Macau's materialist milieu: Portuguese pavement stones and the political economy of the chinese urban imaginary
Tim Simpson
Source PublicationThe Routledge Companion to Urban Imaginaries
Publication PlaceLondon

The socialist government of the People's Republic of China has long relied on illustrative models to serve as normative guides to moral behavior, and in this chapter I interpret the former colonial enclave of Macau as such an exemplary model of normative urbanism for Chinese tourists. In 1999, after nearly 500 years of colonial administration, Portugal returned Macau to the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Macau was designated a Special Administrative Region under the PRC's “one country, two systems” framework. Following the handover, the Macau government liberalized the local casino monopoly and awarded casino gaming concessions to several companies from Macau, Hong Kong, North America, and Australia. Over the past decade, these companies have invested tens of billions of dollars to construct a phantasmagoric post-colonial cityscape comprised of themed integrated casino resorts such as Venetian, Parisian, Galaxy, Wynn Palace, and City of Dreams. As a result, Macau has become the world's most lucrative site of casino gaming, with annual gaming revenues quintuple those of Las Vegas. The city is visited annually by 30 million tourists, more than half of whom are from mainland China. This travel is facilitated by a special exit visa, which the PRC grants to citizens from select, relatively affluent cities and provinces. The PRC promotes such tourism in service of the country's macroeconomic planning, which aims to rapidly urbanize 150 million rural peasants in an effort to create a domestic consumer economy, in order to wean the country off its reliance on an unsustainable production-for-export regime. In this chapter I adopt a materialist ontology to explore the articulation of the new casino resorts with Macau's traditional Portuguese calcada pavement tiles, which the outgoing Portuguese administration installed in a project in the 1990s to pedestrianize Macau's historic city center. Macau's built environment serves a pedagogical function for Chinese tourists by producing cosmopolitan “quality” consumer subjects, and both the calcada tiles and the interiorized and enclosed urban environment created by Macau's resorts produce a Chinese urban imaginary that is a crucial component of this process.

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Document TypeBook chapter
CollectionUniversity of Macau
AffiliationDepartment of Communication, University of Macau
First Author AffilicationUniversity of Macau
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Tim Simpson. Macau's materialist milieu: Portuguese pavement stones and the political economy of the chinese urban imaginary. London:Routledge,2018:232-247.
APA Tim Simpson.(2018).Macau's materialist milieu: Portuguese pavement stones and the political economy of the chinese urban imaginary.The Routledge Companion to Urban Imaginaries,232-247.
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