Em 1793, Lord Macartney (imagem ao lado) liderou uma embaixada britânica destinada a persuadir o império chinês a abrir as portas ao comércio internacional sem ter que passar pela intermediação dos portugueses em Macau ou dos mercadores chineses em Cantão.
A China recusou a 'oferta' inglesa, "não se dignando exibir a sua majestade a esses atrevidos bárbaros que recusavam o kowtow (prostração) devida ao Senhor do Céu". Os dignitários britânicos foram então conduzidos a uma ala do palácio onde, perante um trono vazio, depositaram as ofertas com que o rei inglês pretendia demonstrar as conquistas tecnológicas da civilização europeia. Estava iminente o choque das duas civilizações. Seguir-se-ia a Guerra do Ópio e anos depois surgiria Hong Kong...
Sir George Staunton, era o secretário de Lord Macartney e registou o diário dessa missão entre 1792 e 1794. Seguem-se alguns excertos relativos à passagem da "embaixada" por Macau.
«In this small spot the Portugueze, to whom it (Macao) was granted at the period of their power and enterprize, carried on for long a considerable trade, not only with the Chinese empire, where they, almost alone of all Europeans, then resorted; but likewise with other countries in Eastern Asia ... In this traffic they soon enriched themselves, the marks of which remain in many large and costly public and private buildings in Macao, several now in a neglected state. It was so much a colony of commerce, that its government often lent money to individuals to carry it on, at a certain rate of interest, which the profits of their voyages enabled them to pay ... Events took place which deprived them of all intercourse with Japan, one great source of their advantages. Revolutions in other countries where they traded, rendered speculations there precarious, and often unfortunate to the undertakers. The settlement gradually fell from its former prosperity.
«The Portugueze settlers lend their names, for a trifling consideration, to foreigners belonging to the Canton factories, who reside part of the year at Macao. These, with more capital, credit, connections, and enterprize, are more successful; but require to be nominally associated with Portugueze, in order to be allowed to trade from the port of Macao.(...) Relations between the foreigners and the Portuguese at Macao were maintained on a very friendly footing, even though, in the sphere of commerce, the newcomers were in some cases in active competition with the Portuguese merchants themselves. The foreigners were able to avail themselves of the services of Portuguese assistants in various capacities. As interpreters and translators, clerks and copyists, many Macaenses rendered excellent service to their employers. Some of them were gifted linguists, interpreting with ease English conversation into Chinese and vice versa, or from English to Portuguese; in the tri-lingual rendering of the two European languages into Chinese, their work has been recognised as specially meritorious."
Sobre a gruta Camões
«The cave is a little below the loftiest eminence in the town, and called Camoens' Cave, from a tradition current in the Settlement, that the Portuguese poet of that name, who had certaily resided a considerable time at Macao, wrote his celebrated poem of the Lusiad in that spot. This interesting cave is now in the middle of a garden belonging to a house where the Embassador and two of his suite resided at Macao, upon an invitation from one of the gentlemen of the factory, who dwealt in it when not called upon to be at Canton. This house and garden command a very extensive prospect. In laying out the latter, none of its advantages have been neglected. It preserves every variety of surface, and contains a number of beautiful shrubs and fruit trees, growing in such apparent irregularity as to look like the spontaneous production of the place.»