TO corporate observers, the announcement of the partnership between CITIC Hong Kong and Swire Properties in the Shanghai project may have emphasised the difference between two of the territory's established hongs - Swire Pacific and Jardine Matheson. The Shanghai joint venture should reinforce the image of Swire Pacific as a whizz-kid aggressively cultivating a good relationship with China ahead of 1997. However, CITIC Pacific chairman Larry Yung Chi-kin said it was the red chip which had taken the initiative and approached Swire about the Shanghai project. China International Trust and Investment Corp (CITIC) group - China's main investment arm - and the British hong have already secured business links in various areas. That tie is most prominent in aviation - CITIC Pacific has a stake in Swire-controlled Cathay Pacific Airways, while Swire has an interest in Dragon Airlines, majority-held by CITIC. The British hong is also teaming up with the red chip for a commercial development in Yau Yat Tsuen, Kowloon. CITIC Hong Kong also has a stake in Swire-controlled BC Development - a major bottler in China for US drinks giant Coca-Cola. Conversely, Jardine Matheson could not wait to estrange itself from the territory well ahead of Chinese sovereignty by seeking a de-listing from the stock exchange. That was interpreted by many as a loss of confidence in the mainland's upcoming takeover. But it was just the latest in a chain of actions taken by the group to defy Beijing in recent years, which saw deteriorating relations between the two sides - partly associated with China's attack on Jardines for supporting Governor Chris Patten's political reform proposals at the end of 1992. Instead of striving to secure partnerships with mainland firms, it has busied itself building a fence against potential invasion by Hong Kong and Chinese corporations. In May 1988, Jardines announced a ''hands-off'' share deal in which three of Hong Kong's most powerful tycoons agreed that their companies would not take major stakes in any Keswick firms for the next seven years. CITIC Hong Kong was one of those that agreed not to buy major holdings in companies under Jardine Matheson.