Photo shows the Ruins of St. Paul’s in Macao. Photo by Zhou Songlin
By Ren Zhongping, People’s Daily
Macao has ushered in a whole new chapter at the dawn of the new millennium as it returned to China on Dec. 20, 1999.
During the past 20 years, the Special Administrative Region (SAR) has witnessed rapid economic growth, continuous improvement in people’s livelihood, as well as long-term social stability and harmony, thanks to its successful practice of the “one country, two systems” policy.
Before its return to the motherland, Macao had experienced negative economic growth for four years in a row. In 1999, the region was visited by less than 8 million foreign tourists and its unemployment rate hit 6.4 percent.
Over the past two decades since its return to China, Macao has bid a farewell to the old days and embraced an upward trajectory of development. The SAR managed to increase its regional GDP from 51.9 billion patacas (about $6.47 billion) in 1999 to 444.7 billion patacas in 2018, with its per capita GDP ranking among the best in the world. Last year, the number of Macao’s inbound tourists amounted to more than 35.8 million.
According to 2019 Index of Economic Freedom, a report jointly released this January by U.S. think tank Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, Macao’s economy was ranked the 34th freest among 180 economies in the world, and 9th in 43 economies in the Asia-Pacific region, becoming one of the world’s most vibrant micro economies.
Thanks to the initial success of Macao’s diversified economic development, lottery, tourism, convention and exhibition, catering, hotel, and retail industries in the region are thriving.
Twenty years of social harmony and stability in Macao since its return to the motherland is like a constantly unrolling picture scroll depicting lasting peace, stability, and continuous improvement in people’s livelihood.
Today’s Macao boasts harmonious and peaceful atmosphere, but it is unimaginable that the region was in a totally different situation before it returned to China.
Since 1999, the Chinese central government offered firm support for the Macao SAR government in the latter’s endeavor to fight crimes, and the numbers of murders and arsons in Macao dropped 72 percent and 40 percent respectively from a year before.
The sense of gain, happiness, and security of Macao citizens comes from not only better public security.
During the past ten years, the Macao SAR government has rolled out a series of welfare policies, such as the 15-year free compulsory education covering kindergarten, primary and secondary education and the Wealth Partaking Scheme through which the government hands out subsidies to its permanent residents.
Senior citizens, infants, primary and secondary school students, and pregnant women in Macao are all included in the region’s free medical service system. In addition, the Macao SAR government has launched an interest-free business start-up loan program for young people.
Macao SAR government is turning its citizens’ aspirations for a society into reality where everyone has a home, every patient gets medical care, all senior citizens are well supported, and every child has access to education.
Over the past twenty years, Chinese central government has unswervingly implemented the policies of “one country, two systems” and “the people of Macao governing Macao”, and realized a high degree of autonomy in the region.
Meanwhile, the central government has always regarded the long-term prosperity and stability in Macao as a focus and ultimate goal of its efforts while dealing with Macao-related affairs.
Moreover, Chinese central government has spared no effort to support the chief executive of Macao SAR and the Macao SAR government in governing in accordance with the law and developing economy, improving people’s livelihood, and promoting democracy in the region.
Driving from the Macao Peninsula through the Sai Van Bridge towards Macao’s Taipa Island, one can see different views at the two sides of the path. While lunxry hotels stand in great numbers on the east side, construction projects on the west side of the road are in full swing.
Macao citizens would always point to the west side and say proudly “that’s our hopes for the future”.
The land where Macao citizens place high hopes on is Hengqin New Area in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong province. Hengqin New Area, Macao’s neighbor separated by a river, is three times the size of Macao.
With a new campus of the University of Macau built on the Hengqin Island, more than 2,000 Macao enterprises registered in the area, the seamless integration of rail traffic between the two sides, and completely open channels of cooperation for the area and Macao SAR, Hengqin New Area has become a convenient access to the diversified development of Macao, and served as an active platform for innovative practice of the “one country, two systems” principle.
Today, China’s Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao are among the brightest areas on satellite images of the world at night.
Macao plays a significant role in the development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, an important growth pole in China’s regional development strategy being put into practice step by step.
Macao, an important location on the historic Maritime Silk Road, is bound to embrace sound development in the construction of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
In Macao, temples and churches can be close neighbors, and traditional cultural sites and entertainment venues coexist in harmony. In fact, it is exactly the convergence of traditional culture and modern lifestyles, as well as the combination of bustling streets and quiet valleys in the region that make Macao distinctive.
After Macao’s return to the motherland, it was designated as a Creative City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Historic Centre of Macao was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a cultural site.
In 2016, Macao formulated its medium and long-term development plan for the first time after its return to China, realizing full integration into the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) of its motherland.
With the efforts to strengthen Macao’s roles as a global tourism and leisure centre, an economic and trade cooperation platform between China and Lusophone countries, and an exchange and cooperation base with Chinese culture as its mainstream while different cultures coexist in harmony, Macao is geared up for new development achievements.
For Macao, the “one country, two systems” principle is its greatest institutional strength; the reform and opening-up is its biggest stage; and the implementation of important national strategies, such as the joint efforts at the construction of the Belt and Road and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, is bringing it major opportunities.
The tremendous success of the “one country, two systems” policy in Macao has been reflected repeatedly in the remarks of foreign observers who said Macao is a fruitful role model of the practice of the policy, and what the world sees is the prosperity and stability Macao residents enjoy under the Basic Law of the Macao SAR.
The past twenty years since its return to the motherland has been the period when Macao enjoyed the fastest and best development in history. Looking into the future, the region with an area of over 300,000 square kilometers will witness greater glory and changes unprecedented in centuries.
An aerial photo of Macao. (Photo by Wu Yisheng, Courtesy of the Chinese Cultural Exchange Association)
The photo shows the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. (Courtesy of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority)
An aerial photo of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
(Courtesy of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority)
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