From 1982, when the Chinese government first signalled its intention to take back Hong Kong, to the actual transfer of sovereignty in 1997, the PRC engaged in a long-term campaign to “win friends and influence people” in the British colony. Hoping to prevent a large-scale flight of capital and manpower, and wishing to cultivate a core group of sympathetic local notables as future political leaders, Beijing issued frequent pledges of non-interference in Hong Kong's affairs and adopted classic “united front” tactics — flattering, cajoling, and otherwise wooing potential supporters while snubbing (and sometimes smearing) outspoken critics. Despite intensely negative local reaction to the 1989 “Tiananmen Massacre”, over the long haul Beijing largely succeeded in disarming public fears of a heavyhanded Chinese takeover. Consequently, the handover itself was an extremely calm, tranquil affair. And in the first 2 years of Hong Kong's new status as a “Special Administrative Region” of China, the PRC earned generally high marks for honoring its pledge to uphold the principle of “one country, two systems”.

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