chapter  6
26 Pages

Macau’s Urban Transformation 1927–1949: The Signicance of Sino-Portuguese Foreign Relations in the Urban Form

Macau has always been an East-West interface and a synonym for change. The territory has been an open window to the West and, with free ow of immigrants, capital, and trade, has experienced a transnational phenomenon since the early seventeenth century, when its golden age saw a vast inow of merchants that generated strong city growth. Urban transformation was shaped by an unusual articulation between ethnic power relations, the market economy, and ambiguous political conditions amid Chinese and Portuguese states regarding the Macau Question1 that was never fully claried until 1987, with the adoption of Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration. This unique indeterminacy left no space for traditional patterns of trade monopolies, taxes, and paternalistic regulations that were elsewhere part of the European colonial expansion period. Sixteenthcentury Portuguese urbanism, its mercantile objectives, and the critical condition of the impermanence of places dened its overseas place-making approach as one characterized by flexibility, involving strong adaptations to local contexts, traditions, and existing topographical forms (Portas 2005: 29-46). This approach, which entailed a constant testing and redesigning of intentions, continued forming urban space throughout the centuries. Macau was, since its foundation until 1987, an indeterminate landscape under pressure to redesign itself in response to large migrant ows, ethnic power interests, free market forces, and the uncertainty of the political state of aairs of both China and Portugal that led to constant urban transformation.