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Hearts and minds in Hong Kong’s New Territories: Agriculture and vegetable marketing in a Cold War borderland, circa 1946–1967
Authors: Michael Ng, Florence Mok, John Wong, and Wallace Wu
Michael Ng, Florence Mok, John Wong, and Wallace Wu (2023) Modern Asian Studies, First View, pp. 1 – 28, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X22000610
Using declassified colonial and British records in Hong Kong and London, as well as memoirs of former leftists and newspapers, this article explores the strategies the Hong Kong colonial government employed in a propaganda campaign to garner political support of the rural population in the New Territories, a porous land frontier during the Cold War. It also analyses the varying political orientations of migrant farmers, who often had received economic benefits from both the colonial government and the leftist organizations. This article reveals that the colonial government established the Vegetable Marketing Organization (VMO), a state-owned enterprise, to first nationalize the vegetable wholesale market in the immediate post-war period, and subsequently used it to combat increasing political influence and anti-government activities of the communist-controlled Society of Plantations. Despite the improvement of the livelihood of immigrant farmers, the VMO Scheme failed to out-compete the Society economically, which was ultimately eliminated by draconian measures. Through studying the agrarian politics and economic contestations in Hong Kong’s rural area, this article provides a lens on how the Cold War was played out at a village level in East Asia.