Railway Imperialism Revisited: The Failed Line from Macao to Guangzhou

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Studies in railway imperialism usually focus on examples of nations from the European core who imposed railway projects upon their colonies or peripheral countries, seeking political or economic advantages. Both colonies and peripheral countries are often described as passive agents that were either bullied or swindled into accepting those projects. This paper revisits the concept with an example of a colonial country on the European periphery. Portugal attempted to impose a railway from its colony of Macao to the Chinese city Guangzhou in order to obtain political and economic leverage in the South of China. The diplomatic endeavors of the Portuguese representatives in China, conducted with a belittling and even racist demeanor towards the Chinese, were met with different forms of resistance from their Chinese counterparts that eventually led to the termination of negotiations and the project. This new look at railway imperialism shows both that it was not a practice exclusive to imperial powerhouses and that it could be countered by the countries on which it was imposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-104
Number of pages23
JournalTechnology and Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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