Encountering Macau: A Portuguese City-State on the Periphery of China, 1557-1999

Encountering Macau: A Portuguese City-State on the Periphery of China, 1557-1999

Encountering Macau: A Portuguese City-State on the Periphery of China, 1557-1999

Encountering Macau: A Portuguese City-State on the Periphery of China, 1557-1999

Synopsis

Tracing the history of this tiny peninsula perched off the coast of China, Geoffrey Gunn skillfully charts five hundred years of colonial encounter and economic relations with China, Japan, and the Asia region. For 450 years a Portuguese enclave or city-state, Macau- like Hong Kong- will revert to Chinese sovereignty at the end of the century. Macau too stands in the vortex of massive regional economic and social change, serving as a dynamic launch for China's dramatic, export-oriented growth. Yet little has been written in the West on Macau's parallel transition to a Special Administrative Region of China or, indeed, on the historical, economic, and political features that distinguish this Portuguese territory from its British counterpart. Making liberal use of historical photographs and illustrations, Gunn situates Macau in its Asian context since the sixteenth century, arguing that Macau's history has been shaped by more than its economic incorporation into a Euro-centric world system- on Chinese terms- or its survival in the twentieth century as an essentially rentier state built around gambling. The author considers the complex and ultimately doomed struggle by the Portuguese to assert sovereignty over Macau, which was reclaimed by China in the historic Sino-Portuguese Declaration of 1987, that foreshadows the end of Western rule in China. Macau's multi-faceted and fascinating saga draws out wider lessons about the nature of colonialism in Asia and the shape of the East Asian world order in the coming Pacific century.

Excerpt

For 450 years a Portuguese enclave on the coast of China, Macau, like Hong Kong, will revert to Chinese sovereignty at the end of the century. The importance of Macau to modern Chinese history, however, is greater than its twentieth century image as casino-town would suggest. The recovery of Macau's history, as this text develops, must, necessarily, begin with its establishment as a key node in the long distance trade linking Europe with Asia.

Another aspect of Macau's world-incorporation which this text addresses is the transplantation in the city-state of quintessentially European civil, juridical and ecclesiastical institutions, of which modern Macau is still heir. While Macau's commercial decline in the face of Protestant rivals in the form of Holland and Britain came to be sealed with the rise of Hong Kong, the survival of Macau as an entrepot port, the rise of a Macau bourgeoisie or, at least, a local civil society in tandem with the development of an essentially rentier economy under state auspices, is a story that bears retelling.

But Macau's survival as a Lusitanian outpost in an era of decolonization also turned on the political skills of the Portuguese in finessing the sovereignty question with China and in deftly surviving the vicissitudes of revolution and war intact. If Macau emerged in the 1950s and 1960s as a decadent capitalist outpost, otherwise antithetical to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, it was Portugal's own revolution of 1974 that breathed new economic and political life into the enclave as an export- platform and as a future financial center.

Nevertheless, this book shows that Macau's future, as brokered between Portugal and China, was essentially on Chinese terms, a reference to the Sino-Portuguese Declaration of 1987. While the Basic Law or mini- constitution for Macau, as with its Hong Kong analogue, offers certain safeguards to the people of Macau as a future Special Administrative Region of China post-1999, this arrangement, too, requires special study and vigilance.

Appropriately, as a work of historical sociology, part chronological and part analytical, this book seeks to refocus attention on the Macau "problem" as the territory confronts the transition to Chinese rule. It also seeks to explain the rise of Macau in the context of a new economic regionalism in which the city-state is poised to recapture certain of its . . .

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