Post-War Macau

Macau's Tenuous Balancing Act

Maintaining equilibrium between East and West, Macau blossomed in the latter half of the 20th century.

Years:  1949 — 1999

The early post-war years were difficult for Macau. The economy scarcely survived with the export of firecrackers to Europe and North America and garments to the Portuguese provinces of Africa.

When the Communists came to power in China in 1949, they declared the Protocol of Lisbon to be invalid as an “unequal treaty” imposed by foreigners on China. However, Beijing was not ready to settle the treaty question, maintaining the status quo until a more appropriate time.

The Korean Conflict (1950-1953) brought some economic relief as limited trade passed partly through Macau to China as result of the international embargo. In 1962, Macau's nascent gambling industry had a major breakthrough when the government granted the Sociedade de Turísmo e Diversões de Macau (STDM), a syndicate jointly formed by Hong Kong and Macau businessmen, the monopoly over all forms of gambling. The STDM introduced western-style games and modernized marine transport between Macau and Hong Kong, bringing millions of gamblers from Hong Kong annually.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Macau's border crossing to China, Portas do Cerco, also referred to as the Far Eastern "Checkpoint Charlie", witnessed skirmishes.  A major border incident in 1952 saw Portuguese African troops exchanging fire with Chinese Communist border guards.

Riots broke out in 1966 during the Cultural Revolution, when local Chinese and Macanese authorities clashed, resulting in eight deaths. Agreements were reached in the end and compensation was made. Nationalist activities were prohibited and order was restored. Similar events occurred in Hong Kong the following year, prompting another uptick in the Macanese Diaspora.

In 1974 as a result of the "Carnation Revolution" in Portugal, more administrative autonomy was granted to Macau and the first direct election (one person, one vote) was introduced for a new Legislative Assembly. Portugal also proposed handing over Macau to China.

Telecommunications, transportation, and other infrastructure projects were rapidly developed with the building of two Macau-Taipa bridges, the second named "Ponte da Amizade" (Friendship Bridge) in 1994.  Other projects included an international airport (1995), a stadium (1997), and many large cultural event venues. The University of Macau was founded in 1981.

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