In 1999, Portugal fully returned Macau to China. However, did they get something for giving Macau back to China, or was it just a sign of good faith and decolonization in general?

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    They didn't get the embarrassment they did when India took Goa Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 15:53
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    @ClintEastwood Not only Goa. Portugal under Salazar got involved in colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique that bleed the country. Finally Salazar was ousted by the Carnation Revolution by a group of leftist officers, and those (and the people who came after them) had had enough of colonial wars.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 17:08
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    Dumb question, but if Portugal joined NATO in 1949 and India invaded Goa in 1961, did Portugal try to get NATO to help them, as per its "attack one of us, you attack us all" ? Or was NATO, as implied by its name, too narrowly focused on just countering Warsaw Pact forces in Europe for that to work, at least then? I am NOT being sympathetic to the then-Portuguese with this question, nor do I see any good reason for NATO to have intervened, just curious. Did other colonial countries fighting colonial wars ever try to involve NATO? French Indochina in 54 tried for US, not NATO, assistance. Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 17:57
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    [...] the Tropic of Cancer in the Atlantic Ocean, which defines NATO's "area of responsibility" under Article 6 of the North Atlantic Treaty. During the original treaty negotiations, the United States insisted that colonies such as the Belgian Congo be excluded from the treaty (wikipedia)
    – Tomas By
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 18:03
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    @ClintEastwood Mr. 44 Magnum, can you please post that as answer? It's a very legitimate question, strikes pretty close to what Chris Patten might have to think about when handing HK back. No European country really likes to dwell much on its colonial past. But we all had spectrums of behavior and I believe Mr. Patten really did the best he could. That HK is still having protests right now is actually a tribute to both Mr. Patten AND his CCP counterparts back then. Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 8:21

2 Answers 2


By giving up Macau quietly, Portugal avoided an embarrassment similar to the one they experienced when India took Goa.

More seriously, this was done as part of a treaty at a point in time where Portugal was carrying out a policy of de-colonization. Portugal basically offered to return Macao to China.

  • Right, still there might be more to it then what is stated in Wikipedia. I think it is a good answer, so I will hand you an upvote. However, I will keep the question open in case someone else want to shed more light in the future
    – JKRT
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 11:39
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    Didn't Portugal offer to return Macau to China in 1975? Wasn't it China who chose to postpone it? In that regard, Macau was very, very different from Goa. Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 9:53

On the contrary. Portugal started building the (very expensive) Macau International Airport after the handover of Macau decision was already settled between Portugal and China (1987).

Even more,

Portugal offered to withdraw from Macau in late 1974, but China declined the offer in favour of a later time because it sought to preserve international and local confidence in Hong Kong, which was still under British rule, and also because it prioritised the reunification of Taiwan.


In 1976, Portugal unilaterally changed the legal designation of Macau from a "colony" to "territory under Portuguese administration"

Both from here. So, it looks like Portugal wanted to leave Macau at any cost. And China wanted Macau to be the last extant European territory in continental Asia, instead of Hong Kong.

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