The Lady From Niger

"There once was a lady from Niger Who smiled as she rode on a tiger. They returned from the ride With the lady inside And the smile on the face of the tiger."
—Ogden Nash

Christopher Patten warns at the start that his engagingly written book is not a memoir. Though the core of it deals with the author's tenure as the British Empire's final governor of Hong Kong (1992-1997), Patten employs an impressionistic and anecdotal approach that is better suited to interpreting history than merely to recording it. In this he performs a valuable service. Toward the end of the book, however, as he attempts to peer into the future. Patten strays from the path of experience into the theoretical world of political economy in ways that seem to contradict the strongest parts of his earlier argument.

The emergence of a more active China in world affairs troubles Christopher Patten.

Chinese society bears many of the hallmarks of early-twentieth-century fascism. . . . The military is very powerful; the tentacles of the Party (a clan of interconnected family interests, not an ideological movement) entwines every aspect of commercial life; nationalism and xenophobia have replaced moral zeal; the state is supreme.

Peking (which Patten uses in preference to Beijing "because there is a word in the English language for...

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