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Macao's prosperity a model of "One Country, Two Systems"

By Zamir Ahmed Awan (People's Daily Online)    19:15, December 22, 2019

A flag-raising ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Macao's return to the motherland is held at the Golden Lotus Square in Macao, south China, Dec. 20, 2019. (Xinhua/Cheong Kam Ka)

President Xi Jinping arrived in Macao on 18 December 2019 for a 3-day celebration to mark the 20th Anniversary of Macao returning to Chinese sovereignty. The festivities focused on the inauguration of a new leader for a city that China views as a shining example of its "one country, two systems" model.

Macao is a special administrative region on the western side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China. With a population of over 676,000 and an area of 32.9 sq. km, it is the most densely populated region in the world. It was formerly a Portuguese colony after China leased the territory as a trading post in 1557. The colony remained under Portuguese rule until 1999 when it was transferred back to China.

In the 1980s, negotiations started between China and Portugal for the transfer of sovereignty of Macao to the People's Republic of China. The major issue at that time was how to guarantee the prosperity of Macao. In the 1980s, the Chinese economy was not as strong as it is today, but Macao was a prosperous place and people living there enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. There were questions about the future of Macao under Chinese control. There were many reservations and doubts.

Deng Xiaoping, a former Chinese leader, introduced the concept of "One Country, Two Systems", whereby the system in Macao would remain unchanged for 50 years after the handover. As a special administrative region, Macao would maintain separate governing and economic systems from that of the Chinese mainland.

This was, in my opinion, the biggest achievement of the last century, which enabled China to regain control over Macao, without firing a single bullet, or killing a single person. It was a very peaceful and smooth transfer of power to China. The world must acknowledge the centuries-old wisdom of Chinese people and must congratulate the leadership of China at that time. Deng Xiaoping deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.

Under "One Country, Two Systems", Macao has its own local government, legal system and financial affairs. It has its own currency, and differing local laws, including the legalization of gambling, which makes up a huge chunk of the economy. The region's leader, the chief executive, is chosen by a 400 local-person committee comprising of politicians and businessmen. Beijing maintains control of the region's defence and foreign affairs.

After 20 years under Chinese control, Macao's GDP has soared from 51.9 billion pataca in 1999 to more than 444.7 billion pataca in 2018, while per capita GDP is the second-highest in the world. Infrastructure has been upgraded and is now on par with international standards, while education and human resources have boomed. Life expectancy in Macao now ranks 4th in the world. Law and order has improved, and people feel safer. It has become a major resort city; the ninth-highest recipient of tourism revenue in the world.

Macao has been a beneficiary of Chinese control, using support from China to develop its own economy. The three-day celebration marks the last 20 years as a success and show the benefits and prosperity that come with China's "One Country, Two Systems."

The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to People's Daily Online.

Zamir Ahmed Awan is a senior fellow with the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) and a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology in Pakistan. E-mail: [email protected] 

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(Web editor: Du Mingming, Liang Jun)

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