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Special> 10th Anniversary of Macao's Return to China> Background
UPDATED: December 9, 2009
Macao to Return to China
Guest Commentator Jiang Yiping

The government of the People's Republic of China and the government of the Republic of Portugal initialed a joint declaration on the question of Macao on March 26. The accord states that the People's Republic of China will resume exercising sovereignty over Macao on December 20, 1999. The joint declaration will take effect after the two sides formally sign and ratify it.

Twelve years from now, Macao, a Chinese territory which came under foreign rule, will return to the motherland. The satisfactory settlement of the Macao issue, following that of the Hong Kong question in 1984, represents another giant step towards the unification of China.

Lying on the southwestern bank of the estuary of the Zhujiang River adjacent to the City of Zhuhai in Guangdong Province, Macao has, since ancient times, been Chinese territory. It was not until the mid-16th century that the Portuguese bribed local Chinese officials to get permission to land and reside there. After the Opium War, however, the Portuguese occupied nearby Taipa and the Coloane islands and placed the entire Macao area under their colonial rule.

After the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, the Chinese government has repeatedly stated that Macao is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. China does not recognize any unequal treaty imposed on the Chinese people by the imperialists, and it has proposed that the Macao issue be resolved through negotiations when conditions are ripe. Upon the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Portugal in 1979, the two sides reached an understanding in principle concerning the question of sovereignty over Macao. With the Hong Kong issue settled, conditions were ripe for opening talks to resolve the Macao question.

Sino-Portuguese negotiations started in Beijing last June. Since there is no dispute on the question of sovereignty over Macao, the talks focused on the date for China to resume exercise of sovereignty and on making proper arrangements to ensure social stability and economic development in Macao during the transition period and afterwards. After eight months of negotiations in the spirit of mutual accommodation and co-operation, the two governments finally reached an agreement to the satisfaction of both.

Taking into consideration the historical and present-day circumstances in Macao, the Chinese government has decided that, in accordance with the principle of "one country, two systems," it will adopt a complete set of special policies to keep the present social system, economic system and lifestyle in Macao unchanged for 50 years after China recovers it in 1999. A Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) directly under the Central People's Government will be established, and it will be administered by the local people of Macao. The new SAR will enjoy a high degree of autonomy.

This decision has protected China's sovereign rights, its territorial integrity and its national dignity. It will also guarantee a long-term, stable development in Macao. So, the policy is in comformity with the fundamental interests of the entire Chinese people, including our compatriots in Macao.

Stimulated by the prosperous Hong Kong economy and China's policy of opening to the outside world, Macao's economy has made rapid progress since the 1970s. Its total exports amounted to 8.63 billion patacas (about US$1.1 billion) in 1986, more than 30 times those of 1970. Now Macao has trade relations with more than 100 countries and regions and enjoys preferential treatment from 20 or more nations.

The peninsula of Macao has always maintained a very close tie with the interior areas of China, with the latter supplying it with cereals, fresh water, non-staple food, daily necessities and raw materials at favourable prices. This mainland support has contributed much to Macao's stability and development; it is indispensable to its prosperity. Macao, too, has contributed to the economic construction on the mainland. Their economic cooperation is becoming more extensive than even before thanks to the Chinese government's open policy.

The settlement of the Macao issue by the governments of China and Portugal through friendly cooperation has not only created favourable conditions for the further development of their relations, but also provided a useful example for the world in resolving international disputes by peaceful means.

The satisfactory settlement of the Macao question represents another successful effort to apply in practice the scientific concept of "one country, two systems," advanced by Deng Xiaoping by pooling the collective wisdom of the Party Central Committee. It shows that the concept conforms to objective reality and is full of vitality. The settlement of the Macao question will certainly accelerate the cause of China's reunification.

(Beijing Review No. 13 March 3, 1987)


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