After the change of sovereignty in Hong Kong in July 1997, there has been much speculation as to whether the new administration of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa would bring about a more interventionist government, given his campaign rhetoric to adopt a strong leadership and his well-known admiration of the Singapore model of development. This article examines the evolution of the Hong Kong 'state' within an historical perspective and argues that by the eve of the handover the former colonial government was already an active state driven by highly conscious accumulation and legitimation strategies in response to the rising social, economic and political demands of the 1980s and 1990s. New factors emerging after the handover have further strengthened the forces of state intervention, including the decolonization syndrome, institutionalized corporatism under the Basic Law political design, the need to gain legitimacy and to seek performance by the Tung administration because of the lack of proper electoral mandate, and the impact of serious external crisis arising from the Asian financial crisis inducing rethinking of policies. Whereas the old colonial interventionism was endogenously driven by bureaucratic reformism, the new interventionism is clearly more subject to exogenous forces embedded in the changing institutional, political and economic conditions. Copyright © 2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd.