This Friday marks the 20th anniversary of Macao’s return to the motherland, which is a historic moment for the renowned metropolis showing the world a successful practice of "one country, two systems” principle with Macao characteristics.
The two decades have witnessed Macao evolve from a small town mired in sluggish development and social instability to an extraordinarily vibrant region with political stability, economic prosperity, social harmony, and cultural diversity.
High degree of autonomy
China’s central government has constantly implemented the principle of "one country, two systems," "the people of Macao governing Macao," and a high degree of autonomy for the region, and integration of Macao's development into that of the country.
The people of Macao have always kept a firm hold of the core requirement that the "one country" is the prerequisite and basis of the "two systems," and have opened new prospects for the successful practice of "one country, two systems" with Macao characteristics.
Over the last 20 years, the region is run by Macao compatriots who enjoy unprecedented democratic rights and extensive freedom in accordance with the law.
The people of Macao have elected five chief executives and six legislative assemblies. As of the end of 2018, the number of voters in Macao reached 314,000, a sign of local people's increasing political participation.
Within the framework of “one country, two systems,” Macao has participated in the activities of 120 international organizations. It is also an active player in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA).
Since its return to China, Macao has created a miracle in the economic development and demonstrated its vitality in achieving prosperity under the “one country, two systems” principle.
Macao’s GDP had grown by almost eight times from 1999 to 2018, surging to 444.7 billion patacas (about $55 billion) from 51.9 billion patacas. The per capita GDP of the region reached about $83,000 in 2018, ranking amongst the highest in Asia and becoming one of the fastest growing regions around the world, with the unemployment rate standing at only 1.8 percent.
As for the tourism industry, one of its economic pillars, Macao received 35.8 million visitors in 2018, a leap from fewer than 8 million in 1999.
In recent years, Macao has been actively diversifying its economy to develop its emerging industries like conference and exhibition industry, financial industry, traditional Chinese medicine industry and cultural and creative industry.
Patriotism, a core social value
Patriotism is a core value in Macao’s society, as the rapid development has nurtured a growing sense of belonging.
Schemes and programs were designed to encourage Macao students to learn about Chinese history, cultural traditions and laws to have a better understanding of their home country. The value of patriotism has encouraged more and more youths of Macao to seize opportunities in mainland.
A reported survey by the General Association of Chinese Students of Macao in 2019 found that Macao youths are more optimistic about education and career prospects in the GBA. About 46 percent and 43.3 percent of the respondents are interested in study or work in bay area cities other than Macao respectively.
Together for brighter future
Behind Macao’s tremendous achievements is strong support from the mainland and the integration continues to gather steam.
In February, the outline development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao GBA was unveiled, designating Macao as one of the four core cities in the region. And a new raft of policies was announced in November to make it easier for Macao residents to live, study and work in the bay area, as well as strengthen personnel, material and financial exchanges.
What is noteworthy is that Macao is also returning the favor.
Macao plays unparalleled roles as a platform for commercial and trade cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries and a key city along the Maritime Silk Road under the BRI.
Macao’s accomplishment has demonstrated that “one country, two systems” is the best principle for the development of the region and the 20th anniversary of its return will be a triumphant milestone.
The principle of “one country, two systems” shall be cherished and unswervingly carried on, and Macao will open a new chapter of gaining greater achievements.