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Monday, May 27, 2019

Maritime Logistics Professional


Posted to Maritime Musings (by on January 3, 2014

From international trading center to world capital of gambling

Macau was just an ordinary island off the southeastern coast of China until it was selected by the Portuguese as their main trading base for the Orient.  Jorge Álvares landed on Lintin Island, Guangdong, China in May 1513.  He was followed in 1516 by Rafael Perestrello, a cousin of the Portuguese wife of Christopher Columbus, who opened trading with Chinese merchants in Canton.  The first officially sanctioned visit by a Portuguese diplomat to China was by Fernão Pires de Andrade in 1517.  He proceeded all the way to Beijing, but relations between the two nations were strained because the Portuguese had previously attacked the Sultanate of Malacca, a Chinese protectorate.  After years of sporadic trading and occasional hostilities, the Chinese finally allowed the Portuguese to establish a permanent trading post at Macau in 1557.  The Portuguese had been anchoring vessels in the Macau harbor for some years and even had a few small storage sheds ashore.  The Ming court charged an annual rent of 500 taels (about 44 pounds of silver) for the use of Macau.  It quickly became the central base for all Portuguese trading with China, Formosa, and Japan, creating vast profits.  The Dutch, who were slowly displacing the Portuguese as the principal European trading power in the Far East, made several attempts over the years to expel the Portuguese from Macau by force, but without success.  Following the Opium War of 1839-42, the Portuguese expanded their holdings to two adjacent islands.  On 1 December 1887, the Chinese Government ceded perpetual occupation and government of Macau to Portugal.  During World War II, the Japanese elected to not invade Macau, but instead ensured that the local government remained hospitable to Japanese interests.  After the establishment of democracy in Portugal in 1974, its new government decided to relinquish all overseas possessions.  China reacquired sovereignty over Macau on 20 December 1999.  Macau’s days as an international trading center have long since passed, but it is now the gambling capital of world.