China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper interrogates the contradictory experience of Macau, a Portuguese-administered enclave in South China, during the Second World War, through the case study of the relocation of schools from mainland China and Hong Kong. It aims to shed light on the uses of neutrality in East Asia and how dynamics of exchange, mobility, and coexistence played out in a territory at the crossroads of different empires.
Macau was the only foreign-ruled territory in China not occupied by Japan. Yet, the war years were dark times, with the enclave undergoing spikes of hunger, destitution, and politically-motivated urban crime. Despite this, a massive refugee influx into Macau also created unexpected opportunities for international exchange. Amongst the many groups and institutions that made Macau their temporary base were several Chinese schools from Guangdong province, which were later joined by new waves of students and teachers fleeing from occupied Hong Kong. They led to a 'golden era' in the enclave's education sector.
Based on Portuguese, Chinese and British sources, this paper addresses the confluence of local and international elements in the process of flight and adaptation of different schools and students and the impact they had on the territory. It also demonstrates how the student-refugees were key to developmental aspirations of both the Chinese central government and the Portuguese colonial authorities. It argues that the relocated schools contributed to enhancing the educational choices on offer in Macau and were key elements in a newfound cosmopolitanism which flourished in the territory during the war.