John James Cowperthwaite

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The Honourable Sir
John James Cowperthwaite
Financial Secretary of Hong Kong
In office
17 April 1961 – 30 June 1971
Governor Sir Robert Black
Sir David Trench
Preceded by Arthur Grenfell Clarke
Succeeded by Charles Philip Haddon-Cave
Personal details
Born (1915-04-25)25 April 1915
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Died 21 January 2006(2006-01-21) (aged 90)
Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom
Spouse(s) Sheila Mary Thomson
Children John James Hamish Cowperthwaite
Alma mater Merchiston Castle School
St Andrews University
Christ's College, Cambridge

Sir John James Cowperthwaite, KBE, CMG (Chinese: 郭伯偉爵士;[citation needed] 25 April 1915 – 21 January 2006), was a British civil servant and the Financial Secretary of Hong Kong from 1961 to 1971. His introduction of free market economic policies are widely credited with turning postwar Hong Kong into a thriving global financial centre.

Early years[edit]

Cowperthwaite attended Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, Scotland, and later studied classics at St Andrews University and Christ's College, Cambridge.[1] He joined the British Colonial Administrative Service in Hong Kong in 1941, but left briefly during World War II to a posting in Sierra Leone.[1]

Hong Kong[edit]

He returned to Hong Kong in 1945 and continued to rise through the ranks. He was asked to find ways in which the government could boost post-war economic outlook but found the economy was recovering swiftly without any government intervention.[1] He took the lesson to heart and positive non-interventionism became the focus of his economic policy as Financial Secretary.[1] He refused to collect economic statistics to avoid officials meddling in the economy.[2]

In 1960, he was appointed as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)[3] and, in 1964, a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG).[4] He later became a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1968.[5] He was highly praised by Nobel laureate Milton Friedman just before his death.[1][2]

Commentators have credited his management of the economy of Hong Kong as a leading example of how small government encourages growth.[6][7]

Post–civil service career[edit]

After leaving his retirement, he was international adviser to Jardine Fleming, the Hong Kong-based investment bank until 1981. He retired and left Hong Kong for St Andrews, Scotland and became a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Personal life and death[edit]

He married Sheila Thomson in 1941, they had one son. He died in Scotland on 21 January 2006, aged 90; his son predeceased him.


External links[edit]

Preceded by:
Arthur Grenfell Clarke
Financial Secretary of Hong Kong
Succeeded by:
Sir Charles Philip Haddon-Cave