Macau Metropolis and Mental Life: Interior Urbanism and the Chinese Imaginary


This article investigates the tendency towards an interiorized and encapsulated urbanity in Macau and the functional role of this phenomenon in the ‘mental life’ of Chinese consumers. A Portuguese territory for half a millennium, Macau was returned to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1999; the postcolonial, semi‐autonomous Macau Special Administrative Region has subsequently become the most lucrative casino gaming site in the world, far surpassing casino revenues earned in Las Vegas. This article investigates the manner in which the local government of the city‐state and the central government of the PRC have colluded with transnational capital to effect a remarkable enclosure of the urban commons in Macau. The entire city today may be understood as a biopolitical laboratory of consumption, where the PRC uses a preferential exit visa policy to allow tourists from select, relatively affluent provinces access to Macau. The new built environment of the city naturalizes a radical urban imaginary and corresponding post‐socialist ‘quality’ consumer subject; that subject is crucial to the macroeconomic goals of the PRC and the sustainability of global capitalism.