Macau in the Pearl River Delta and Beyond

This article was initially prepared for the international
conference “Macau on the threshold of the third millennium” jointly
organised by the Macau Ricci Institute and the CEFC, 14th-15th December 2001,
Macau.

As a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, Macau,
like Hong Kong, will become integrated into the Pearl River delta and in a larger
sense, all of China. Thus this study is tracing an event which is no longer in
question, although there are questions as to the type of integration we are talking
about and some other details—mostly connected with the economic development
pattern of a region. In this paper I will discuss this process on several geographical
levels and conclude with some possible areas for infrastructure improvements.

Today borders((1) still
exist between Macau and mainland China, as does a maritime border separating Macau
from Hong Kong which restrict flows of goods and ideas and maintain some differences
among these three territories. Furthermore, political change in the late 1990s
has not necessarily changed the functions of the demarcation among these territories
or even their business relationships with Taiwan. In fact, changes were more dramatic
in the late 1970s and 1980s than in the last decade. The borders today can be
seen as legal constructs separating areas with differing laws, differing physical
and cultural landscapes with differing land uses, differing levels of wealth maintained
through population and trade controls which allow some kinds of movement and exchange
but prohibit others, and maintenance of differing cultures or psychologies. For
non-Chinese visitors to Macau, the SAR remains a place where “Portuguese
culture” still is a major attraction((2).
Despite this and some signs that economic compatibility between Macau and its
neighbours is not growing, it is fair to say that Macau and Zhuhai are becoming
a transborder metropolitan region and the delta has merged into one mutually dependent
area.

For the moment, lucrative gambling revenues still keep Macau
afloat and produce funds for the government coffers. Textiles remain the next
most important industry((3) although much of
the industry has moved to mainland China in recent years and much that remains
is trade in textiles rather than manufacture in Macau. Textiles, rather than gambling,
are more likely to disappear as Macau will lose quotas by 2005 for access to foreign
markets such as the United States and the territory also faces stiff competition
from areas with lower labour costs((4). However,
the SAR government, like the last Portuguese administration before it, appears
to some degree to be at a loss as to how to diversify Macau’s economy away
from this gambling/tourism base although there has been some minor movement of
middle-sized support services into Macau in recent years and there are possibilities
for lower end services, including some small and medium-sized enterprises, moving
out of Hong Kong to take advantages of lower wages in the Macau environment((5).
The Portuguese government led a drive within the European Union to keep Macau
as a “centre of European culture” in a way that was seen as not necessary
nor possible by the British for Hong Kong((6).
Although Portugal’s efforts met with limited success((7),
they did not stop Macau’s economic weakening or foster the further development
of “European culture” or “Latin culture” in the SAR at this
late date.

Macau always has had trouble generating internal growth although
it must be acknowledged that major infrastructure projects were important for
the economy from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. When most of those projects came
to an end, however, there was economic stagnation. In addition, property prices
fell with the number of unoccupied flats reaching 45,000 in 1994. Investment started
to fall from 1995, the economy registered negative growth in 1996 for the first
time since records began, and a crime wave began in 1997 which was accompanied
by a slump in tourism and the effects of the Asian financial crisis((8).
Aside from a rise in tourists from the People’s Republic of China in recent
years (Table 1), the economic picture has remained bleak with unemployment the
major problem of 1999. Although things appeared better according to data released
in 2000, the economy took a downturn in the first quarter of 2001 and continued
to be weak throughout the year((9).


Table 1 – Tourist arrivals in Macau (thousands of people)


In ethnic terms, the scenario for post-1999 Macau predicted
elsewhere has largely come true: co-option of a certain number of the Macau Chinese
elite and a small number of Macanese into the government and a rapid reduction
in the number of Portuguese working in the territory((10).
The actual transfer to Chinese administration, however, has not had too great
a significance for the integration process within the delta since most of the
relationships between entities found today had begun to appear prior to the signing
of the Sino-Portuguese Joint Agreement in the late 1980s.

Interaction with Zhuhai and Hong Kong

While interaction of Macau with Hong Kong began at the creation
of the British colony in 1842, “co-ordination” often was better seen
as “competition” in the past. By the 1980s, a sort of complementarity
had been worked out with Hong Kong but economic co-ordination of Macau with Zhuhai
at that time was very difficult. Zhuhai, encompassing 1,266 square kilometres
bordering Macau and well over ninety times larger than the former Portuguese enclave,
was created as a Special Economic Zone in the 1980s on the basis of its proximity
to the territory. From the start, Zhuhai tried to go its own way and in many ways,
became more closely linked to the Hong Kong economy than to Macau’s((11).
Perhaps the Special Economic Zone leadership found Macau too small an investor
for their ambitions. In any event, under the mayor Liang Guangda, Zhuhai proceeded
to develop in competition with Macau((12).
This competition led to a series of articles in the local press about whether
Zhuhai would swallow Macau or vice versa((13).
In many ways the argument was pointless—Zhuhai can “win” in the
long run as Macau, with a total area of 25.4 sq km, has little room to grow (Table
2) although the possibilities for downward growth into subterranean areas has
yet to be exploited and will be discussed later((14).
Macau, however, has won in the short run because Zhuhai does not yet have the
resources to compete with the territory((15)
nor Peking’s support to do so—which is all to some degree tied to Macau’s
special SAR status. That said, Zhuhai’s economy is growing rapidly but as
a newly developed city, Zhuhai’s physical character lacks a heritage tradition
comparable to that found in Macau. Thus it is hard to imagine Zhuhai competing
with Macau tourists interested in architectural history.


Table 2 – Change in aerial extent of Macau from land
reclamation (in square kilometres)

Source: Richard Louis Edmonds and William John Kyle, “Land
Use in Macau: Changes Between 1972 and 1994”, Land Use Policy, Vol. 15, No.
4, 1998, pp. 280, 283, 288. Figures for 2000 are quoted from the Serviços
de Estatística e Censos de Macau.


Cultural differences between the authorities in Zhuhai (often
Mandarin-speaking) and Macau (often only Portuguese-speaking) helped keep contact
to a minimum during the early transition period of the 1980s and early 1990s.
The result, by no means unique to the Pearl River delta or other areas of China
at that time, was two administrative business/hotel clusters, two airports, and
two sea ports right next to each other while key inter-linking infrastructure
such as railways or dual carriage way motorways remained on the drawing boards.
The picture was even more complex when we realise that Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and
other cities in the delta also replicated the five-star hotel and transport infrastructure
syndrome that occurred between Macau and Zhuhai.

By the 1990s the relationship between Macau and Zhuhai began
to change. With political integration assured, Macau’s interest in co-operation
with Zhuhai grew. In addition, as suggested above, Zhuhai had found its attempts
to circumvent developments in Macau blocked. For example, Peking refused to allow
the Zhuhai Airport at Sanzao to be classified as an international airport. Furthermore,
the status of Special Economic Zones within China such as Zhuhai had degraded
over the years with much of the preferential treatment formerly enjoyed by Zhuhai,
Shenzhen and the three other zones being given to other cities and towns across
China. In this sense, links with Macau and Hong Kong have become more important
for Zhuhai’s economic development and Zhuhai has had to face its own worries
about the future. The result has been more co-operation with the Macau and Hong
Kong authorities. The most obvious geographical manifestation of this has been
the “bridge-building” efforts which include the Ponte de Amizade (youyi
daqiao) bridge which allows direct access to the Macau Airport from Zhuhai, the
Lotus Bridge constructed between Taipa and Hengqin Island in Zhuhai, and the planned
Lingding Yang Bridge across the Pearl River intended to link Hong Kong with Zhuhai,
and after some debate, directly with Macau as well. Macau, however, is so small
that investment and trade from Hong Kong into Zhuhai continues to remain greater
than that from the ex-Portuguese enclave: arguably another reason why Macau would
wish to co-operate rather than compete with Zhuhai.

Part of the problem with economic co-operation is that the
industrial structures of Macau and Zhuhai are too similar. Both rely heavily on
small and medium-sized enterprises, light industry, and foreign direct investment((16).
The majority of tourists and trade for both is with Hong Kong and there are even
similarities in the overseas trade patterns. While Macau remains slightly more
skilled and more internationally connected, the cost differentials favour faster
economic development for Zhuhai. Thus it is survival rather than complementarity
that dictates the need for co-operation between these two entities and arguments
for a division of labour between the two only are likely to have short-term utility.
Economic co-operation should centre on co-ordinating infrastructure while services
and labour flows should be monitored to reduce overlap in the short term.

Scholars who have studied these matters such as Ieong and
Siu, as well as Hong((17), believe that there
can be considerable collaboration between Macau and Zhuhai on matters such as
tourism. While on a superficial level this may be the case, I fail to see how
the two territories can be complementary beside the obvious land shortage for
further amusement-type tourist parks in Macau or for Zhuhai to aid Macau in times
of under-capacity in hotel space. Rather I would think Macau should integrate
more rural parts of the delta into its tourism packages as these offer a greater
contrast with the urban character of the SAR, especially if it wishes to attract
non-Chinese tourists back((18).

At one time, some, including myself, argued for more geo-political
integration between Macau and at least a part of Zhuhai((19).
The major hope was that Hengqin Island {formerly known in Portuguese as the islands
of D. João (in Chinese, xiao Hengqin) and Montanha (in Chinese, da Hengqin)
but now linked together by reclamation} would be incorporated into the Macau Special
Autonomous Region. The Portuguese had argued in the early twentieth century that
D. João and Montanha, along with the larger former island of Wanzai (Lapa)—now
a peninsula—to their north, were part of the Província da Macau with
Portuguese schools established there((20).
China, however, never recognised this and Portugal could not press its claims
in the past and did not raise the idea of integration of Hengqin into the Macau
SAR with the Chinese during the transition period as it was not seen as appropriate((21).
With Macau under Chinese administration, this problem could be thought to have
disappeared so the annexation of Hengqin could double the size of the Special
Autonomous Region and give Macau a size that could allow it to better compete
with other cities in the delta. This, however, is not the case. There is a problem
of integrating new territory into Macau vis-à-vis the preferential international
political and trade status of the SAR and again it could be viewed in Peking as
not in the interests of the People’s Republic to greatly enlarge the size
of the Macau SAR. In March 1999, five Macau representatives to the National People’s
Congress had proposed the creation of a special tourist zone on Hengqin to be
developed as the first joint project between the Macau Special Autonomous Region
and Zhuhai((22). However, to my knowledge
this effort has not produced results((23).
Likewise, problems remain for Macau to annex an appropriate Zhuhai site for a
harbour project.

Whatever happens, lack of area will force the Macau Special
Autonomous Region to integrate more closely with Zhuhai. In the long run the issue
of competition between Macau and Zhuhai will disappear because by 2049, the two
urban centres will have become linked into one. The decision to let the Macau
Airport function as the local international airport, however, helps favour the
Macau Special Autonomous Region remaining part of the core of an international
centre for the west side of the delta. Lack of berthing space and depth at Ká-Hó
Harbour on Macau’s Coloane along with a poor volume of shipping suggests
that the Zhuhai at Gaolan or some other site will eventually become the key port
for these “twin” cities((24). In
any event, there is a greater concern that the west side of the delta is too underdeveloped
and Macau/Zhuhai must do more to provide services for this side of this river.

Thus more serious in the long run for Macau/Zhuhai will be
competition from Hong Kong and Shenzhen on the east as well as Guangzhou to the
north((25). As of the third quarter of 2001,
Hong Kong still dominated by the monetary system of Macau with 51.3% of the broad
money supply (M2) in the territory in Hong Kong dollars((26).
Political integration of Macau with Hong Kong was not on the Chinese agenda at
the time of Portuguese withdrawal—a few say this was not furthered by a mildly
isolationist Portuguese government which hoped a separate Macau could remain more
closely linked with Portugal, although many deny this was the case((27).
From the start the Chinese saw little difference in the processes for the return
of Hong Kong and Macau. In the late 1970s, it even seemed that the Chinese viewed
the Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau retrocession issues as the same but quickly discovered
that Taiwan was a different situation. Hong Kong and Macau, however, were under
the administration of European countries and, therefore, remained much the same
to the Chinese—at least until negotiations began.

In any event, the Chinese did not wish to integrate Macau
and Hong Kong in any political sense. First of all, the Chinese jimi policy of
divide and rule is an old one having been used by dynasties for millennia. A unified
Hong Kong/Macau Special Autonomous Region would have little advantage and some

possible disadvantages domestically as well as internationally. For instance,
a larger joint SAR could be a greater force for social agitation in China. In
addition, China now has three seats in many international organisations since
Macau belongs to more than 50 international organisations—something similar
to what the Soviet Union enjoyed in the United Nations when Ukraine and Belorussia
had separate seats from the “Soviet” seat. In addition, Hong Kong and
Macau each can pursue preferential treatment. Finally letting each special autonomous
region go its own way is another sign that Peking is not interfering in the affairs
of Macau or Hong Kong.

Economic relations with Hong Kong have been rather one-sided
for Macau and the smaller SAR needs to maintain its separate legal identity if
for no other reason that to insure that most forms of gambling remain banned in
Hong Kong and thus legal and viable in Macau. Even with the continuation of Hong
Kong’s casino ban, Macau has real worries given that Hong Kong’s economy
currently is weak and other forms of gambling such as internet gambling and offshore
gambling ships threaten the local industry((28).
There are also uncertainties over the impact of the breaking up of the Macau casino
monopoly which occurred in late 2001. Some rightly feel that there may be benefits
from the monopoly break-up as the two new outside casino interests can cross advertise
their Macau casino with their other casinos and the gambling arrangements might
be a departure point for a new cycle of growth, with several complementary projects
spurring economic growth((29). To date, however,
revenues from gaming in Macau have dropped. Thus the enclave still remains dependent
upon the economy of its larger neighbours. Table 3 suggests that Macau’s
economic interaction with Hong Kong in terms of trade dropped in the 1990s but
that this loss has been more or less made up for by increased trade from mainland
China. However, Macau’s negative balance of trade in the area has grown and
is a worrying sign.


Table 3 – Macau’s balance of trade with the People’s
Republic of China and Hong Kong (in million patacas)

Sources: Serviços de Estatística e Censos de
Macau, Economic and Financial Indicators, selection, Serviços de Estatística
e Censos de Macau, August 13th 2001.

Note: 1 Pataca = 1 HK$ = 0,125 Euro.


Interaction with the Pearl River delta and with Guangdong
as a whole

We can guess what role Macau will play in the delta in the
future. However, what exactly is integration within the Pearl River delta((30)
or Guangdong and what is the difference between that and integration with China
as a whole? With increasing overlap of skills in the delta and the province, the
region as a whole has to look to mainland China as a market. Those doing business
in China are aware that in some respects the country is a whole market and business
can be difficult if one does not get the proper connections in Peking. At the
same time, the distribution of goods in China is divided into several different
networks of which southernmost China can be considered just one. Within south
China, specifically Guangdong, Hainan, Fujian and Guangxi, there are even different
marketing networks as communications in the region are not always that well developed.
Physical geography (terrain) and cultural geography (language regions) are in
part responsible for these divisions. I have shown elsewhere that Macau’s
ability to trade in Fujian is quite limited in comparison with Taiwan and Hong
Kong because of distance and the small scale of Macau’s economy((31).
In any event, it is impossible to talk just about Macau’s integration into
the Pearl River delta for in so doing we will still get muddled in integration
with China as a whole. Tracing investments with China by provinces or sub-provincial
regions is a difficult business and county-level data can be hard to find. Moreover,
even the provincial trade statistics are dubious since smuggling is rampant. That
said, clearly the majority of Macau investment in China remains in the delta and
the delta continues to grow economically at a fast rate((32).

Just prior to establishment of the Macau SAR, 50% of the financing
in the enclave came from China and it was said up to 70% of investment was Chinese
in the civil construction sector((33). Much
of this finance over the years was a process whereby Chinese were able to keep
their foreign exchange outside of China. The property market in Macau is one place
such money was invested. The result was an oversupply of high cost housing largely
out of the reach of Macau’s population. In recent years, the trend to invest
in Macau seems to be tied to slumps in the Chinese economy and “hedging bets”
as much as trying to get funds out of China((34).
It is not likely that Macau will experience another mainland China-led property
boom in the near future.

Furthermore, it is possible that the Pearl River delta is
going to lose its superior position in the Chinese economy within a few years.
The skilled and relatively low cost labour advantage has already been eroded as
Guangdong has had to bring in labour from other provinces to keep costs down.
The social costs of such a policy have become apparent with labour unrest and
other social problems. Companies are increasingly looking to central China for
more low cost options. On the high technology and quality service front, the Pearl
River delta is under increasing competition from the Chang River (Yangtze River)
delta region focused upon Shanghai and also the Peking/Tianjin area. The major
Chinese development plan for over a decade has been to use the Chang River as
the corridor for development of the interior with a focus on the Sanxia (Three
Gorges) Dam and the city of Chongqing as a new power-house. More recent was the
announcement of the “Go West” policy in 1999 which will put more central
government resources into development further into the interior. All these developments
could lead to the Pearl River delta remaining largely as the facilitator((35)
of foreign trade for the Xi (West) River valley—a much more restricted role
than that played in the 1980s and 1990s when Hong Kong and the delta were the
major point of outside contact and light industrial production for all of China.
The government does not wish to see the Guangdong economy collapse but it does
wish to see a more even geographical distribution of wealth and quality services.
Obviously this change of role for the Guangdong does not bode well for the development
of Macau into a major centre for international trade. Thus more than ever, Guangdong
must become pro-active and use the political and geographical advantages of Macau
as well as Hong Kong to further its economic growth.

Macau’s future and China

Macau’s integration with China has been considerable
for some time and social integration can be seen from the fact that, in 2000,
over 76% of the marriages registered in Macau involved someone who was born in
Hong Kong or mainland China (Table 4)((36).
Today one could say that factors such as geographical proximity and political
union continue to favour integration whereas declining economic complementary—ironically
in part a product of closer integration—and overlapping or non-integrated
infrastructure has slowed the pace in recent years((37).


Table 4 – Marriages by birth place, 2000

Source: Estatísticas Demográficas 2000, Quadro 5.5.


The attitude of the Chinese government, and to a lesser degree
the SAR government as well as other factors such as the level of Overseas Chinese
investment, however, can still modify the pace of integration. That pace is determined
in part by the fact that for China, the economy, the internal politics, and the
geographical size of the SAR are small. Mainland China has over 100 cities that
are larger than Macau. We could overstate the case by saying that in some ways
Macau is nothing more for the Chinese than a local centre. Even its special legal
status is overshadowed by the similar situation in its much larger neighbour,
Hong Kong.

Macau’s relative economic strength, and international
standing in comparison with cities in mainland China, however, does give it added
status. Yet, this special status has somewhat weakened since China assumed administration
in 1999 due both to internal and external forces. Simply put, Macau has lost most
of its Portuguese “bargaining chips” and the economy of the SAR has
lost some of its comparative economic advantages since the late 1980s. Moreover,
although helpful, the enclave did not manage to grow out of its economic problems
through reclamation and infrastructure projects but managed to create a few new
environmental problems. Macau, however, can at least rest assured that it is the
Chinese government’s intention that its current special position will not
completely disappear until the fifty-year transition period ends. The central
government would suffer a credibility loss with the international community if
it goes back on its accords. Moreover, the integration process of both Macau and
Hong Kong has political implications for Peking’s future relations with the
Republic of China government on Taiwan and the Chinese will tread lightly in both
Special Autonomous Regions until “the Taiwan issue” is resolved. Whatever
the case, half a century is a long time and there is always the possibility that
the validity of the fifty-year transition period may not be upheld if there are
political changes in China or in the attitude of the international community.

Can the past be used to serve the present?

This is crystal ball gazing but here are my thoughts. Macau
(and even Macau/Zhuhai together) currently face very stiff competition to dominate
the west side of the Pearl River delta over both Hong Kong/Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
While Macau/Zhuhai is often sited as the third corner in the key urban triangle
of the delta, it remains the weakest link and the least well connected part of
the triangle in economic and infrastructure terms. The realistic question has
been whether Macau can dominate the west side of the Pearl River delta and this
also remains debatable—much depending on the future status of and co-operation
with Zhuhai as well as the strength of Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

For Macau to remain in its position of relative influence
it must be able to offer services to the west side of the delta that are in demand.
The problems are well known. Hong Kong has superior expertise in international
relations and a better harbour along with greater economies of scale and more
room for expansion whereas other parts of the delta are able to offer better wages
to low cost operations than Macau. Macau must find a niche in international trade
to retain its independence from neighbouring parts of the “Greater Chinese”
economy and also to maintain some comparative advantage over mainland China. Macau,
however, is caught in the middle between Hong Kong with its greater size and infrastructure
on the one hand and the delta, Guangdong and beyond with an even greater size
and lower wage costs on the other. The Portuguese Macau government realised this
in the late 1980s and made some efforts to redress the weaknesses in technology
and other high-end economic operations, some of which have borne fruit in the
last couple of years. The United Nations set up a software centre in Macau, and
the Universidade de Macau as well as the Politécnico de Macau have pushed
the development of courses related to things such as information technology. While
there have been results, Macau still finds itself in no position to compete with
Hong Kong or to grow at the same rate as Shanghai and other major Chinese regional
urban nodes. The price paid has been a loss of some of the territory’s unique
culture and architectural heritage.

The situation is such that Macau only continues to provide
two services which are unique in the delta and/or in demand: gambling and Portuguese/Latin-related
tourism. The latter is under threat as Portuguese influence declines. Ironically,
as noted above, Portuguese culture-related tourism has in recent years been in
part degraded by Macau’s attempt to grow out of its problems and integrate
itself into the delta by hiding much of its architectural heritage behind tall,
glitzy Hong Kong-style buildings built on reclaimed land along Macau’s coastline.
Even worse, older architecturally-unique buildings have been torn down. The geographer/planner,
Bruce Taylor, refers to some of the new buildings as “inhuman”((38).
He says this in spite of the considerable recent effort to restore Macau’s
architectural landscape. Again the casino business remains in place for now but
as already noted, always faces the possibility of competition within the region
and the possibility of changing tastes in diversions from the Hong Kong and other
regional peoples.

I feel the “Latin” centre idea is stressed too much
in discussions of Macau. Personal experience suggests that non-Portuguese speaking
Latin language group peoples show little interest in investing or committing political
capital to this idea of Macau as a Latin centre. Thus the most likely country
at this stage in time with which Macau can play this card is Brazil. The countries
which are officially Portuguese speaking in Africa (PALOPs) do not have the economic
strength to support significant trade with Macau although when peace comes to
Angola there may be some hope. Portugal will remain the important bridge to Europe
but the operations through this channel are already exploited to a considerable
degree. Thus if Macau wishes to promote a “Latin connection” it must
shift its primary focus to encouraging economic, political, and cultural contact
with Brazil although at this stage in time, this effort will not be enough for
Macau to emerge as a major economic centre.

If we take the view that the shock of the September 11th 2001
attack on the New York World Trade Centre and the subsequent US-UK military attack
on Afghanistan do not seriously damage the world economy long term, we can expect
tourism to rebound in the region sometime soon. Should this be the case, from
where will the majority of tourists be coming? Statistics of recent years suggest
that Asian and Australasian tourists will increase whereas European and North
American tourists will decline and South American and African tourist levels are
likely to remain stagnant. Mainland Chinese tourism could sky-rocket (Table 1).
Hong Kong tourists, of course, will continue to dominate but these Hong Kongers
are likely to become increasingly sophisticated in their tastes. The implications
are that while mainland Chinese((39) and many
Hong Kongers will come to Macau for gambling and other “basic diversions”,
the other tourists will be interested increasingly in more exotic “Portuguese”
and historical elements of Macau. Also the mainland Chinese and the Hong Kong
Chinese with interests beyond the casinos will not be interested in a city with
a landscape of boxed buildings of glass and traffic congestion much like other
cities in the region but rather will be interested in a city with a character
like old Macau. Sadly, however, it appears that the construction trend of the
last decade will continue in Macau—most obviously seen on Taipa in the second
half of the 1990s.

What can Macau do to create new niches for the future and
improve its value in what it does best? One way or another the territory needs
to provide services for wealthy ethnic Chinese as its bread and butter. As noted,
gambling can remain important—but increasingly for mainland Chinese. The
sort of “Portuguese theme park” idea for inquisitive Asian tourists
is another activity but has limited value and that value could diminish as tourists
become more sophisticated and well-travelled (Why not just go to Portugal?), and
are put off by the indiscriminate building mentioned above((40).
There also would be a need to encourage Portuguese to reside in the city in considerable
numbers in order to maintain this theme—but this is not likely given the
current economic climate. Another possibility is to convert some of the housing
surplus into speciality housing for elderly overseas Chinese who might want to
return to China but still prefer to live on the periphery in a slightly more European
society((41). Competition in this market though
is already considerable with cheaper housing found throughout the delta and around
other Chinese cities further north. Moreover, Hong Kong can offer wealthy overseas
Chinese a greater variety of attractions. It will require an organised effort
on the part of the Special Autonomous Region government to train and attract trained
ethnic Chinese and foreigners to live in Macau. General higher education development
and transformation of Macau into a conference centre has possibilities but there
will be a need for a tremendous amount of money and improved administration to
attract quality educators and conventions((42).
Again Macau lags behind Hong Kong in this area.

Internal manufacturing niches will be very hard to develop,
and although debatable, I feel attempts so far to do this have threatened the
tourist industry through destruction of Macau’s architectural heritage rather
than brought much in the way of long-term financial security. The idea for the
future of Macau as a high-tech centre has also been mooted about but I feel that
this is something that can only be done on a small scale and requires some niche
focus since the capacity of the territory to provide something to compete with
Hong Kong’s cyber city—a debatable concept in itself—is impossible.
Institutions have been put in place for Macau as a centre for facilitating links
between Chinese and European small and medium enterprises((43)
and there are preferential trade links with Europe that even Hong Kong does not
enjoy. Communication development, however, is such that increasingly Chinese companies
will be able to find links with European partners via the internet and other means
thus rendering this a difficult option for Macau’s long-term financial security.

Internally, however, Macau can do a lot to improve the life
of its residents and its appeal as a tourist attraction by taking a lot of unattractive
activities off-street. This is one area where the SAR can do something itself—much
the way the late Portuguese government had undertaken infrastructure projects.
It is expensive but also rational for a city of this density and level of economic
development to have an underground and/or overhead public transit railway and
for new shopping malls to be built underground thus saving precious space, preserving
heritage, and reducing congestion as well as pollution. The underground shopping
could be linked to underground stations in this system thus reducing congestion
on the surface. Tokyo provides an excellent example of a city which has been able
to do this.

The following illustration is my simple attempt to plan a
single rail system that could lead to a reduction in automobile congestion and
an improved tourist environment as well as the general environment for Macau.
The scale of the SAR is such that this could be done as a single rail operation
with several transfer points in the system indicated by the squares. In some of
the densely populated areas such as Areia Preta the line could run underground
and largely service the local Macau population. In some places where there is
more tourist value, but where aesthetics would not be ruined by the addition of
an overhead rail system—possibly the Porto Interior/Camões area for
example- the line could run above ground. The “one way” nature of the
system would not work so well between certain areas but the cost saving of a single
track in the initial phase would make sense. To my amazement, my scheme parallels
the government plan for the “third Macau bridge” which I knew nothing
about at the time of conception of my idea.((44)
However, that bridge could be turned into a rail bridge or a joint road-rail bridge
(the former preferred for ecological and aesthetic reasons) as part of this project.
The rail system to the islands of Taipa and Coloane would generate far less revenue
than that for the Macau peninsula but I feel that such a link will be necessary
in order to discourage automobile purchase and thus increase use of the system.
Financing could come from a higher tax on private automobiles, potentially resulting
in a secondary benefit to the rail operation, that of reducing the congestion
and pollution, already a serious problem. The small scale of the SAR can be a
tourist advantage by pedestrianising many areas and letting mass transit take
care of the longer trips.

 

IN an increasingly global economy, a society of the size of
Macau continues to lose ability to control its own future. Integration within
the Pearl River delta provides Macau with the opportunity to have some say in
the direction this larger region takes. At the same time, such integration eventually
will lead to the destruction of much of Macau’s uniqueness. On a larger scale
the Pearl River delta appears to be losing out to the Yangze delta and Shanghai
as the motor of China’s economic growth. This is a matter totally beyond
the ability of the Macau SAR to control. While Macau’s special status almost
guarantees that the territory’s unique character will fade rather than disappear
rapidly, the process can be slowed by heavy investment from China, Portugal, the
European Union, or the emergence of a new special character for the territory.
It still, however, remains possible for the people of Macau to use the small size
of their territory to their advantage by pedestrianising and increasing the aesthetic
magic that can still be found in the SAR. As has happened throughout history,
I am sure Macau will survive and will thrive again. I hope that some of the magic
of old Macau can remain part of that new prosperity.


Table 5 – Demographic change on the Macau Peninsula,
Taipa and Coloane

Sources: Serviços de Estatística e Censos de Macau ed., Características
da População e da Habitação em Macau, Serviços de Estatística e Censos, Macau,
1993, various pages. Serviços de Estatística e Censos de Macau ed. Estimativas
da População Residente de Macau para 31 de Dezembro de 2000, Serviços de Estatística
e Censos de Macau, April 2001.


Map – Macau’s project of a Mass Transport Railway


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