Chairman Mao and the HSBC Lion

In this short film, Professor Catherine Schenk discusses the complicated relationship between Hong Kong and the rest of China. She considers this photo, which shows one aspect of the 'One Country, Two Systems' (一国两制) framework: commercial banks, including HSBC, issue the currency in Hong Kong. A separate and stable currency is enshrined in the Basic Law that set out the relationship between Hong Kong SAR and the rest of China from 1997.

Catherine Schenk is researching how this principle of separate currencies was established in the 15 years before the handover of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China. The future of the currency system and financial stability in Hong Kong was a crucial part of the negotiations between Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s. The lion depicted on the HSBC notes is one of two that have stood outside the HSBC building in Hong Kong since the 1930s - they were damaged during protests at the start of 2020 and re-stored to public view in October.

Professor Catherine Schenk is a historian of international money and banking in the 20th century. She draws on the archives of banks, governments and international institutions to explain the evolution of currencies and the way that the global banking system has evolved.

Catherine Schenk is the Professor of Economic and Social History and professorial fellow at St Hilda's College.