Dec. 20, 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of Macao’s return to the motherland.
President Xi Jinping was in Macao from Dec. 18 to 20 to attend a grand gathering in celebration of the occasion. He was also present at the inauguration ceremony of the fifth-term government of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR).
Since its return 20 years ago, Macao has been witnessing steady economic progress. The SAR’s GDP grew from 51.9 billion patacas (US$6.4 billion) in 1999 to 444.7 billion patacas in 2018. GDP per capita also jumped from 120,000 patacas in 1999 to 670,000 patacas in 2018, ranking among the highest in the world.
Such economic gains have also produced a better quality of life for Macao residents. The unemployment rate is below 2 percent, while its literacy level is more than 96 percent. The average lifespan is about 80.4 years, according to the latest United Nations data.
The key to Macao’s success lies in its accurate understanding and full support of China’s core values and its close integrations and interactions with the country. A stable society is the prerequisite for sound development. Without the bolster of the “one country, two systems” policy, there would be no stable economy to ensure a stable society. “We will work together towards one goal, which is to build a more prosperous and beautiful Macao, and make sure the ‘one country, two systems’ principle goes far and remains steady,” said Ho Iat-seng, newly appointed chief executive of the Macao SAR.
The decision of the National People’s Congress in October this year to approve the Macao SAR’s application for jurisdiction to Hengqin Checkpoint and adjacent areas in neighboring city Zhuhai has fully demonstrated the Central Government’s strong support for the further integration of Macao into the overall development of the country as a whole.
Today’s success belongs to the past. With the joint efforts of Macao residents and all Chinese people, the city could have a better and more prosperous future.
As we all know, Macao is famous for its gaming industry. The city needs to moderately diversify its deep-rooted economic structure and avoid depending too much on gaming and entertainment. While too many people rely on gaming companies to make a living, small- and medium-sized enterprises tend to face more difficulties in terms of manpower.
Under these circumstances, some industries with high added valued should be considered. In recent years, Macao has tried to promote the exhibition and convention industry. According to statistics, Macao hosted a total of 1,425 meetings, conferences and exhibitions in 2018, 46 percent more than in 2017. Another idea is to further develop the traditional Chinese medicine business. It was reported that about 10 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) had been invested in the Traditional Chinese Medicine Science and Technology Industrial Park of Cooperation located in the Hengqin Checkpoint area in Zhuhai, which borders Macao.
Like Hong Kong, Macao can also find opportunities and serve as a gateway for European countries to enhance relations and expand trade with China and vice versa. With the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as an important platform, European companies in Macao will now have a better chance to explore the Greater Bay Area as they have easier access to other cities in the Pearl River Delta.
Meanwhile, having been under Portuguese rule for more than a century from 1887 to 1999, Macao has a legal system similar to that of some Portuguese-speaking countries. Such an advantage will facilitate it to serve as a platform for trade and economic cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking or Lusophone countries in Europe, South America and Africa, which include Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe, and East Timor.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)