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I'm referring to just Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula that was "fully ceded to the British in 1842" in perpetuity. It was New Territories that was leased for 99 years.

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I'm trying to distinguish H.K. with Gibraltar, but less so Falkland Islands because Falkland Islands 500 km away from Argentina.

"As an aside China wouldn't even have needed to invade to get the British to fold, all it had to do was cut off the food and the water."

  1. If U.K. thought China can just cut off water and electricity to HK, can't Spain do same to Gibraltar? How does Gibraltar differ?

[Thatcher herself later said that during the negotiations between the two sides that Deng had told her that "I could walk in and take the whole lot this afternoon" and she had replied that "there is nothing I could do to stop you but the world would now know what China is like". Lu Ping, the chief Chinese negotiator during the handover process later confirm that Deng was not bluffing and China would have invaded not only if the talks failed but also if there had being a popular uprising in Hong Kong which prevented the handover from taking place.

Hong Kong was geographically indefensible and both sides knew it. Hence why Hong Kong had a token garrison which was incapable of defending against a serious Chinese attack. The official US report NSC 5717 in 1957 evaluated the value of Hong Kong as a propaganda and intelligence gathering asset but concluded that the colony was not defensible and hence the US would not render combat assistance to the UK in the event of a Chinese attack.

  1. Why did the U.K. knuckle to China, when it didn't bow to Spain, or Argentina and fought them in the Falkland Island War?

Can't Spain do same as Deng Xiaoping and "walk in and take the whole lot"? Of note, Spain and Gibraltar aren't even separated by water. Victoria Harbor separates HK Islands from Kowloon by 1 km, but three under-ground tunnels connect them.

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    Gibraltar only has a token military garrison, but Spain are less likely to invade another country these days than China are – mgh42 May 31 '20 at 23:31
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    Neither Spain nor Argentina have nuclear weapons. – Caleth May 31 '20 at 23:37
  • Spain are in NATO these days. – pjc50 Jun 1 '20 at 6:01
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    Spain is not China. Argentina is an easy foe to beat. When the U.K occupied Hong Kong China was weak. The tables have turned. The U.K know their place. – dan-klasson Jun 1 '20 at 15:50
  • Related if not a duplicate politics.stackexchange.com/questions/48840/… – Fizz Jun 2 '20 at 13:16
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If U.K. thought China can just cut off water and electricity to HK, can't Spain do same to Gibraltar? How does Gibraltar differ?

Gibraltar has its own water supply, consisting of wells, giant concrete water catchments, and (since 1984) two desalination plants. Spain could definitely cut off Gibraltar's food supply if it felt like it, but that brings me on to your second question:

Why did the U.K. knuckle to China, when it didn't bow to Spain, or Argentina and fought them in the Falkland Island War? Can't Spain do same as Deng Xiaoping and "walk in and take the whole lot"?

To answer this, and by extension your first question, one just has to look at the numbers:

  • The British Army has 75,000 personnel and 27,250 reserves; the Royal Navy has 32,640 personnel and 89 ships; the RAF has 33,840 personnel and 832 aircraft.
  • Spain's army has 76,000 personnel; its navy has 21,000 personnel and 138 ships; its air force has 23,000 personnel and 414 aircraft.
  • Argentina's army has 70,000 personnel; its navy has 18,400 personnel and 47 ships; its air force has 13,837 personnel and 139 aircraft.
  • China's army has 975,000 personnel; its navy has 240,000 personnel and 537 ships; its air force has 398,000 personnel and over 5,200 aircraft. Oh, and they have 290 nuclear warheads and the capacity to launch them via land, air, or sea. The UK only has 215 and can only launch them from Trident submarines. Spain and Argentina don't have nukes.

If Spain tried to conquer Gibraltar or cut off its food supply, the UK's military is of comparable size and strength to Spain's, and would stand a good chance of fending them off, as it did when Argentina invaded the Falklands. If China did the same to Hong Kong, however, they'd have such a huge numerical advantage that realistically, the UK wouldn't be able to do a whole lot about it.

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    Gibraltar is even more indefensible than Hong-Kong was, and in case of war with Spain the UK would evacuate it asap. The thing is, Spain didn't have, don't have and won't have any motivations to start a war with such a powerful foe as the UK for a tiny piece of useless rock. For the UK, Gibraltar has historically been a critical asset, since it allowed them to control access to the Mediterranean sea. For Spain is useless since they can do the same from a variety of bigger, better harbours in both sides of the channel. Gibraltar is a symbol for some spanish nationalists, but nothing more. – Rekesoft Jun 1 '20 at 10:06
  • Although the main reason not to invade may be of non military nature, Gibraltar is a lot more defensible than Honk Kong. It's a fortress and it was prepared to be defended in WWII. The last time Spain tried to invade and failed was more than two centuries ago and it is still untested if modern warfare might yield a different result. – Pere Jun 1 '20 at 13:50
  • I've now got one comment saying Gibraltar is harder to defend than Hong Kong, and one saying it's easier to defend. You can't both be correct. – F1Krazy Jun 1 '20 at 13:55
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    I would say Hong Kong is more "defendable" because it has a lot more human shields. The outcome of a war with China is obvious, it's just a matter of how many civilians would die. – dan-klasson Jun 1 '20 at 15:53

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