AS GOVERNOR Mr Chris Patten this week settles down to his longest trip out of the territory since taking up the governorship, it will be an opportune time for him to contemplate how the world threatens to become a less friendly place for him than it was a few months ago. Superficially it might seem otherwise. Indeed, last week saw the strongest declarations of support yet from the Clinton administration, the only foreign ally that counts for anything when it comes to taking on Beijing. Mr Patten must surely have been bolstered when the new US official with direct responsibility for Hongkong affairs, hard-line China critic Mr Winston Lord, offered a fresh vow of support for the territory's democratisation. More importantly though, the man previously thought to favour a soft line towards Beijing, Secretary of State Mr Warren Christopher, scotched such ideas by coming out in strong support of the Patten package, and a warning conditions would be attached to the renewal of China's Most Favoured Nation trading status. The Governor always insists he does not solicit such international backing. ''I am not looking for support from President [Bill] Clinton or from other world leaders,'' he said. Yet such denials sound a trifle thin, especially when Mr Patten invariably goes on to stress the stake the international community has in Hongkong's success. For the Governor clearly loves the international attention he is basking in, as shown by his recent appearance on one the top-rating chat shows in the US, CNN's Larry King Live, on which he readily conceded to having become an international celebrity over the past few months. The suggestion floating around Government that Mr Patten is now the fifth most written-about man in the world - trailing only Mr Clinton, Russian President Mr Boris Yeltsin, British Prime Minister Mr John Major and China's paramount leader Mr Deng Xiaoping - must come as music to the Governor's ears. YET Mr Patten is also smart enough to know such superficial impressions will do little to help solve the problems that lie ahead in his relations with the new team in Washington. Problems so far successfully kept out of the public eye, but which Mr Patten is likely to be thinking about during this week's stay in London, since that is where their origin lies. For the unpleasant reality for the Governor is that his many friends among the US Democrats, from Senator Bill Bradlee to former presidential candidate Mr Gary Hart, may not be enough to save him from his own political past, as a former head of the British Conservative Party. A party which last summer sent two top aides to the US to join the campaign against Mr Clinton, while ministers turned a blind eye to a search through passport files for evidence to support damaging rumours the Democratic nominee had once applied for British citizenship. Mr Patten left Conservative Central Office before these dirty tricks took place, but that is unlikely to be enough to exempt him from ''guilt by association'' over the actions of aides who months earlier had been under his direct control. And, while London tries to deny it, there is no doubt those attempted smears still rankle with the White House. ''When I met John Major the other night, he slapped me on the shoulder and said: 'You know, you don't look anything like your passport photographs','' Mr Clinton joked recently. Which means the much vaunted ties between Mr Patten and Mr Major may turn out to be more of a liability than an asset when it comes to the Clinton administration, and the Governor could easily find himself the target of similar jokes in Washington. Worsestill, the Governor's potential problems in maintaining his relationship with the US are as nothing compared with those of keeping the support of other Western democracies. While only a few months ago international backing for the Patten package was pouring in, now there is an ominous silence, along with some signs that support is slipping. The Governor got one indication of that during his trip to Brussels last week, when Belgian Foreign Minister Mr Willy Claes stressed the need for a ''climate of confidence'' and a resumption of Sino-British negotiations, rather than his support for faster democratisation. MORE significant still were the comments of Canadian Minister for Constitutional Affairs Mr Joe Clark, who was in the territory last week. Ottawa - partly in deference to its influx of Hongkong immigrants - has always been one of the strongest supporters of more democracy in the territory, even at the price of damaging its relations with Beijing. Yet on this occasion, Mr Clark's comments were more muted, his praise of Mr Patten somewhat watered down by a footnote that Canada could not support any particular model for Hongkong's political development. It is a small indication that even such formerly strong allies are beginning to feel the wind of pressure from a Chinese Government happy to use the clout of the world's fastest growing economy to scare foreign governments away from jeopardising their trade ties by expressing too much support for the Governor. And an indication Mr Patten may soon no longer need to repeat his ritual denials about seeking international support for his political reform proposals, since there will be none to solicit.