Area: 29.2 square kilometers total,
with 9.3 sq. km. on a peninsula connected to
China and the southern islands of Taipa (6.7 sq.
km.), Coloane (7.6 sq. km.), and Co Tai (5.6 sq.
km., reclaimed land between Taipa and Coloane)
linked by bridge and causeway. Terrain:
Coastline is flat, inland is hilly and rocky.
Climate: Tropical monsoon; cool and humid in
winter, hot and rainy from spring through
(sing. and pl.).
Population (1st quarter 2008): 543,000.
Population growth rate (1st quarter 2008): 4.3%.
Ethnic groups: Chinese 94.3%, Portuguese 0.6%,
Portuguese & Chinese or Portuguese & non-Chinese
Religions: Buddhist 17%, Roman Catholic 7%,
Languages: In 1992, the government gave the
Chinese (Cantonese) language official status and
the same legal force as Portuguese, the official
Work force: Manufacturing--8.4%; construction--11.6%; wholesale
and retail trade, hotels and restaurants--24.3%; financial
intermediation, real estate, and related
business activities--9.6%; public
administration, other community, social and
personal services, including gaming--31.5%; transport,
storage and communications--4.6%.
Type: Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the
People's Republic of China since December 20,
1999 with its own constitution (the Basic Law).
of the People's Republic of China (head of
state), chief executive (head of government),
Executive Council (cabinet). Legislative--Legislative
judicial system with a high court (the Court of
GDP (2007): $19.2 billion.
GDP real growth rate (2007): 27.3%.
Per capita GDP ( 2007): $36,300.
and vegetables; most foodstuffs and water are
gambling, clothing, textiles, electronics, toys,
footwear, construction, and real estate
Trade (2007): Exports--$2.6
billion f.o.b.: textiles and clothing,
manufactured goods (especially toys, footwear
and machinery & mechanical appliances). Major
markets--U.S. 40.6%, Hong Kong 13.1%, China
14.9%, EU 18.2%. Imports--$5.4
billion: consumer goods, foodstuffs, fuels, and
raw materials. Major
suppliers--China 42.6%, Hong Kong 10.1%, EU
15.7%, U.S. 5.6%, Taiwan 3.5%, Japan 9.0%.
Macau's population is 94.3% Chinese,
primarily Cantonese and some Hakka, both from
nearby Guangdong Province. The remainder are of
Portuguese or mixed Chinese-Portuguese ancestry.
The official languages are Portuguese and
Chinese (Cantonese). English is spoken in
tourist areas. Macau has ten higher education
institutions, including the University of Macau;
76.4% of the University of Macau's 5,838
students are local and 23.6% from overseas.
Chinese records of Macau date back to
the establishment in 1152 of Xiangshan County
under which Macau was administered, though it
remained unpopulated through most of the next
century. Members of the South Sung (Song)
Dynasty and some 50,000 followers were the first
recorded inhabitants of the area, seeking refuge
in Macau from invading Mongols in 1277. They
were able to defend their settlements and
establish themselves there.
The Hoklo Boat people were the first to show
commercial interest in Macau as a trading center
for the southern provinces. Macau did not
develop as a major settlement until the
Portuguese arrived in the 16th century.
Portuguese traders used Macau as a staging port
as early as 1516, making it the oldest European
settlement in the Far East. In 1557, the Chinese
agreed to a Portuguese settlement in Macau but
did not recognize Portuguese sovereignty.
Although a Portuguese municipal government was
established, the sovereignty question remained
Initially, the Portuguese developed Macau's port
as a trading post for China-Japan trade and as a
staging port on the long voyage from Lisbon to
Nagasaki. When Chinese officials banned direct
trade with Japan in 1547, Macau's Portuguese
traders carried goods between the two countries.
The first Portuguese governor was appointed to
Macau in 1680, but the Chinese continued to
assert their authority, collecting land and
customs taxes. Portugal continued to pay rent to
China until 1849, when the Portuguese abolished
the Chinese customs house and declared Macau's
"independence," a year which also saw Chinese
retaliation and finally the assassination of
Gov. Ferreira do Amaral.
On March 26, 1887, the Manchu government
acknowledged the Portuguese right of "perpetual
occupation." The Manchu-Portuguese agreement,
known as the Protocol of Lisbon, was signed with
the condition that Portugal would never
surrender Macau to a third party without China's
Macau enjoyed a brief period of economic
prosperity during World War II as the only
neutral port in South China, after the Japanese
occupied Guangzhou (Canton) and Hong Kong. In
1943, Japan created a virtual protectorate over
Macau. Japanese domination ended in August 1945.
When the Chinese communists came to power in
1949, they declared the Protocol of Lisbon to be
invalid as an "unequal treaty" imposed by
foreigners on China. However, Beijing was not
ready to settle the treaty question, requesting
maintenance of "the status quo" until a more
appropriate time. Beijing took a similar
position on treaties relating to the Hong Kong
Riots broke out in 1966 when pro-communist
Chinese elements and the Macau police clashed.
The Portuguese Government reached an agreement
with China to end the flow of refugees from
China and to prohibit all communist
demonstrations. This move ended the conflict,
and relations between the government and the
leftist organizations have remained peaceful.
The Portuguese tried once in 1966 after the
riots in Macau, and again in 1974, the year of a
military revolution in Portugal, to return Macau
to Chinese sovereignty. China refused to reclaim
Macau however, hoping to settle the question of
Hong Kong first.
Portugal and China established diplomatic
relations in 1979. A year later, Gen. Melo
Egidio became the first Governor of Macau to
visit China. The visit underscored both parties'
interest in finding a mutually agreeable
solution to Macau's status. In 1979, Portugal
and China agreed to regard Macau as "a Chinese
territory under temporary Portuguese
administration."; Handover negotiations began in
1985, a year after the signing of the Sino-U.K.
agreement returning Hong Kong to China in 1997.
The result was a 1987 agreement returning Macau
to Chinese sovereignty as a Special
Administrative Region (SAR) of China on December
The chief executive is appointed by
China's central government after selection by an
election committee, whose members are nominated
by corporate bodies. The chief executive appears
before a cabinet, the Executive Council (Exco),
of between 7 and 11 members. The latest Exco,
appointed on December 15, 2004, has 10 members.
The term of office of the chief executive is 5
years, and no individual may serve for more than
two consecutive terms. The chief executive has
strong policymaking and executive powers similar
to those of a president. These powers are,
however, limited from above by the central
government in Beijing, to whom the chief
executive reports directly, and from below (to a
more limited extent) by the legislature. Edmund
Ho, a community leader and banker, is the first
China-appointed chief executive of the Macau
SAR, having replaced General de Rocha Viera on
December 20, 1999. Ho was re-appointed to a
second term on September 20, 2004.
The legislative organ of the territory is the
Legislative Assembly, a 29-member body of 12
directly elected members, 10 indirectly elected
members representing four interest groups: 1)
employers; 2) labor; 3) professionals; and 4)
charity, culture, education and sports. Seven
members are appointed by the chief executive.
The Legislative Assembly is responsible for
general lawmaking, including taxation, the
passing of the budget, and socioeconomic
legislation. In the last election, held in
September 2005, pro-entertainment industry
groups won five of the 12 directly elected
seats, pro-democracy groups won two seats, and
pro-China parties won four; a former civil
servant took the remaining seat. The next
election will be held in 2009. The city of Macau
and the islands of Taipa and Coloane each had a
municipal council until January 1, 2002, when
the Civic and Municipal Bureau was formally
established to replace the two municipal
The legal system is based largely on Portuguese
law. The territory has its own independent
judicial system, with a high court. Judges are
selected by a committee and appointed by the
chief executive. Foreign judges may serve on the
courts. In July 1999 the chief executive
appointed a seven-person committee to select
judges for the SAR. Twenty-four judges were
recommended by the committee and were then
appointed by Mr. Ho. Macau has three courts: the
Court of the First Instance, the Court of the
Second Instance, and the Court of Final Appeal,
Macau's highest court. Sam Hou Fai is the
President (Chief Justice) of the Court of Final
Principal Government Officials
Chief Executive--Edmund Ho Hau Wah
Secretary of Administration and Justice--Florinda
da Rosa Silva Chan
Secretary of Economy and Finance--Francis Tam
Secretary of Security--Cheong Kuoc Va
Secretary of Social Affairs and
Culture--Fernando Chui Sai On
Secretary of Transport and Public Works--Lau Sio
Macau's economy is based primarily on tourism,
including gambling, and textile and garment
manufacturing. Efforts to diversify have spawned
other small industries, such as footwear, and
machinery and mechanical appliances. The textile
industry provided about 66% of export earnings
in 2007, but total exports were only about 13%
of Macau’s total GDP. Gaming alone contributed
almost 55% of GDP in 2007. The opening of the
formerly monopolized gambling sector in 2002 has
led to significant new investment in casinos,
hotels, and related facilities. Almost 27
million tourists visited Macau in 2007, up 23%
from 2006. The recent growth in gambling and
tourism has been driven primarily by mainland
Chinese and tourists from Hong Kong. Mainland
Chinese tourists account for about 55% of all
tourist arrivals to Macau.
Macau depends on China for most of its food,
fresh water, and energy imports. The European
Union and Hong Kong are the main suppliers of
raw materials and capital goods.
In the last few years much of Macau's
manufacturing operations (mainly textiles and
garments) have moved across the border to
mainland China. Mainland competition, along with
the 2005 end of Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA)
quotas, which had provided a near guarantee of
export markets, are slowly spelling the end of
Macau's low-end mass production of textiles; the
bulk of the SAR's merchandise export earnings.
For future growth, Macau is betting heavily on
becoming a regional center for gaming, tourism,
conventions and corporate incentive travel;
foreign and local investors have massively
expanded the casino, hotel and restaurant
Macau's foreign relations and defense
are the responsibility of China. China has,
however, granted Macau considerable autonomy in
economic and commercial relations.
The U.S. Government has no offices in
Macau. U.S. interests are represented by the
U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong.
Principal U.S. Officials
Consul General--Joseph R. Donovan Jr.
Deputy Principal Officer--Christopher J. Marut
The American Consulate
located at: 26 Garden Road, Hong Kong; tel.
011-852-2523-9011; FAX 011-852-2845-4845
(consular), 001-852-2845-1598 (general).