The Macau Special Administrative Region (also known as a Macau or Macao), is currently one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China (The other one is Hong Kong). Currently Macao has a very advanced infrastructure mostly due to is colonial past. Macao was both the first and the last European colony in China. The Macao was found by the first Portuguese traders in the 16th century. The administrated the region until the handover on 20 December in 1999. The interesting fact about Macao is that it will still have a very high level of autonomy untill at least 2049 because of the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Macao. If more precisely, the People’s Central Government has the “One country, two systems” policy, which means that the Government of China is responsible for the Macao’s defence and foreign affairs, while Macao maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, immigration policy, and delegates to international organisations and events.
The early history of Macao
The history of Macao is very interesting. It is being traced back to the Qin Dynasty era (221-206) when the region called Macao came under the jurisdiction of Panyu county, in Nanhai prefecture (Present day Guangdong). The first known inhabitants of the area were the refugees from Mongols invasion during the Southern Song Dynasty. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), fisherman migrated to Macao from the neighboring region called Guangdong and also Fujian. Though there were people living in the are it wasn’t until the 16th century when the Portuguese arrived and built a major settlement. Firstly, in 1535, Portuguese traders got a right to anchor ships in Macao’s harbors and to carry trading activities, though they still couldn’t stay onshore for too long. Then in a somewhere between 1552 and 1553, they got a privilege to build small storage warehouses were the goods were dried from the salty sea water. Soon after, the built stone houses around the area now called Nam Van. Finally in 15557, the Portuguese established a permanent settlement in Macao, but they had to pay a rent of 500 taels of silver monthly.
As time passed through more and more Portuguese settled in Macao and were engaging in trade with the locals. Macao also served as a great trading outpost. Then they demanded for self-administrating, whoever they didn’t get one until the 1840s. In 1576, Pope Gregory XII established the Roman Catholic Diocese of Macao. In 1583, the Portuguese were allowed to establish a Senate, which primary role was to handle various issues regarding Macao and the suburbs. Though Senate was supervised by the Chinese authorities. However, there were no transfer of sovereignty. Macao was developing ans was prospering, though it was a constant target of the Dutch in the 17th century.
Opium war era and later
During the Opium war in 1839-42, Macao occupied islands of Taipa and Coloane where they met almost no resistance. On the December 1st, 1887, the Qing and Sino-Portuguese governments signed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, where China gave the rights to own the islands occupied by Macao and in return the Macao government would cooperate with the Hong Kong’s smuggle of Indian opium while China would be able to put taxes on this process. Soon after this Macao became an official Portuguese territory.
The 20th century
When in the 1928 the Qing Dynasty was overthrown by the Xinhai Revolution the Kuomintang government officially told Portugal that it is breaking the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. The two countries signed new treaty called Sino-Portuguese Friendship and Trade Treaty. There were no major differences between two apart from lowering taxes to almost zero. The sovereignty of Macao was not touched and thus it continued to be a Portuguese territory. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China new problems evolved. In 1949 the People’s republic of China said that the Sino-Portuguese treaty is unequal treaty and must be revised. However at that time China had others things to do leaving the question unsolved until decades later. In 1966 the citizens of Macao were influenced by the Cultural Revolution as well as they were dissatisfied with the Portuguese government, which led to the massive demonstrations and violence.
Rejoining with China
After the Salazar dictatorship came to the end, the new Portuguese government decided to give up all its colonies (with some exceptions). In 1976 and new treaty was signed and now Macao was defined as part of the Chinese territory, but under Portuguese authority. Though everything seemed perfect on paper, in the reality Macao was and still is a sort of puppet state of Portugal (Or you can say, “Portugal has a very strong influence on Macao”).