Macau's Struggle for Survival

Politics and War Cost Macau

Losing its most-lucrative trading route when Japan closed its ports to foreigners, Macau struggled for survival. It was granted a reprieve when King João IV assumed the throne and Portugal was again its privileged trading partner. Later, China opened up Macau for trade with all foreign countries.

Years:  1637 — 1844

In 1637, increasing suspicion of the intentions of Spanish and Portuguese Catholic missionaries in Japan finally led the Shogun to seal Japan off from foreign influence.Later named the Sakoku Period, this meant that no Japanese were allowed to leave the country (or return if they were living abroad), and no foreign ship was allowed to dock in a Japanese port. An exception was made for the Protestant Dutch, who were allowed to continue to trade with Japan from the confines of a small man-made island in Nagasaki -- Deshima. Macau’s most profitable trade route, that between Japan and China, had been severed. The crisis was compounded two years later by the loss of Malacca to the Dutch in 1641, damaging the link with Goa.

The news that the Portuguese House of Braganza had regained control of the Crown from the Spanish Habsburgs took two years to reach Macau -- arriving in 1642. A ten week celebration ensued, and despite its newfound poverty, Macau sent gifts to the new King João IV along with expressions of loyalty. In return, the king rewarded Macau with the addition of the words “There is none more Loyal” to its existing title. Macau was now “City of the Name of God in China, There is none more Loyal”. (Não há outra mais Leal).

In 1685, the privileged position of the Portuguese in trade with China ended, following a decision by the emperor of China to allow trade with all foreign countries. Over the next century, England, the Dutch Republic, France, Denmark, Sweden, the United States, and Russia moved in, establishing factories and offices in Guangzhou and Macau.

Until April 20, 1844, Macau was under the jurisdiction of Portugal’s Indian colonies, the so-called “Estado português da India” (Portuguese State of India), but after this date, it, along with East Timor, was accorded recognition by Lisbon (but not by Beijing) as an overseas province of Portugal. The Treaty of Peace, Amity, and Commerce between China and the United States was signed in Macau on July 3, 1844.

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