Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a visit to Macao from Wednesday to Friday in the wake of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Macao's return to the motherland.
Xi attended 19 activities during his 48-hour stay, including meeting with former chief executives of Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) and inspecting the local Chinese People's Liberation Army garrison. The tight schedule reflected his high expectations and best wishes for the future of the city. In his speeches, Xi repeatedly mentioned the "one country, two systems" principle, a critical factor in Macao's success.
Over the past 20 years, the Macao SAR government together with people from all walks of life have achieved the best ever development and highest standard of living in Macao's history. Macao's economy has grown by leaps and bounds since its return to the motherland, with its per capita GDP soaring to the world's second highest, its unemployment rate reduced to 1.8 percent and its cumulative fiscal surplus increasing by 193 times. Facts prove that Macao's achievement in economic social development and all these historical changes are grounded in the principle of “one country” and ensured when the unique strengths of “two systems” are brought into play. Xi highlighted that "only by ensuring no distortion of the 'one country, two systems' practice can the cause of 'one country, two systems' progress steadily," when addressing a gathering in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Macao's return to the motherland and the inauguration of the fifth-term government of the Macao SAR.
People in Macao have differing opinions on how the City of the Lotus Flower has taken shape in the 20 years since its return. Some say that Macao has changed with more skyscrapers going up and people becoming richer and more patriotic. Others say that life in Macao is the same as it was with dancing, gambling, and motor racing still popular forms of entertainment. These divided opinions are the best example of the success of the "one country, two systems" principle.
Under that principle, Macao is allowed to retain its capitalist system and way of life, including the gambling industry. It also enjoys independent financial, monetary, and taxation policies. Residents have comprehensive freedom and democratic rights, which are the foundations for the booming economy and stability of Macao’s society. Also, Macao has set an excellent example of maintaining national security and unity by implementing the national security law passed by the standing committee of the National People's Congress and providing patriotic education in schools and colleges. Macao residents realize that the city’s future is inseparable from motherland's development.
Macao's success is a mirror that reflects the forward-looking design and popularity of the "one country, two systems" principle.
Whether it's Macao or Hong Kong SAR, the key factor in staying on the right track of the "one country, two systems" policy is long-term prosperity and stability being based on the premise of safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests. In other words, "one country" is the prerequisite and basis of "two systems." History has proved that: unification promotes the prosperity of a country and safety of its people, while secession leads to recession in all aspects.
After experiencing the loss of land and disintegration of country in modern times, Chinese people have already turned the mission of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity into persistent general consciousness. Besides, Hong Kong’s and Macao’s advantages lie in the strong backing by Chinese mainland. Intentions to acquire "complete autonomy" or attempts to "self-determine" the future of the city explicitly runs against the will of all Chinese people, including Hong Kong and Macao compatriots, and they will not succeed.
For both Hong Kong and Macao, the return goes beyond territorial integrity, it also includes unity of hearts and minds. Both cities should enhance a sense of national identity and patriotism through legal publicity, civic education, and community activities, and let them become the ideological consensus and emotional support of Hong Kong and Macao compatriots. More importantly, the executive, legislative, and judicial bodies of Hong Kong and Macao should organically combine support of the central government's full governing power over the special administrative regions while maintaining a high degree of autonomy in the region. While the return is all about sovereignty issues and autonomy is about the exercise of sovereignty, it is totally wrong to separate the two and make them antithetical.
The governing bodies and public officials of Hong Kong and Macao SARs should reach broad consensus to support the central government's authority and govern the regions in accordance with the law.
“One Country, Two Systems” is a pioneering initiative that has no precedent to follow. Like all other new formulas, its application entails an evolving process that needs to be tested in practice. However, the enhancement of the system must be advanced in the same direction as the "one country, two systems" policy. Inevitably, various problems will surface in the course of development, and different voices will arise in a diverse society that blends east and west. However, these can never be excuses for challenging the "one country, two systems" policy. Important policies for upholding and improving the practice of "one country, two systems" were put forward at the fourth plenary session of the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and they ought to become the basic rules of improving and advancing Macao's and Hong Kong's systems.
May bauhinia and lotus flowers flourish in these two beautiful cities. The five stars are always an indispensable part of the flags of the Hong Kong and Macao SARs. It symbolizes that Hong Kong and Macao are integral parts of the motherland.
The prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao will continue as long as the "one country, two systems" principle is strictly implemented.
(Compiled by Ryan Yaoran Yu and Paris Yelu Xu)