Hong Kong is a free port, a bustling trade center, and a shopping and banking emporium—one of the greatest trading and transshipment centers in East Asia. After 1950, when much of its entrepôt trade with China was halted because of UN and U.S. embargoes, Hong Kong began to industrialize. Overcoming such handicaps as a scarcity of minerals, power sources, usable land, and freshwater, and utilizing its abundant supply of cheap labor, Hong Kong has become a leading light-manufacturing center.
The textile and garment industry is the colony's largest manufacturing sector. Other industries include the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment, plastics, toys, watches and clocks, appliances, metal and rubber products, chemicals, and jewelry. The majority of goods are exported. Shipbuilding, machine tooling, and other heavy industries are also important, although most raw materials, capital goods, and fuel must be imported. China is by far the main trading partner, followed by the United States and Japan. Tourism is a major source of revenue, in addition to motion-picture production, finance and insurance, and publishing.
Because of the mountainous and rocky terrain, only about 5% of the land is arable; farming is carried on principally in the New Territories; the Yuanlong valley has the best farmland. Rice and a variety of vegetables are grown, but most food is imported from mainland China. Fishing is a common occupation, and chickens and pigs are raised.
Hong Kong's rail link with the mainland is by the Kowloon-Guangzhou Railway. Kowloon is connected with Hong Kong island, 1 mi (1.6 km) away, by ferry and by a vehicular tunnel. Hong Kong has shipping connections with all major world ports and is an international air hub; the airport at Kai Tak (opened 1958) was built on land reclaimed from Kowloon Bay. A new airport, on landfill extending from Chek Lap Kok island, opened in 1998; highways and a high-speed rail system connect Victoria to the airport.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.