quinta-feira, 29 de junho de 2017

Macau Between Republics: Neither War nor Peace (1914-1918)

Durante a 1ª Guerra Mundial, Macau viu agravado o clima de instabilidade que caracterizava a vida daquela colónia portuguesa no Extremo Oriente. Portugal e a China, jovens Repúblicas, projectavam as suas convulsões internas na política externa. As duas nações alimentavam um litígio antigo a propósito da delimitação territorial de Macau. Dependente da protecção da aliada britânica, via Hong Kong, a colónia portuguesa sobrevivia graças a um precário modus vivendi com os chineses. Portugal exercia em Macau uma soberania exígua, ameaçada em permanência pelo ímpeto nacionalista da China. O espectro de uma ofensiva militar chinesa contra Macau nunca cessou. Embora resguardada do conflito mundial, Macau viveu uma realidade de tensão.
Perspectiva sobre o farol da Guia
Na génese dos movimentos que conduziram à implantação das Repúblicas, em Portugal e na China, radicava uma ideologia nacionalista de sinal contrário. Na realidade, enquanto o nacionalismo português, corporizado e interpretado pela ideologia republicana, pugnava pela valorização do Império – ao abrigo de uma visão soberana do espaço colonial ultramarino –, o nacionalismo chinês opunha-se frontalmente à presença das potências coloniais na China, sustentada nos alegados tratados desiguais.
Todavia, seria este nacionalismo republicano que conduziria Portugal, primeiramente, e mais tarde a China, ao alinhamento na guerra mundial. Afectados na sua legitimidade republicana e com o espectro da restauração monárquica sempre presente, os governantes de ambas as nações optariam por projectar e fazer diluir problemas estruturais internos numa política externa de alto risco. Ainda assim, os dois países permaneceriam marginalizados pelo directório internacional resultante da Grande Guerra.
As duas nações conheceram períodos de grave instabilidade política, líderes ditatoriais, tentativas de restauração da monarquia, sucessivos governos e até conflitos armados. Em ambos os casos a instauração do regime republicano deu-se mais como reacção à fadiga monárquica e não tanto pela afirmação de uma alternativa ideológica. Portugal e China transitaram para regimes republicanos no mesmo período, sendo dos primeiros casos nos respectivos continentes. Tinham em comum a decisão sobre o futuro de Macau.
Militares portugueses em Macau: década 1920
During World War I, the Portuguese far-eastern colony of Macau underwent an intensification of the climate of instability that had hitherto characterized its life. Portugal and China, young republics both, projected their internal convulsions into their foreign policy. The two nations also nurtured an old dispute concerning the territorial delimitation of Macau. Dependent for its protection on Portugal’s traditional ally, Great Britain, via Hong Kong, the Portuguese colony survived thanks to a precarious modus vivendi with the Chinese. Portugal exercised in Macau a limited sovereignty, threatened continuously by the nationalist impetus of China. The risk of a Chinese military offensive against Macau never ceased. Although sheltered from the world conflict, Macau went through a time of great tension from 1914 to 1918.
In the years that preceded the outbreak of the Great War, the colonial authorities in Macau had attempted to find a balance between the distant (and not always well-informed) supervision from Lisbon, Imperial China’s political pressure, and the conflicting drives of an administration permeable to the influence of local and regional interests. The impunity with which pirates and opium smugglers operated in the waters and islands adjacent to Macau, which Portugal claimed as its own, completed the complex tableau that was local government, structurally precarious and resting on agreements of doubtful validity. Secret societies – Portuguese and Chinese – saw in Macau fertile ground for their machinations.
Some months before the proclamation of the Republic, Portuguese authorities in Macau were given the chance to renew the long-delayed question of the territorial delineation of Macau. Pearl River pirates, daring and used to acting with impunity, kidnapped children from Macau’s neighboring villages, taking them to their headquarters on Coloane Island. The Macau government reacted with vigor, mobilizing military and police forces, backed by heavy artillery, gun-boats, and a cruiser. The Battle of Coloane resulted in the liberation of almost all the hostages and the arrest of the surviving pirates. Conditions were created for the reaffirmation of Portuguese sovereignty over an island which, for centuries, had been at the heart of a dispute with China.
 This episode neatly illustrates the precarious nature of Portuguese colonial ambitions in this portion of the Far East, since Macau was regularly submitted to internal and external pressures. This scenario would become more serious still during the first years of the young Republics – Portuguese and Chinese – and, more specifically, during the period of the Great War. Macau would once more survive, thanks mostly to the erratic evolution of China’s foreign policy and the civil war which absorbed the various centers of power in Nationalist China. It should be noted, however, that the highly problematic political agenda which surrounded the Macau question remained unresolved in the years that followed the conclusion of a conflict which raged throughout the entire world and which involved two accidental allies – Portugal and China.
 As was the case in other Portuguese colonies, the question of borders was the most delicate issue in Macau’s political and administrative agenda. The Treaty of Friendship and Commerce concluded in Beijing on 1 December 1887 and ratified on 28 April 1888 had left open the question of Macau’s borders on land and at sea. This meant that the sovereignty claimed by the Portuguese over the islands of D. João, Montanha, and Lapa would, alongside the territory’s maritime limits, be disputed by China for a number of decades. In truth, for China the issue was never simply one of establishing precise borders; it was, instead, a full-blown territorial dispute(Saldanha, 2006, 916-917). This would remain, until the first decades of the 20th Century, the most troubling question for Portugal’s foreign policy in the Far East.
Baía da Praia Grande ca. 1900-10
 At the starting point of the movements that led to the formation of the Portuguese and Chinese Republics there lay a nationalist ideology that would pit them against one another. In truth, while Portuguese nationalism, embodied in and interpreted by republicanism, fought for the mise-en-valeur of the empire – in accordance with a sovereign vision of the overseas colonial space – Chinese nationalism was completely opposed to the presence of foreign powers in China, underpinned by the so-called unequal treaties. However, this republican nationalism would lead Portugal, first, and China, later, to enter the world war on the same side. Mindful of their republican legitimacy and of the ever present spectrum of a monarchical/imperial restoration, the governments of the two nations would opt to address and dilute internal structural difficulties through a high-risk foreign policy. Even so, the two countries would be kept at arm’s length by the international directory which resulted from the Great War.
 The two nations would know periods of great political instability, dictatorial leaders, attempts to restore the monarchy, short-lived governments, and even armed conflict. In both cases, the attempts to establish a republican regime were more the result of the exhaustion of the monarchical option than an affirmation of an ideological alternative. The Chinese Emperor was kept in place, still benefitting from many of his expensive privileges. The Portuguese monarch was sent into a golden exile in London. Portugal and China made the changeover to republican regimes in the same period, being among the first to do so in their respective continents. They had in common the need to reach a decision over Macau.
 Portugal and China, weak powers charged with administering vast territories, saw in their participation in the war an unmissable opportunity to acquire the respect of the international community. Among other objectives, they hoped to gain a seat at the post-war peace talks, where their wartime effort might be recognized. This hope was undone by both the reconfiguration of the international system and the actions of uneasy allies: Great Britain in the case of Portugal, the United States and Japan in the case of China. The dubious handling of the Shandong affair by President Woodrow Wilson would undermine the League of Nations. For its part, the Macau question would remain unresolved, thanks to civil war in China. The two questions would come before the Washington Conference of 1921-22.
 Macau, a diminutive Asian oasis, survived the Great War unscathed. The later unveiling of the Communist regime in China would create new difficulties for the Portuguese administered territoryin the Far East, most notably in 1955 when Premier Zhou Enlai forbade Macao’s fourth centennial celebrations and during the 1966 mutinies that resulted from the Maoist great proletariancultural revolution. Macau would eventually be handed back to China on 19 December 1999, the final day of the old Portuguese Empire.

Excertos de um artigo da autoria de Luís Cunha publicado no "e-journal of... Portuguese History" (Univ. Brown/Univ. do Porto). e-JPH, Vol. 15, number 1, June 2017 onde também é analisado o "controverso" consulado do governador Carlos da Maia.
Imagens de arquivo do blogue Macau Antigo

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