The Rise and Decline of Hong Kong Garment Industry
Industrial development in Hong Kong has a long history. Making boats and shipping related industries were the first to develop. More heavy industries developed by European companies. In the early 20th century, Chinese merchants established factories in Hong Kong, stimulating such industries as textile and the manufacturing of rubber shoes and torches. By the time of Japanese occupation, local industries had already made much progress.
Imperial Preference began in 1932. Hong Kong enjoyed tax privileged tax for products imported into the British Empire and its territories. This had boosted cotton fabrics and the manufacture of rubber shoes, torches and batteries. On the eve of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, there were 1,200 registered factories and the industrial workforce was over 90,000. However, during the Japanese occupation that followed, many of the factories were either sequestered by the Japanese army or destroyed. Many factory owners fled and industrial production came to a virtual standstill.
The drastic changes in China in the few years after the war stimulated the rapid growth of Hong Kong’s industry. The civil war in the mainland from 1946 and the change of government in 1949 led to an exodus of migrants into Hong Kong. The immigrants from different backgrounds bolstered Hong Kong’s manufacturing industry in different ways. From Shanghai, which had been the nation’s industrial centre before the war, over 30 leading cotton spinners arrived in Hong Kong between 1945 to 1950, bringing with them advance machinery, substantial capital and modern management and technological knowhow, and prompting the growth in Hong Kong of the spinning, weaving and garment industries.