Macao Scenery (Photo by You Bing)
By Cheng Long, Sun Liji, People’s Daily
The special administrative region (SAR)of Macao has experienced huge changes since its return to China 20 years ago. “The benefits brought by the ‘one country, two systems’ policy is one of the fundamental reasons for these changes,” said Lok Wai Kin, professor of the University of Macau (UM) during a recent interview.
Macao’s development was once hindered by its small size. To cope with this issue,the Hengqin New Area in Zhuhai,south China’s Guangdong Province was established in 2009, and the UMHengqin campus was the first project under theHengqin-Macao cooperation.
Located underthe Hengqin Hilland facingTaipa Island, the UM’s new campus followed the law of the Chinese mainland during the construction period and was later transferred to Macao for jurisdictionupon completion.
Over the past 10 years, Henqin New Area has witnessed constant improvement in its infrastructure with each passing day. Withover 1,500 Macao-funded enterprises having registered in the area,Hengqin New Area has offsetthe narrowness of Macao, enrichingthe connotation of the“one country, two systems” principle in an innovative manner.
When Macao was stuck by typhoon Hato, the strongest typhoon of the year in Aug. 2017, the SAR suffered heavy rainfall and seawater intrusion. At the request of the Macao SAR government, nearly a thousand officers and soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were sent tothe regionfor rescue and disaster relief.
To thank the hard work of the PLA soldiers, Macao citizens voluntarily offered food and water. “This made us truly understand the meaning of motherland,” said a primary school student in Macao.
Before Macao’s return to China, the region’s governorswere appointed and empowered by the President of Portugal. There was no Chinese holding a departmental position in the Macao government under the administration of Portugal until 1997.
After Macao returned to China, the Chinese central government and Macao SAR have promoted the development of democratic political systemin the region step by step in accordance with the Basic Law of the Macao SAR and relevant provisions of the National People’s Congress (NPC). So far, four chief executives and five terms of members of the Legislative Assembly of the region have been elected.
In Macao’s sixth Legislative Assembly election held in 2017, a total of 186 people took part in direct election, being the largest number in history. Registered voters in the election amounted to 307,020, up 11.23 percent from the previous year.
“The successful practice of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle in Macao uplifted Macao citizens’ enthusiasm for political participation, andthe idea of ‘the people of Macao governing Macao’ has become the most powerful stimulus for Macao residents’engagement in political affairs,”said a scholar from Macao.
Today’s Macao enjoys great prosperity as Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, one of the busiest avenues in the region is seeing vigorous commercial development, and thefamous Senado Square is welcoming crowds of tourists.
After its return to China, Macao has grown into one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. It opened its gaming industry to the world,and embraced rapid development of its tourism sector and related industries such as catering, hotel, and conference and exhibition.
From 1999 to 2018, Macao’s GDP grew from 47.3 billion patacas (about $5.87 billion) to 440.3 billion patacas, and its per capita GDP from $15,000 to $83,000.
“After years of unremitting endeavors, Macao has seen preliminary results of its appropriate level of diversified economic development,” said Leong Vai Tac,4thSecretary for Economy and Financeof Macao SAR government, ata meeting of the Legislative Assembly at the end of 2018.
In 2017, the total added value of Macao’s conference and exhibition industry, financial industry, traditional Chinese medicine industry, and cultural and creative industryhit 32.08 billion patacas, rising by 23.61 percent from that in 2015.
The conference and exhibition industry developed particularly fast among emerging industries in Macao, whose growth rate of the total added value was up nearly 147 percent from 2015 to 2017.
The past twenty years of Macao’s leapfrog development was also the period when Macao SAR made great efforts to integrate itself into the overall development of China.
With the issuance and introduction of major official documents and measures such asthe Closer Economic Partnership Arrangements (CEPAs) with the Mainland,the deepening regional cooperation in the pan-Pearl River Delta, andthe Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Macao is embracing a huge number of opportunities.
Besides, the completion of major cross-region infrastructure projects including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge have effectively boosted the connectivity among Macao and its neighboring regions and further enhanced its attraction.
As it gets stronger day by day, Macao is making great efforts to improve people’s livelihood. Since 2007, the region has implemented 15-year compulsory education for students from kindergarten to high school.
“All Macao citizens, regardless of age and occupation, do not have to pay for the medical services they receive at local health centers or the medical examination fee if transferred to public hospitals,”said local health authority.
The primary healthcare security system of Macao covers a wide range of free medical services, and has been therefore rated asa role model of healthcare security of the Pacific region by the World Health Organization.
Macao has introduced an annual cash sharing scheme in 2008to directly benefit its people. In 2019, each permanent resident of Macao SAR can receive 10,000 patacas from the scheme, and senior citizens can receive a special subsidy. Now, the average life expectancy of Macao citizens has reached 84 years.
On the the Golden Lotus Square of Macao, the national flag of China and the regional flag of Macao SAR are fluttering. During the past 20 years, the “one country, two systems” principle and “the people of Macao governing Macao” have demonstrated strong vitality in Macao with a high degree of autonomy.
Facts prove that the “one country, two systems” policy is totally a workable solution welcomed by the people.
Macao Scenery (Photo by Liu Baocheng)
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