Historiography of East Asia The Term Paper

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These gang-related activities had a negative effect on the very industries on which Macau depended for much of its economic activity, and tourism dropped by almost 10% in 1998 (Kurtlantzick 1). A Macanese resident summed up the situation thusly: "I still won't walk around at night . . . And every sound makes me think of a gunshot" (quoted in Kurtlanzick at 1). In an interview with Macao's present and last Portuguese governor, Rocha Vieira, Borton also emphasizes the deleterious impact that gambling had on Macau. In this regard, Governor Vieira noted that, "For too long, Macao has been promoted through casinos, gambling and nightlife, which are associated with negative things such as loan sharks, prostitutes and triads, so we are trying to diversify" (quoted in Borton at 15). At the time, the governor, though, also stressed that gambling was not the only source of organized crime prior to the reversion to Chinese control: "In the case of Macau," Governor Vieira added, "the deterioration of public security has a lot to do with the regional environment, where triads or organized gangs from Hong Kong and Taiwan take shelter in Macao because of its lax immigration policies. This only serves to intensify the turf war between them" (quoted in Borton at 15).

Following a lengthy stay in Macau and interviews with several government officials and private Macanese citizens, Lintner also reported that, "Conveniently located at the crossroads of Asia, but under European -- Portuguese -- jurisdiction, Macau in the 1990s had become a unique mix of Chicago in the 1920s, pre-war Shanghai and Casablanca: a sanctuary for gangsters, gunrunners, pimps, prostitutes, gambling tycoons, corrupt officials and secret agents of western as well as Asian powers" (72). In an astounding display of political ineptitude, the Macanese under-secretary for security, Brigadier Manuel Monge, even attempted to reassure potential visitors to Macau that they would be safe by emphasizing the accuracy of the gangsters who were rife in the territory. In this regard, Lintner reports that, "While addressing the press in 1997, he said that 'our Triad gunmen are excellent marksmen', implying that there was no need to worry because they would not miss their targets and hit innocent bystanders" (72). Not surprisingly, this bizarre attempt at reassurance did little to qualm potential visitors' concerns over their security in Macau, and the events that transpired thereafter only served to reinforce the dangerousness of the territory for outsiders and the Macanese alike. As Lintner puts it, "This particularly insensitive remark did not allay people's fears and, ironically, a year later Monge's own driver was gunned down. By the end of 1999, no one was joking about safety in the streets of Macau; even locals were afraid to go out after dark" (72).

Despite its favorable geographic location for international trade, Macau never reached the same economic levels as its more prosperous neighbor, Hong Kong, but it did become important to the West for other reasons. For instance, Kurtlantzick observed that, "More than just a commercial depot, Macao long was a lens through which Europeans viewed Asia. Because Chinese officials were relatively welcoming to the Portuguese and because many Macao Chinese accepted Roman Catholicism, settlers from Lisbon had a more favorable impression of the Middle Kingdom than their British counterparts in Hong Kong" (1). As a result, a higher level of social tolerance developed in Macau that was not evident in Hong Kong, where British enterprises forbade British nationals from marriage with local residents; by contrast, there has historically been a high level of intermarriage between expatriates and Macanese (Kurtlantzick 1). This level of tolerance, though, did not extend into the political realm and while the media enjoyed a certain level of freedom, it was the perception at the time that the same types of pro-democracy movements that were emerging in Hong Kong would never materialize in Macau (Kurtlantzick 1).

Nevertheless, based on his empirical observations of the handover ceremony in 1999, Lintner emphasizes that, "Thus ended four-and-a-half centuries of Portuguese rule in Macau. The event went much more smoothly than the handover of Hong Kong did two-and-a-half years earlier, when local Chinese as well as foreign residents worried over that colony's democratic future, and debated whether Beijing would honor its promise to leave it alone for at least 50 years, as it had pledged under the terms of an agreement signed by Britain and China in 1984" (71). The smooth transition was especially important for the Macanese because unlike their counterparts in Hong Kong, they were unlikely or unable to mount any substantive pro-democratic movement even if they had wanted to do so. As Lintner points out, "Macau was just too small to be able to oppose -- or even question -- any decisions taken in Beijing" (71).

These circumstances were due in large part to the manner in which Portugal had administered the territory over the years, and the prevailing perception of many Macanese that they could do better if they were given half a chance and China offered just such an opportunity. For instance, based on his first-hand experiences in Macau prior to the transition, Lintner emphasizes that, "Many people in Macau were not opposed to the idea of a more authoritarian regime replacing centuries of laissez-faire rule and neglect by the Portuguese authorities, which had attracted organized criminals and other shady characters from all over the world" (71). There were some conflicting reports concerning these issues, though, that were filed in the mainstream media prior to the transition to Chinese control. For instance, based on a series of interviews with Chinese and Portuguese officials prior to the transition, Cheng notes that, "In Macau's early years, when the Portuguese upper class looked down on the Chinese as second class citizens, the Macanese naturally identified with the Portuguese, that is, they tried to consider themselves more Portuguese than Chinese. Up to the present day, they have maintained an intense patriotism towards Portugal" (175-76).

Likewise, Kennelly cites the enormous influence that Portuguese culture had on shaping modern-day Macau: "Portuguese explorers spread their Catholic faith and art throughout the world. They turned remote, exotic places such as Macau, China, into trading centers that became centers of Christianity under the direction of missionaries who arrived on merchant ships" (2). These assertions are supported Porter's observation that, "Macau was built by Portuguese traders, and its administration was modeled on that of Portuguese cities and on the Estado da India, sanctioned by Goa or Lisbon. Its culture was dominated by its Portuguese settlers and sojourners" (4). Conversely, despite the enormity of Portugal's legacy of influence on Macau, Porter suggests that a pronounced sense of independence from both Portugal and China emerged in Macau prior to the reversion to Chinese control in 1999 that remained firmly in place following the transfer. For instance, Porter notes that, "Chinese sovereignty was never definitively surrendered and was frequently and periodically exercised, generally with Portuguese acquiescence. Ultimately, however, Macau was highly individual and autonomous, cherishing a strong sense of independence from both China and Portugal" (4). This sense of autonomy has significant implications for what transpired in the years since the handover, and these issues are discussed further below.

Analysis and Interpolation of Secondary Resources following the Transition to Chinese Control

Some remarkable transformations have taken place in Macau following its reversion to Chinese control in 1999 that have reshaped its "backwater" and seedy legacy into one that is more characteristic of thriving Hong Kong, albeit fueled by different economic generators. For instance, analysts with the U.S. government report that, "After opening up its locally-controlled casino industry to foreign competition in 2001, the territory attracted tens of billions of dollars in foreign investment, transforming Macau into one of the world's largest gaming center" (Macau 3). The increase in gaming and tourism revenues were also attributable to the decision on the part of the PRC's government to ease travel restrictions for Chinese citizens who are now allowed to visit Macau; as a result, Macau's gaming revenues exceeded those of Las Vegas by 2006 and gaming-related taxes represented an even larger share of the territory's revenue compared to just prior to the reversion to Chinese control, at 70% versus 47% (Macau 4).

Even though the territory remains highly reliant on tourism and gambling revenues, efforts have been made since the transition to Chinese control to diversify Macau's economy. According to the official Web site for Macau, "Macau's economy is closely linked to that of Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, in particular the Pearl River Delta region, which qualifies as one of Asia's 'little tigers'. Macau provides financial and banking services, staff training, transport and communications support" (About Macau 3). These positive outcomes are in sharp contrast to the dire warnings that emerged in the Western press concerning what could reasonably be expected once the transition to Chinese control…[continue]

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