The relationship dates back to in 1843, when Thomas Westbrook Waldron arrived in Hong Kong as the first US Consul, from New Hampshire in the US. Consul Waldron’s arrival was tied to a flurry of US diplomatic activity in China and the region.
Soon afterwards, Caleb Cushing, the first US envoy to China, and Viceroy Ki Ying of Canton signed the historic Wangxia Treaty, the earliest exchange of “most favored nation” preferences between the two countries. At Macau’s Kun Iam temple, one can still view the historic site and the granite table on which the pact was signed.
Later American diplomats, including a former Confederate war hero, fought piracy and pushed to end the coolie trade. In the 20th Century, the US helped Hong Kong rebuild after World War II and played a critical role in Hong Kong’s transformation into a leading global city.
From months-long journeys on clipper ships, to direct flights from Washington to Hong Kong in just 16 hours, diplomacy has evolved with the times. While much has changed over 175 years, the United States remains focused on many of the same objectives as when Consul Waldron first came ashore. Consul General Tong offers insider insights into the 175-year diplomatic history of the United States in Hong Kong, and shares his perspectives on the US-Hong Kong relationship moving forward.
Kurt Tong has been the United States Consul General in Hong Kong since 2016. He is a career diplomat with close to 30 years of service focusing on the Asia-Pacific region and economic policy. Before coming to Hong Kong, Consul General Tong was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs at the U S State Department, the most senior career diplomatic position handling economic affairs. Before that, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Earlier, Consul General Tong was the Senate-confirmed U.S. Ambassador for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and also worked at the National Security Council at the White House. He has worked in cities across Asia, including Beijing, Seoul and Manila, and speaks several East Asian languages. Like the very first US Consul General to Hong Kong, he is a resident of New Hampshire.
Members of the RGS, their guests and others are most welcome to attend this event, which is HK$150 for RGS Members and HK$200 for guests and others, including a complimentary glass of white or red wine. This event is free of charge for Student Members.
The Royal Geographical Society - Hong Kong wishes to express its thanks to Tai Kwun for its generous support with this talk.