There has been much wringing of hands in Hong Kong over the diminishing of the Special Administrative Region’s status as an international city. The National Security Law, in place since the middle of 2020, is supposed to have triggered an exodus among Hong Kong’s residents , both foreign and locally born, and discouraged the influx of corporations and their staff from Western countries. This is exacerbated by the Hong Kong government’s zeal in keeping the city hermetically sealed in pursuit of its zero-Covid strategy . So far, most of the evidence indicating Hong Kong’s transition from “Asia’s world city” to “just another Chinese city” has been anecdotal. Even if it is true, Hong Kong is hardly the only city in China, or in the world for that matter, to go through the process of losing its international flavour, redirecting its focus inward and becoming part of the hinterland. Chang’an, the capital of the Chinese empire during the Tang dynasty (618–907), was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the ancient world. The neighbourhood of Chang’an had been the site of dynastic capitals long before the Tang. However, the Tang’s military might and cultural power, the dynasty’s own cosmopolitan outlook – its emperors had Central Asian ancestries – and the city’s location at the eastern terminus of the overland Silk Road meant that Chang’an attracted substantial numbers of foreigners as traders, sojourners and permanent settlers, enough to be worthy of note in contemporary records written by historians, men of letters and foreign visitors. Chang’an hosted foreigners from west of China such as Persians, Arabs, Turks, the various Central Asian peoples. From the east, Japanese and Koreans studied in the city’s schools and universities, and a few of them even served in the Chinese government. A very telling indicator of just how international China’s capital was is the variety and number of houses of worship that could be found in the streets of Chang’an. Not counting the temples dedicated to Buddhism, which by then had Sinicised to a considerable degree and was the religion professed by almost all the Tang emperors, there were mosques for Muslims, churches for Nestorian Christians and temples for the followers of the Persian religions Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, indicating there were sufficient numbers of adherents of these faiths to make these houses of worship viable. In the late Tang period, the rebel leader Huang Chao sacked the city in 880, from which Chang’an never recovered. It never regained its former cosmopolitanism or importance. Renamed Xian in the Ming dynasty, it is today the provincial capital of Shaanxi and a second-tier Chinese city that’s well-known for its historical sites . There were other similar examples in China’s past: Kaifeng , Quanzhou , Guangzhou , Macau – cities that once had sizeable contingents of foreign residents, but over time their complexions, as it were, changed and they assumed different roles within the nation. Shanghai was the most international Chinese city in the early 20th century and then its light dimmed for a few decades. Today, it’s slowly reclaiming its cosmopolitan sheen. Archaeological evidence indicate that Singapore was a bustling trading centre 700 years ago, attracting people from as far as China and the Arab world, but it suddenly dropped off the radar for a few centuries until the British planted their flag on the island in 1819. Today, Singapore has a place among the top rungs of the various global city indices, but who’s to say it won’t go the way of most city-states of the past and enter a phase of genteel decline? People in Hong Kong should just relax. Cities rise and fall, or more often than not, wax and wane. Occasionally, a city finds itself waxing again. It may be humbling and distressing to live through a decline, but life goes on for most. There’s still bread to be won and dim sum to be had.