of the British Empire for more than a hundred years, and now seem destined to remain the subordinates of today’s greatest rising power.

But although we are witnessing the death of Hong Kong as we know it, this is also the story of the biggest challenge to China’s authoritarianism in 30 years. Activists who are passionately committed to defending the special qualities of a home they love are fighting against Beijing’s crafty efforts to bring the city into its fold―of making it a centerpiece of its “Greater Bay Area” megalopolis.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, one of America’s leading China specialists, draws on his many visits to the city, and knowledge of the history of repression and resistance, to help us understand the deep roots and the broad significance of the events we see unfolding day by day in Hong Kong. The result is a riveting tale of tragedy but also heroism―one of the great David-versus-Goliath battles of our time, pitting determined street protesters against the intransigence of Xi Jinping.

About the Author

Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor's Professor of History at UC Irvine. He edited the Journal of Asian Studies for a decade. His previous books include Student Protests in Twentieth Century China (Stanford, 1991) and, as co-author, the third edition of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know ( Oxford 2018). In addition to his academic writing, he regularly contributes to popular discussion with articles and op-eds in publications such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times. Wasserstrom has spoken at USC several times, including on "China's Goals for the 2008 Olympics."