Hong Kong: Making a Deal for 1997

Britain and China near an agreement on the freewheeling colony's future

The poker game has lasted almost two years now. The players are the world's most populous nation, China, and that most weathered of empire builders, Britain. In the kitty is a gleaming pearl, the scintillant colony of Hong Kong, which London is due to return to Peking in 1997. The favored strategy so far has been caution. Through 19 rounds of official bidding and bluffing, the British have remained outwardly imperturbable, while the Chinese have countered with a variety of shrewd hands.

Last week both sides came close to laying...

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