Other 'Hong Kongs'

When you think about it, Hong Kong is really a unique... and unlikely city.

Before the Qing ceded Hong Kong Island to the British, it was a literally unknown piece of land. It was just an island with fishing villages and a few thousand people. In less than a century and a half, for various historical reasons, Hong Kong grew to be one of the most iconic cities of the world and a center for world commerce and trade, equivalent to cities like London and New York. However, while it has a priviliged geographical position, probably nobody would have ever heard of it without a series of historical coincidences.

With a POD roughly in the mid-XIX century, what other cities that start from such humble beginnings could grow to such heights? I'm not necessarily looking for British colonies or colonial enclaves in general, I'm looking for cities that can grow from 'nowhere' not only to be large and prosperous (there are plenty of those) but to be such a commercial and cultural center to be named in the same breath as New York, London or Paris.
 

There could also be a couple of Sinagapore-analogues which could fulfil your criteria.

Off the top of my head, Cape Town, Zanzibar, and Cabinda could all become African Singapores, depending on the POD etc.
A lot of East African coastal cities could fit the role, although the one best suited would be Zanzibar because of the administration structures in place.

I think Cabinda's dependence on oil might make it instead more of a Qatar or Bahrain than a Singapore.
 
Zanzibar and many East African cities wouldn’t fit because they were founded and relatively large long before Europeans arrived. Others were of course founded later, like Cape Town.
 
Wait, how? I'm trying to figure out how any Central American or Caribbean city could get to Singapore levels of development.
Belize is from what i read, is one the most developed and the least trouble Central American countries, so it isn’t out of a realm of possibility, if they could with proper management be able to try to become the Singapore of Central America
 
Belize is from what i read, is one the most developed and the least trouble Central American countries, so it isn’t out of a realm of possibility, if they could with proper management be able to try to become the Singapore of Central America

Panama I think could be the Singapore of Central America. The unique place around the canal could give it a boost if managed correctly.
 
For alternate Hong Kong-like sites in China, Sansha Bay may be a good candidate. It seems to have mountainous terrain that would provide adequate catchments for a fairly sizeable population, and rugged, defensible landward borders and peninsular choke points.

Similar to HK being downriver from Canton, it's just outside Fuzhou/Foochow, which in the 19th century was a key treaty port, meaning any European power who controls this area controls the trade to and from Fuzhou. In an ATL, maybe Foochow and Fujian could become a more economically region as a result of Chinese policy?
 

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If the Portuguese kept control of Mumbai, that would have been their Hong Kong, especially if the marathas, or some other indigenous power took away their Goan holdings.
 
When you think about it, Hong Kong is really a unique... and unlikely city.

Before the Qing ceded Hong Kong Island to the British, it was a literally unknown piece of land. It was just an island with fishing villages and a few thousand people. In less than a century and a half, for various historical reasons, Hong Kong grew to be one of the most iconic cities of the world and a center for world commerce and trade, equivalent to cities like London and New York. However, while it has a priviliged geographical position, probably nobody would have ever heard of it without a series of historical coincidences.

With a POD roughly in the mid-XIX century, what other cities that start from such humble beginnings could grow to such heights? I'm not necessarily looking for British colonies or colonial enclaves in general, I'm looking for cities that can grow from 'nowhere' not only to be large and prosperous (there are plenty of those) but to be such a commercial and cultural center to be named in the same breath as New York, London or Paris.

Venice was pretty much the same, except it was founded a worse place than Hong Kong and much earlier. We could also use Tel Aviv and Dubai aa similar examplea.
 
Plenty of villages/islands in the Mekong and Ganges delta's that could become a Hong Kong analogue. If you don't mind south america, then both the Plate and the Amazon have plenty of spots where new cities could be found.
 
In OTL Los Angeles had a population ~ 1500 when the United States took it in the Mexican-American War. Most of the cities in western North America were in a similar position, so with a POD in the mid-19th century you could have one of them (perhaps San Diego or even somewhere in Baja California/northern Mexico) become the Hollywood of the ATL. Note southern California became a center of filming because it was sunny, so whatever city you choose should get a lot of sunlight. It doesn't fit the colonial enclave part, but the cultural center part absolutely applies.
 
Penang is the sister city of Singapore but wasn't given independence like Singapore despite being an island, having an overwhelmingly non-Malay/Muslim population and being a British Crown Colony. It easily could be independent
 
Penang is the sister city of Singapore but wasn't given independence like Singapore despite being an island, having an overwhelmingly non-Malay/Muslim population and being a British Crown Colony. It easily could be independent

Could we have multiple Singapores across the Straits? There are a whole bunch of islands there.
 
Well Hong Kong was the recipient of 2 long-term monopolies: 1) one over the large in/outflows to the Chinese economy (Canton System/Maoist policy); and 2) being a 'safe harbor' from the Chinese regime (whether Qing law/anti-foreignism or Maoist persecution). Both of these combined made Hong Kong a uniquely attractive and safe place to put capital, from which all the economic + cultural development sprang. Many Chinese places of course had 1 and/or 2 at varying times during the late Qing/Republican period, but only Hong Kong had them during the Maoist + Dengist period.

Looking at the 19C, there aren't that many places that can fit these criteria. 2) is a matter of Western empires carving out + maintaining colonies or extra-territorial jurisdictions, but 1) is more difficult. Few countries had the ability to maintain restricted trade flows like China did, because the long-term result of such policy was usually Western intervention - China was simply too large/valuable for such intervention to be decisive. And even then, the majority of economies were simply not large enough to generate Hong Kong-levels of capital. Enclaves near a non-Japan, Korea, Turkey and maybe Egypt seem like the likeliest candidates.

Alternatively, as others have pointed out, you could create an economy so potent that you are rich enough to create Hong Kong-analogues without resorting to monopolies (San Francisco/LA and the various boomtowns of the developing world). Then there are the geographic monopolies that rise and fall as new trade routes are opened (Singapore, Dubai).
 
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