WI the UK handed Hong Kong over to Taiwan?


As usual when this topic comes up, for some reason the logistical impossibility of Britain holding Hong Kong is just brushed over.

Britain wasn't keeping the enclave, full-stop.

I think that's clear. But Britain posturing about giving it to Taiwan--not that they would, in the end--it could lead to very interesting butterflies.
I think that's clear. But Britain posturing about giving it to Taiwan--not that they would, in the end--it could lead to very interesting butterflies.
It’s literally just a straight edit to “the logistical impossibility of Taiwan holding Hong Kong is just brushed over. Taiwan wasn't keeping the enclave, full-stop.”
The butterflies would potentially be triggering the long-awaited Battle of Taiwan and maybe even sucking the US into a war with China as a result. Super.
Pretty sure the US would have given both the UK and Taiwan a major wedgie if they ever heard about a Taiwanese HK plan.

OTL the British government did a lot of posturing to make it look like they actually cared about HK and it’s citizens but by 97 it was mainly seen as an awkward obstacle to cosying up to China, something to be swept under the rug as quickly as possible so business could continue. As has been said they could have handed out passports/citizenship to ensure the PRC at least had to tread carefully to avoid an exodus. Instead they were very careful to make sure most HK residents could only choose between bending the knee or life as an asylum seeker.
Noticed this over on r/AlternateHistory, and the discussion was a bit (ahem) lacking, so I thought I'd ask here. What if the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong over to Taiwan rather than the PRC?

Is this possible? Does this mean an inevitable war?

For the post I saw on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/AlternateHistory/comments/priogh
I remember reading an academic textbook (I don't remember reading the title now, only that i think it was printed by Harvard University Press, and written by a Harvard Sinologist) that stated that during the 1950s, in OTL, Chiang Kai Shek actually tried very hard to persuade the US government to put pressure on the British to hand over Hong Kong to his control. He even got his intelligence service to liase with the newly-founded 14K triad (at that time still led by ex-KMT loyalists) to prepare for a terror campaign (e.g. small bombs lobbed at the shipyards and wharves, at the police stations and gunning down British officials, e.g) in case the British refused to coperate .

The academic textbook wrote that the Americans thought it was crazy and refused to back Chiang.

So in an ATL, if there is a US presidential administration ready enough to burn bridges with the UK (a major NATO Ally in Europe, the "unsinkable aircraft carrier"), the British most likely would refuse to cooperate. In which case Chiang may eventually get the 14K triad to go ahead with the terror campaign.
Last edited:
As already pointed out before. The odds of Britain handing Hong Kong over to Taiwan is effectively nil beyond China somehow burning in a new Warlords era, at which point Taiwan would probably be invading Xiamen against whichever commissar or warlord is holed up there. Beyond that, there's no way to fight the PRC.

Much less capable actually.

The British always had the (in this case as a SPECTACULARLY dumb) option of Special Weapons to use, at least as a threat. The ROC had zip.

I have always wondered (while being too lazy to really research the answer) if the British really WANTED to hold onto Hong Kong after 1997. If they had it seems reasonable that the time to renegotiate the least was in 1945, maybe even before the Japanese were defeated, when the Chang government was more... amenable to discussion with the government that was in control of the Burma Road and had the WAllied primary responsibility for the South China Sea.

They were already pulling out their assets east of Suez, so I highly doubt it. This includes going against the will of countries like the UAE and Singapore, who at least wanted the British to continue providing security. Hong Kong is pretty much damned, by comparison. Even if they do want to hold on to Hong Kong, well, they'll have to figure out a strategy to defend it against the PLA that doesn't entail turning China into glass.
Again, Britain wanted to get rid of Hong Kong (but with good grace) and handing to the ROC will see the PLA at Hong Kong harbour within hours. The thread is well into ASB territory.
Again, Britain wanted to get rid of Hong Kong (but with good grace) and handing to the ROC will see the PLA at Hong Kong harbour within hours. The thread is well into ASB territory.
Particularly with a hundred years to play with I'm not sure if ASB is really fair, it's certainly very unlikely but thinking about the steps that need to happen. For Britain to hand over Hong Kong to Taiwan you'd need it to be

Legitimate (we start at illegitimate it's a lease and the 'landlord' is clearly the PRC with the terms of the scenario meaning we can't just cheat and have it be nationalist China
Acceptable (people need to actually want this to happen both the Public of Hong Kong, general British public and enough of the international community, it starts unacceptable people were generally apathetic in Britain, in Hong Kong a lot of people were pro China, and the wider world wanted decolonisation)
Possible ( the hardest one how to avoid the PLA just marching in)

So taking it together how can we achieve those three requirements with only a minimal butterfly net

The simplest way to get legitimate is probably turning the New Territories from a lease to a permanent acquisition, given the island itself already was this doesn't seem impossible. It would be slightly easier pre-1900 (Just have the relevant peace treaty go a different way), but especially early in 1900 (pre-World War I when Britain still in peak Empire mindset), Seems perfectly possible for a dispute with the Chinese government to get out of hand (possibly a failed attempt to curtail Western influences, in the area around Hong Kong to get the lease itself in the minds of British negotiators) have a brief additional round of gunboat diplomacy and as part of the latest humiliating treaty take permanent control of the new territories. This doesn't feel like it would drastically disrupt the flow of things it leaves Britain China and the wider world in about the same position as it was before. This also makes the timeline more conveniently flexible without a fixed date to hand it over we can place the actual transfer date at any point post-war (with the below scenario I'd guess the 70s or 80s is most likely)

Then for acceptable I would say have nasty trends in communist regimes in the Cold War, de stalinization fails or never even really gets going, less reformist (and also less practical/capable economically) voices win out in the PRC itself. Leading to the West doing a bit better in the Cold War (easier to present itself as the reasonable partner to 3rd parties) having a bit more resources spare, and having both the Warsaw Pact countries and the PRC much closer to, large better off North Korea's than what they actually became. So at this point Hong Kong is a speck of freedom with a heavily militarised border every now and again a few brave refugees managed to sneak through, a major British tabloid take this up as a series of stories about the brave Hongkonger, which becomes a general trope in British public perception. So we now have people in Hong Kong don't want to join China as they can see how bad it is, the British people have a generally warm disposition towards Hong Kong, and there is still a unified enough Cold War style western faction to have enough friends, to back something other then returning Hong Kong

Finally possible, an assertive America, already helps with this a lot, as does a really ghastly PRC which probably makes seeing Taiwan as a government in exile more appealing to the west (the idea it may just collapse and their be able to come in seems more possible), and finally a less wealthy PRC would reasonably be less likely to be able to advance its nuclear program at the same scale and pace so I suspect it would have nuclear weapons it seems reasonable to assume it has a smaller stockpile and less effective delivery methods making any possible conflict with either the USSR or the West more one-sided. But I think the most important final part of this is maintaining the Sino-Soviet split. Given they've both stayed in a authoritarian direction, it can't quite be for the same reason, but still feels personally possible for them to fall out could be as simple as the two rulers having a personal falling out, or possibly the PRC leaning even more hard into an anti colonialism message, and leading to increased competition with the USSR about satellite/friendly states in Asia. Either way the key thing is the PRC needs to be worried about its northern border and certainly not confident that the USSR would back it if it decided to go all in.

Bringing this altogether In this scenario the UK really doesn't want to hand over Hong Kong to the PRC, but between post-war decline and Let's say a Labour government that is legitimately quite keen on decolonisation it would rather not hold on to it indefinitely (not to mention there's always the worry things will flare up and there would be a war with the PRC), so after negotiations with Taiwan they hold a referendum with one of the options being joining the Republic of China which wins by a narrow margin. The world holds its breath but despite significant sabre rattling and possibly some raids/terrorist activities sponsored by the PRC the handover happens and the Republic of China declares it has a reclaimed a province of China, the already heavily reinforced/militarised border (after all in this scenario the west has been reinforcing Hong Kong in case of a possible Chinese invasion for decades) a substantial US naval presence, and fear of the USSR to the north stops the PRC from intervening at least immediately.

Unfortunately I doubt Hong Kong in this scenario would be anything like It was in OTL probably a lot poorer(no Chinese market to really engage with) and a lot more militarised (and therefore less free e.g. more restricted press)
I think that's clear. But Britain posturing about giving it to Taiwan--not that they would, in the end--it could lead to very interesting butterflies.
A few thoughts of mine:

Are all other things equal or all there other things that are different?
For example, is Mao still in charge? Or someone else? A quick academic research showed that Mao entered the Korean War against the advice of his entire inner circle (whom feared the deployment of nuclear weapons).

So if you can get a different leadership cohort from Mao, that could work in your hypothetical ATL.

A different approach would be to have an ATL where communist China is in a much weaker position. For starters, the USSR decides not to provide China with any kind of industralisation or tech transfer as it did in OTL starting from the early 1950s onwards.
Last edited: