Sunday, December 20, 2009

Anniversary for Macau

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the official handover of the colony of Macau from Portugal to the People's Republic of China. Macau was first claimed by the Kingdom of Portugal in 1513 by explorers dispatched by King Manuel I, a time of great exploration and expansion for Portugal. The official status of the territory was somewhat ambiguous and went through several changes over the centuries in different treaties and agreements. The Great Qing Empire recognized Portuguese ownership but with the proviso that Portugal could not turn the colony over to any other country without Manchu approval. The coming to power of the communist party in China brought with it renewed calls for the return of all foreign held territory to China, the communists denouncing British control of Hong Kong and Portuguese control of Macau as the results of aggressive conquest and unequal treaties (somewhat rich coming from a government whose rule itself was based on aggressive conquest). During the corporatist regime of Salazar the colony of Macau was declared an overseas province of Portugal and there were concerns that Salazar would oppose any effort by the Red Chinese to take Macau back. However, following the "Carnation Revolution" the corporatist regime was overthrown in a coup d'etat and China was offered Macau then. The Chinese said they were unprepared to accept sovereignty and so it was put off to December 20, 1999 when the official handover ceremony took place. The Portuguese flag was lowered, the red flag was raised and the last European foothold on China passed into the pages of history. The loss of Macau marked the end of the Portuguese colonial empire, the longest lasting in history spanning from the capture of Cueta in 1415 to the handover of Macau in 1999.


  1. There's a new (as of November 2009) biography of Prime Minister Salazar - the first detailed one in the English language - by an academic based in Ireland called Filipe Ribeiro de Meneses. I mention this book (644 pages) here because Macau turns up several times in its pages, as, predictably, do other Portuguese overseas territories such as Angola, Mozambique, East Timor etc. Say what one likes against Salazar, he at least didn't subject East Timorese Christians to the wholesale genocide that they experienced for 24 years under Indonesian republican rule.

  2. I will definitely keep an eye out for that one. Much has been said against Salazar as you say, but not by me. He was also at least open to the possibility of restoring the monarchy, which is something. Thanks for the tip.

  3. To judge by this book, it seems that Salazar for a long time kept his options open as far as a Braganza restoration was concerned. The Braganza Prince Duarte was allowed to live in Portugal (unlike his Habsburg counterparts vis-a-vis Austria) and at least one monarchist newspaper, A Voz, was published with a minimum of official restraint. But Salazar was scared (and had reason to be scared) of a monarchist-fascist alliance, with assistance from discontented elements in the Portuguese army, turning against him. This was a real possibility after Hitler came to power and various Portuguese dingbats threatened to do to Salazar what had been done to Dollfuss.

    During 1940 at least one prominent monarchist politician in Portugal insisted, I regret to say, that Salazar deserved to be kicked out of office because of his Jewish blood. Anyway the whole book is worth reading; the author is obviously no great admirer of Salazar but is a hard-working scholar who has read vast amounts of primary source material, most of it never previously printed in English.


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