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Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China

Cantonese romanisation:Jūng'wàh Yàhnmàhn Guhng'wòhgwok Oumún Dahkbiht Hàhngjingkēui
Portuguese:Região Administrativa Especial de Macau da República Popular da China
Anthem: "March of the Volunteers"
Yihyúhnggwān Jeunhàhngkūk
Marcha dos Voluntários
City flower:
Nelumbo nucifera
lótus, flor-de-lótus, loto-índico, lótus-índico
Macau in China (zoomed) (extra close) (special marker) (+all claims hatched).svg
Macau on the globe (Southeast Asia centered).svg
Location of Macau
Official languages
Regional languageCantonese[a]
Official scriptsTraditional Chinese[b]
Portuguese orthography
Ethnic groups
88.4% Chinese
4.6% Filipino
2.4% Vietnamese
1.8% Portuguese or Macanese
2.8% other[1]
GovernmentDevolved executive-led system within a socialist republic
Fernando Chui
Sonia Chan
Lionel Leong
Wong Sio Chak
Ho Iat Seng
Sam Hou Fai
LegislatureLegislative Assembly
National representation
12 deputies (of 2,924)
29 delegates[2]
Special administrative region within the People's Republic of China
1 December 1887
26 March 1987
20 December 1999
• Total
115.3 km2 (44.5 sq mi)
• Water (%)
• 2017 estimate
653,100[3] (167th)
• Density
21,340/km2 (55,270.3/sq mi) (1st)
GDP (PPP)2018[4] estimate
• Total
$78.1 billion (95th)
• Per capita
$118,098 (2nd)
GDP (nominal)2018[4] estimate
• Total
$53.9 billion (83rd)
• Per capita
$81,585 (3rd)
HDI (2016)Increase 0.909[c]
very high · 17th
CurrencyMacanese pataca (MOP)
Time zoneUTC+8 (Macau Standard Time)
Date formatdd-mm-yyyy
Driving sideleft
Calling code+853
ISO 3166 codeMO
Internet TLD

Macau or Macao (/məˈk/ (About this soundlisten); Chinese: 澳門, Cantonese: [ōu.mǔːn]; Portuguese: Macau [mɐˈkaw]), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is an autonomous territory on the western side of the Pearl River estuary in East Asia. Along with Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, and several other major cities in Guangdong, the territory forms a core part of the Pearl River Delta metropolitan region. With a population of 653,100[3] in an area of 30.5 km2 (11.8 sq mi), it is the most densely populated region in the world.

Macau was formerly a colony of the Portuguese Empire, after Ming China leased the territory as a trading post in 1557. Originally governing under Chinese authority and sovereignty, Portugal was given perpetual occupation rights for Macau in 1887. Macau remained under Portuguese control until 1999, when it was returned to China. As a special administrative region, Macau maintains a separate political and economic system apart from mainland China.[6]

Macau is the gambling capital of the world.[7][8][9] Its economy is heavily dependent on gambling and tourism, and in 2006 it surpassed Las Vegas as the world's largest gambling center by revenue.[10] It has a very high Human Development Index and the fourth-highest life expectancy in the world.[11][12] Macau is among the world's richest regions and its GDP per capita by purchasing power parity was higher than that of any country in the world.[13] In 2015, Macau was ranked as the fastest growing metropolitan area in the world by the Brookings Institution.[14]


Macau (Chinese characters).svg
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese澳門
Simplified Chinese澳门
Literal meaningBay Gate
Macau Special Administrative Region
Traditional Chinese澳門特別行政區 (or 澳門特區)
Simplified Chinese澳门特别行政区 (or 澳门特区)
Portuguese name
PortugueseRegião Administrativa Especial de Macau
[ʁɨʒiˈɐ̃w̃ ɐdminiʃtɾɐˈtivɐ (ɨ)ʃpɨsiˈaɫ dɨ mɐˈkaw]

The first known written record of the name "Macau", rendered as "Ya/A Ma Gang" ("亞/阿-媽/馬-港"), is in a letter dated 20 November 1555. The local inhabitants believed that the sea goddess Mazu (alternatively called A-Ma) had blessed and protected the harbour and called the waters around A-Ma Temple using her name.[15] When Portuguese explorers first arrived in the area and asked for the place name, the locals thought they were asking about the temple and told them it was "Ma Kok" (媽閣).[16] The earliest Portuguese spelling for this was Amaquão. Multiple variations were used until Amacão / Amacao and Macão / Macao became common during the 17th century, gradually standardising as Macao, and Macau today.[15]

Macau Peninsula had many names in Chinese, including Jingao (井澳/鏡澳), Haojing (濠鏡), and Haojingao (濠鏡澳).[15][17] The islands Taipa, Coloane, and Hengqin were collectively called Shizimen (十字門). These names would later become Aomen (澳門), Oumún in Cantonese and translating as "bay gate" or "port gate", to refer to the whole territory.[17]


Macau Peninsula, Taipa, and Coloane are first known to have been settled during the Han dynasty.[18] However, Macau did not develop as a major settlement until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. The first European visitor to reach China was the explorer Jorge Álvares, who arrived in 1513.[19] Merchants first established a trading post in Hong Kong waters at Tamão (present-day Tuen Mun), beginning regular trade with nearby settlements in southern China.[19] Military clashes between the Ming and Portuguese navies followed the expulsion of the Tamão traders in 1521.[20] Despite the trade ban, Portuguese merchants continued to attempt settling on other parts of the Pearl River estuary, finally settling on Macau.[20] Luso-Chinese trade relations were formally reestablished in 1554 and Portugal soon after acquired a permanent lease for Macau in 1557.[21]

The initially small population of Portuguese merchants rapidly became a growing city.[22] The Roman Catholic Diocese of Macau was created in 1576, and by 1583, the Senate had been established to handle municipal affairs for the growing settlement.[22] Macau was at the peak of its prosperity as a major entrepôt during the late 16th century, providing a crucial connection in exporting Chinese silk to Japan during the Nanban trade period.[23] Although the Portuguese were initially prohibited from fortifying Macau or stockpiling weapons, the Fortaleza do Monte was constructed in response to frequent Dutch naval incursions. The Dutch attempted to take the city in the 1622 Battle of Macau, but were repelled successfully by the Portuguese.[24] Macau entered a period of decline in the 1640s following a series of catastrophic events for the burgeoning colony. Portuguese access to trade routes was irreparably severed when Japan halted trade in 1639,[25] Portugal revolted against Spain in 1640,[26] and Malacca fell to the Dutch in 1641.[27][28]

Maritime trade with China was banned in 1644 following the Qing conquest under the Haijin policies and limited only to Macau on a lesser scale while the new dynasty focused on eliminating surviving Ming loyalists.[29] While the Kangxi Emperor lifted the prohibition in 1684, Qing authorities again restricted trade under the Canton System in 1757.[30] Foreign ships were required to first stop at Macau before further proceeding to Canton.[31] Qing authorities exercised a much greater role in governing the territory during this period; Chinese residents were subject to Qing courts and new construction had to be approved by the resident mandarin beginning in the 1740s.[32] As the opium trade became more lucrative during the eighteenth century, Macau again became an important stopping point en route to China.[33]

Following the First Opium War and establishment of Hong Kong, Macau lost its role as a major port.[34] Firecracker and incense production, as well as tea and tobacco processing, were vital industries in the colony during this time.[35][36] Portugal was able to capitalise on China's post-war weakness and assert its sovereignty; the Governor of Macau stopped paying annual land rent[37] and annexed Taipa and Coloane to the colony, in 1851 and 1864 respectively.[38] Portugal also occupied nearby Lapa and Montanha,[37] but these would be returned to China by 1887, when perpetual occupation rights over Macau were formalised in the Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Peking. This agreement also obligated Portugal from ceding Macau without Chinese approval.[39] Despite occasional conflict between Cantonese authorities and the colonial government, Macau's status remained unchanged through the republican revolutions of both Portugal in 1910 and China in 1911.[40] The Kuomintang further affirmed Portuguese jurisdiction in Macau when the Treaty of Peking was renegotiated in 1928.[40]

During the Second World War, the Empire of Japan did not occupy the colony and generally respected Portuguese neutrality in Macau. However, after Japanese troops captured a British cargo ship in 1943, Japan installed a group of government "advisors" as an alternative to military occupation. The territory largely avoided military action during the war except in 1945, when the United States ordered air raids on Macau after learning that the colonial government was preparing to sell aviation fuel to Japan. Portugal was later given over US$20 million in compensation for the damage in 1950.[41]

Colonial Macau flag from 1976–1999

Refugees from mainland China swelled the population as they fled from the Chinese Civil War. Access to a large workforce enabled Macau's economy to grow as the colony expanded its clothing and textiles manufacturing industry, developed tourism, and legalised casino gaming.[42] However, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, residents dissatisfied with the colonial administration rioted in the 1966 12-3 incident, in which 8 people were killed and over 200 were injured. Portugal lost full control over the colony afterwards, and agreed to cooperate with the communist authorities in exchange for continued administration of Macau.[43]

Following the 1974 Carnation Revolution, Portugal formally relinquished Macau as an overseas province and acknowledged it as a "Chinese territory under Portuguese administration."[44] After China first concluded arrangements on Hong Kong's future with the United Kingdom, it entered negotiations with Portugal over Macau in 1986. They were concluded with the signing of the 1987 Joint Declaration on the Question of Macau, in which Portugal agreed to transfer the colony in 1999 and China would guarantee Macau's political and economic systems for 50 years after the transfer.[45] In the waning years of colonial rule, Macau rapidly urbanised and constructed large-scale infrastructure projects, including Macau International Airport and a new container port.[46] Macau was transferred to China on 20 December 1999, after 442 years of Portuguese rule.[6]

Following the transfer, Macau liberalised its casino industry (previously operating under a government-licensed monopoly) to allow foreign investors, starting a new period of economic development. The regional economy grew by a double-digit annual growth rate from 2002 to 2014, making Macau one of the richest economies in the world on a per capita basis.[47] Political debates have centred on the region's jurisdictional independence and the central government's adherence of "one country, two systems". While issues such as national security legislation have been controversial, Macanese residents have generally high levels of trust in the government.[48]

Government and politics[edit]

The legislature meets in the Legislative Assembly Building in .

Macau is a special administrative region of China, with executive, legislative, and judicial powers devolved from the national government.[49] The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration provided for economic and administrative continuity through the transfer of sovereignty, resulting in an executive-led governing system largely inherited from the territory's history as a Portuguese colony.[50] Under these terms and the "one country, two systems" principle, the Basic Law of Macao is the regional constitution.[51] Because negotiations for the Joint Declaration and Basic Law began after transitional arrangements for Hong Kong were made, Macau's structure of government is very similar to Hong Kong's.[52]

The regional government is composed of three branches:

  • Executive: The Chief Executive is responsible for enforcing regional law,[53] can force reconsideration of legislation,[54] and appoints Executive Council members, a portion of the legislature, and principal officials.[53] Acting with the Executive Council, the Chief Executive can propose new bills, issue subordinate legislation,[55] and has authority to dissolve the legislature.[56]
  • Legislature: The unicameral Legislative Assembly enacts regional law, approves budgets, and has the power to impeach a sitting Chief Executive.[57]
  • Judiciary: The Court of Final Appeal and lower courts, whose judges are appointed by the Chief Executive on the advice of a recommendation commission,[58] interpret laws and overturn those inconsistent with the Basic Law.[59]

The Chief Executive is the head of government, and serves for a maximum of two five-year terms.[60] The State Council (led by the Premier of China) appoints the Chief Executive after nomination by the Election Committee, which is composed of 400 business, community, and government leaders.[61][62]

The Legislative Assembly has 33 members, each serving a four-year term: 14 are directly elected, 12 indirectly elected, and 7 appointed by the Chief Executive.[63] Indirectly elected assemblymen are selected from limited electorates representing sectors of the economy or special interest groups.[64] All directly elected members are chosen with proportional representation.[65]

Twelve political parties had representatives elected to the Legislative Assembly in the 2017 election.[66] These parties have aligned themselves into two ideological groups: the pro-establishment (the current government) and pro-democracy camps.[67] Macau is represented in the National People's Congress by 12 deputies chosen through an electoral college, and 29 delegates in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference appointed by the central government.[2]

The Macau Government Headquarters is the official office of the Chief Executive.

Chinese national law does not generally apply in the region, and Macau is treated as a separate jurisdiction.[49] Its judicial system is based on Portuguese civil law, continuing the legal tradition established during colonial rule. Interpretative and amending power over the Basic Law and jurisdiction over acts of state lie with the central authority, however, making regional courts ultimately subordinate to the mainland's socialist civil law system. Decisions made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress can also override territorial judicial processes.[68]

The territory's jurisdictional independence is most apparent in its immigration and taxation policies. The Identification Department issues passports for permanent residents which differ from those of the mainland or Hong Kong, and the region maintains a regulated border with the rest of the country.[69] All travellers between Macau and China and Hong Kong must pass border controls, regardless of nationality.[70] Chinese citizens resident in mainland China do not have the right of abode in Macau, and are subject to immigration controls.[71] Public finances are handled separately from the national government, and taxes levied in Macau do not fund the central authority.[72]

The Macao Garrison is responsible for the region's defence. Although the Chairman of the Central Military Commission is supreme commander of the armed forces,[73] the regional government may request assistance from the garrison.[74]

The central government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs handle diplomatic matters, but Macau retains the ability to maintain separate economic and cultural relations with foreign nations.[75] The territory negotiates its own trade agreements and actively participates in supranational organisations, including agencies of the World Trade Organization and United Nations.[76][77][78] The regional government maintains trade offices in Greater China and other nations.[79]

Administrative divisions[edit]

Administrative divisions of Macau

The territory is divided into seven parishes. Cotai, a major area developed on reclaimed land between Taipa and Coloane, and areas of the Macau New Urban Zone do not have defined parishes.[80] Historically, the parishes belonged to one of two municipalities (the Municipality of Macau or the Municipality of Ilhas) that were responsible for administering municipal services. The Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau superseded the municipalities and is currently responsible for providing local services.[81]

Parish/Area Chinese Area
Nossa Senhora de Fátima 花地瑪堂區 3.2
Santo António 花王堂區 1.1
São Lázaro 望德堂區 0.6
São Lourenço 風順堂區 1.0
大堂區 3.4
Nossa Senhora do Carmo 嘉模堂區 7.9
São Francisco Xavier 聖方濟各堂區 7.6
Cotai 路氹填海區 6.0
New District Zone A 新城A區 1.4


Aerial view of Macau Peninsula

Macau is on China's southern coast, 60 km (37 mi) west of Hong Kong, on the western side of the Pearl River estuary. It is surrounded by the South China Sea in the east and south, and neighbours the Guangdong city of Zhuhai to the west and north. The territory consists of Macau Peninsula, Taipa, and Coloane.[82] A 1 km2 (0.39 sq mi) parcel of land in neighbouring Hengqin island that hosts the University of Macau also falls under the regional government's jurisdiction.[83] The territory's highest point is Coloane Alto, 170.6 metres (560 ft) above sea level.[80]

Urban development is concentrated on peninsular Macau, where most of the population lives.[84] The peninsula was originally a separate island with hilly terrain, which gradually became a tombolo as a connecting sandbar formed over time. Both natural sedimentation and land reclamation expanded the area enough to support urban growth.[85] Macau has tripled its land area in the last century, increasing from 10.28 km2 (3.97 sq mi) in the late 19th century[86] to 32.9 km2 (12.7 sq mi) in 2018.[80]

Cotai, the area of reclaimed land connecting Taipa and Coloane, contains many of the newer casinos and resorts established after 1999.[87] The region's jurisdiction over the surrounding sea was greatly expanded in 2015, when it was granted an additional 85 km2 (33 sq mi) of maritime territory by the State Council.[88] Further reclamation is currently underway to develop parts of the Macau New Urban Zone.[89] The territory also has control over part of an artificial island to maintain a border checkpoint for the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge.[80][90]


Macau has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification: Cwa), despite its low elevation coastal location south of the Tropic of Cancer, with average relative humidity between 75% and 90%.[91] Similar to much of South China, seasonal climate is greatly influenced by the monsoons, and differences in temperature and humidity between summer and winter are noticeable, though not as great as in mainland China. The average annual temperature of Macau is 22.7 °C (72.9 °F).[92] July is the warmest month, the average temperature being 28.9 °C (84.0 °F). The coolest month is January, with a mean temperature of 14.5 °C (58.1 °F).[91]

Located on China's southern coast, Macau has ample rainfall, with average annual precipitation being 2,120 millimetres (83 in). However, winter is mostly dry due to the influence of the vast Siberian High affecting much of East Asia. Autumn in Macau, from October to November, is sunny and still pleasantly warm with lower humidity. Winter (December to early March) is generally mild with temperatures above 13 °C (55 °F) most of the time, although they can drop below 8 °C (46 °F) at times. Humidity starts to increase from late March. Summer is very warm to hot (often rising above 30 °C (86 °F) during the day). The hot weather is often followed by heavy rain, thunderstorms and occasional typhoons.[91]

The Macau Peninsula skyline, viewed from Taipa
City view of the Macau Peninsula


The Statistics and Census Service estimated Macau's population at 653,100 at the end of 2017.[3] With a population density of 21,340 people per square kilometre,[95] Macau is the most densely populated region in the world. The overwhelming majority (88.7 per cent) is Han Chinese, many of whom originate from Guangdong (31.9 per cent) or Fujian (5.9 per cent).[96] The remaining 11.6 per cent are non-ethnic Chinese minorities, primarily Filipinos, Vietnamese, and Portuguese. Macanese, native-born multiracial people with mixed Portuguese ancestry, make up a portion of the Portuguese population.[1] A large portion of the population are Portuguese citizens, a legacy of colonial rule; at the time of the transfer of sovereignty in 1999, 107,000 residents held Portuguese passports.[97]

The predominant language is Cantonese, a variety of Chinese originating in Guangdong. It is spoken by 87.5 per cent of the population, 80.1 per cent as a first language and 7.5 per cent as a second language. Only 2.3 per cent can speak Portuguese, the other official language;[98] 0.7 per cent are native speakers, and 1.6 per cent use it as a second language. Increased immigration from mainland China in recent years has added to the number of Mandarin speakers, making up about half of the population (50.4 per cent); 5.5 per cent are native speakers and 44.9 per cent are second language speakers.[99] Traditional Chinese characters are used in writing, rather than the simplified characters used on the mainland. English is considered an additional working language[100] and is spoken by over a quarter of the population (27.5 per cent); 2.8 per cent are native speakers, and 24.7 per cent speak English as a second language.[99] Macanese Patois, a local creole generally known as Patuá, is a critically endangered language still spoken by several dozen Macanese residents.[101]

Among the religious population, Chinese folk religions (including Confucianism and Taoism have the most adherents (58.9 per cent) and are followed by Buddhism (17.3 per cent) and Christianity (7.2 per cent), while 15.4 per cent of the population profess no religious affiliation at all. Small minorities adhering to non-Chinese or Christian religions (less than 1 per cent), including Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam, are also resident in Macau.[102]

Life expectancy in Macau was 81.6 years for males and 87.7 years for females in 2018,[103] the fourth highest in the world.[104] Cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease are the territory's three leading causes of death. Most government-provided healthcare services are free of charge, though alternative treatment is also heavily subsidised.[105]

Non-resident workers living in Macau account for over 25 per cent of the entire workforce.[106] Imported workers largely work in lower wage sectors of the economy, including construction, hotels, and restaurants. As a growing proportion of local residents take up employment in the gaming industry, the disparity in income between local and migrant workers has been increasing.[83] Rising living costs have also pushed a large portion of non-resident workers to live in Zhuhai.[106]


Casinos on the Macau skyline

Macau has a capitalist service economy largely based on casino gaming and tourism. It is the world's 83rd-largest economy, with a nominal GDP of approximately MOP433 billion (US$53.9 billion).[4] Although Macau has one of the highest per capita GDPs, the territory also has a high level of wealth disparity.[87] Macau's gaming industry is the largest in the world, generating over MOP195 billion (US$24 billion) in revenue and about seven times larger than that of Las Vegas.[107]

The regional economy is heavily reliant on casino gaming.[107] Gambling as a share of GDP peaked in 2013 at over 60 per cent,[107] and continues to account for 49.1 per cent of total economic output. The vast majority of casino patrons are tourists from mainland China, making up 68 per cent of all visitors.[108] Casino gaming is illegal in both the mainland and Hong Kong, giving Macau a legal monopoly on the industry in China.[107]

Casino gambling was legalised in 1962 and the gaming industry initially operated under a government-licensed monopoly granted to the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau for 40 years. When this grant expired in 2002, the government allowed open bidding for casino licenses to attract foreign investors.[109] Along with an easing of travel restrictions on mainland Chinese visitors, this triggered a period of rapid economic growth; from 1999 to 2016, Macau's gross domestic product multiplied by 7[107] and the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3 to 1.9 per cent.[83] The Sands Macao, Wynn Macau, MGM Macau, and Venetian Macau were all opened during the first decade after liberalisation of casino concessions.[109] Casinos employ about 24 per cent of the total workforce in the region.[83]

Export-oriented manufacturing previously contributed to a much larger share of economic output, peaking at 36.9 per cent of GDP in 1985[110] and falling to less than 1 per cent in 2017.[111] The bulk of these exports were cotton textiles and apparel, but also included toys and electronics.[112] At the transfer of sovereignty in 1999, manufacturing, financial services, construction and real estate, and gaming were the four largest sectors of the economy.[107] Macau's shift to an economic model entirely dependent on gaming caused concern over its overexposure to a single sector, prompting the regional government to attempt re-diversifying its economy.[113]

The government traditionally had a non-interventionist role in the economy and taxes corporations at very low rates.[114] Post-handover administrations have generally been more involved in enhancing social welfare to counter the cyclical nature of the gaming industry.[115] Economic growth has been attributed in large part to the high number of mainlander visits to Macau, and the central government exercises a role in guiding casino business growth through its control of the flow of tourists.[116][117] The Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement formalised a policy of free trade between the two areas, with each jurisdiction pledging to remove remaining obstacles to trade and cross-boundary investment.[118]

Due to a lack of available land for farming, agriculture is not significant in the economy. Food is exclusively imported to Macau and almost all foreign goods are transshipped through Hong Kong.[119]



Air Macau Airbus A321 taxiing at Macau International Airport

In Macau, traffic drives on the left, unlike in either mainland China or Portugal, but like neighbouring Hong Kong. Macau has a well-established public transport network connecting the Macau Peninsula, Cotai, Taipa Island and Coloane Island. Buses and taxis are the major modes of public transport in Macau. Currently two companies – Transmac and Transportas Companhia de Macau operate franchised public bus services in Macau.[120] The trishaw, a hybrid of the tricycle and the rickshaw, is also available, though it is mainly for sightseeing purposes. Macau has two public bus operators: Transmac and Transportes Coletivos de Macau, which operate routes covering most of the city, making it the best public transport for traveling inside Macau and its islands. Free Casino Shuttle Buses are everywhere in Macau. Due to tourism being the main economic industry in Macau a majority of the larger hotels provide free round trip shuttle bus services which cover the major tourist sites including the airport, Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal, Taipa Temporary Ferry Terminal and other sites. Some larger hotels such as Venetian Hotel and Holiday Inn even provide a free shuttle between them. The frequency for each route is usually 15 minutes.

The taxi system is noted for having a notoriously poor reputation among tourists and even locals. Common complaints include "constant overcharging, refusal of passengers when the destination or passenger type does not suit the driver, circuitous routes and even violent behaviour".[121] In recent years, the Macau government have been making attempts to hold drivers to a higher standard of service through methods such as undercover police prosecuting drivers who violate the taxi regulations on the spot.[122]

The Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal and the Taipa Ferry Terminal provides cross-border transportation services for passengers travelling between Macau and Hong Kong, while the Yuet Tung Terminal in the Inner Harbour serves those travelling between Macau and cities in mainland China, including Shekou and Shenzhen.[123]

The Macau Light Rail Transit or Macau LRT also known as Metro Ligeiro de Macau is a mass transit system in Macau under construction. It will serve the Macau Peninsula, Taipa and Cotai, serving major border checkpoints such as the Border Gate, the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal, the Lotus Bridge Border and the Macau International Airport. It is planned to open in 2019.

Macau has one active international airport, known as Macau International Airport located at the eastern end of Taipa and neighbouring waters. The airport used to serve as one of the main transit hubs for passengers travelling between mainland China and Taiwan, but now with the introduction of direct flights between those two regions, passenger traffic in this regard has lessened.[124][125] It is the primary hub for Air Macau. In 2006, the airport handled about 5 million passengers.[126]


A fifteen-year free education is currently being offered to residents, that includes a three-year kindergarten, followed by a six-year primary education and a six-year secondary education. The literacy rate of the territory is 93.5%. The illiterates are mainly among the senior residents aged 65 or above; the younger generation, for example the population aged 15–29, has a literacy rate of above 99%.[127] Currently, there is only one school in Macau where Portuguese is the medium of instruction, Macau Portuguese School.

Macau does not have its own region-wide education system; non-tertiary schools follow either the British, the Chinese, Portuguese, or the Canadian education system. There are currently 10 tertiary educational institutions in the region, four of them being public.[128] In 2006, the Programme for International Student Assessment, a worldwide test of 15-year-old schoolchildren's scholastic performance coordinated by OECD, ranked Macau as the fifth and sixth in science and problem solving respectively.[129] Nevertheless, educational attainment in Macau is relatively low when compared to other high income countries. According to the 2006 by-census, among the resident population aged 14 and above, only 51.8% has a secondary education and 12.6% has a tertiary education.[127]

As prescribed by the Macau Basic Law Chapter VI Article 121, the Government of Macau shall, on its own, formulate policies on education, including policies regarding the educational system and its administration, the language of instruction, the allocation of funds, the examination system, the recognition of educational qualifications, and the system of academic awards so as to promote educational development. The government shall also in accordance with law, gradually institute a compulsory education system. Community organizations and individuals may, in accordance with law, run educational undertakings of various kinds.[130]


Macau is served by one major public hospital, the Hospital Conde S. Januário, and one major private hospital, the Kiang Wu Hospital, both located in Macau Peninsula, as well as a university associated hospital called Macau University of Science and Technology Hospital in Cotai. In addition to hospitals, Macau also has numerous health centres providing free basic medical care to residents. Consultation in traditional Chinese medicine is also available.[131]

None of the Macau hospitals are independently assessed through international healthcare accreditation. There are no western-style medical schools in Macau, and thus all aspiring physicians in Macau have to obtain their education and qualification elsewhere.[128] Local nurses are trained at the Macau Polytechnic Institute and the Kiang Wu Nursing College.[132][133] Currently there are no training courses in midwifery in Macau.[citation needed] A study by the University of Macau, commissioned by the Macau SAR government, concluded that Macau is too small to have its own medical specialist training centre.[134]

The Macau Corps of Firefighters (Portuguese: Corpo de Bombeiros de Macau) is responsible for ambulance service (Ambulância de Macau). The Macau Red Cross also operates ambulances (Toyota HiAce vans) for emergency and non-emergencies to local hospitals with volunteer staff. The organization has a total of 739 uniformed firefighters and paramedics serving from 7 stations in Macau.[135]

The Health Bureau in Macau is mainly responsible for coordinating the activities between the public and private organizations in the area of public health, and assure the health of citizens through specialized and primary health care services, as well as disease prevention and health promotion.[136] The Macau Centre for Disease Control and Prevention was established in 2001, which monitors the operation of hospitals, health centres, and the blood transfusion centre in Macau. It also handles the organization of care and prevention of diseases affecting the population, sets guidelines for hospitals and private healthcare providers, and issues licences.[137]

As of 2016 Macau healthcare authorities send patients to Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong in instances where the local Macau hospitals are not equipped to deal with their scenarios, and many Macau residents intentionally seek healthcare in Hong Kong because they place more trust in Hong Kong doctors than in Mainland-trained doctors operating in Macau.[134]


The mixing of the Chinese and Portuguese cultures and religious traditions for more than four centuries has left Macau with an inimitable collection of holidays, festivals and events. The biggest event of the year is the Macau Grand Prix in November,[138] when the main streets in Macau Peninsula are converted to a racetrack bearing similarities with the Monaco Grand Prix. Other annual events include Macau Arts festival in March, the International Fireworks Display Contest in September, the International Music festival in October and/or November, and the Macau International Marathon in December.

The Lunar Chinese New Year is the most important traditional festival and celebration normally takes place in late January or early February.[139] The Pou Tai Un Temple in Taipa is the place for the Feast of Tou Tei, the Earth god, in February. The Procession of the Passion of Our Lord is a well-known Roman Catholic rite and journey, which travels from Saint Austin's Church to the Cathedral, also taking place in February.[140]

A-Ma Temple, which honours the Goddess Matsu, is in full swing in April with many worshippers celebrating the A-Ma festival. In May it is common to see dancing dragons at the Feast of the Drunken Dragon and twinkling-clean Buddhas at the Feast of the Bathing of Lord Buddha. In Coloane Village, the Taoist god Tam Kong is also honoured on the same day.[140] Dragon Boat festival is brought into play on Nam Van Lake in June and Hungry Ghosts' festival, in late August and/or early September every year. All events and festivities of the year end with Winter Solstice in December.

Macau preserves many historical properties in the urban area. The Historic Centre of Macau, which includes some twenty-five historic locations, was officially listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on 15 July 2005 during the 29th session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Durban, South Africa.[141] However, the Macao government is criticized for ignoring the conservation of heritage in urban planning.[142] In 2007, local residents of Macao wrote a letter to UNESCO complaining about construction projects around world heritage Guia Lighthouse (Focal height 108 meters), including the headquarter of the Liaison Office (91 meters). UNESCO then issued a warning to the Macau government, which led former Chief Executive Edmund Ho to sign a notice regulating height restrictions on buildings around the site.[143] In 2015, the New Macau Association submitted a report to UNESCO claiming that the government had failed to protect Macao's cultural heritage against threats by urban development projects. One of the main examples of the report is that the headquarter of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government, which is located on the Guia foothill and obstructs the view of the Guia Fortress (one of the world heritages symbols of Macao). One year later, Roni Amelan, a spokesman from UNESCO Press service, said that the UNESCO has asked China for information and is still waiting for a reply.[144][143] In 2016, the Macau government approved an 81-meter construction limit for the residential project, which reportedly goes against the city's regulations on the height of buildings around world heritage site Guia Lighthouse.[143]

The view of Guia Lighthouse (center of the picture) is blocked by the headquarter of the Macau Liaison Office. The Guia Lighthouse case proved that the Macao government had ignored the conservation of heritage in urban planning.[142]
Dom Pedro V theatre.


Local cooking in Macau consists of a blend of Cantonese and Portuguese cuisines. Many unique dishes resulted from the spice blends that the wives of Portuguese sailors used in an attempt to replicate European dishes. Its ingredients and seasonings include those from Europe, South America, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, as well as local Chinese ingredients.[145] Typically, Macanese food is seasoned with various spices and flavours including turmeric, coconut milk, cinnamon and bacalhau, giving special aromas and tastes.[146] Famous dishes include minchi, capella, galinha à Portuguesa, galinha à Africana (African chicken), bacalhau, Macanese chili shrimps and stir-fry curry crab. Pork chop bun, ginger milk and Portuguese-style egg tart are also very popular in Macau.[147]


2008 Macau F3 Grand Prix in progress

In general, football (soccer) has the greatest popularity in Macau, which has a representative international side, the Macau national football team. The Liga de Elite is the city's semi-professional league, where the "Big Three" professional football clubs of Portugal have their own branches: S.L. Benfica de Macau, Sporting Clube de Macau, and FC Porto de Macau, although Porto has not participated in the league since 2012.

Another common sport is rink hockey, which is often practised by the Portuguese. The national team of Macau is the most powerful of Asia, always participates in the Rink Hockey World Championship in B category and has many Rink Hockey Asian Championship titles. The last Championship was won in Lishui, Zhejiang, at the 2016 Asian Roller Hockey Championship. Macau also has a basketball team, which qualified for the Asian Basketball Championship twice.

The automobile racing event Macau Grand Prix is arguably the most important international sporting event in Macau, mainly with Formula 3, motorcycle road racing and touring car races.

Since 1989, Macau owns a thoroughbred horse racing track called Taipa Racecourse operated by the Macau Jockey Club. The racecourse has a 15,000-seat grandstand.

Twin towns and sister cities[edit]

Macau has six sister cities, listed chronologically by year joined:[148]

Additionally, Macau has other cultural agreements with the following cities:

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ a b No specific variety of Chinese is official in the territory. Residents predominantly speak Cantonese, the de facto regional standard.
  2. ^ a b For all government use, documents written using Traditional Chinese characters are authoritative over ones inscribed with Simplified Chinese characters. Portuguese shares equal status with Chinese in all official proceedings.
  3. ^ The UN does not calculate the HDI of Macau. The government of Macau calculates its own HDI.[5]


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Government reports[edit]

Academic publications[edit]



News articles[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Berlie, Jean A. (2000). Macau's overview at the turn of the century. St. John's University Institute of Asian Studies editor, New York.
  • De Pina-Cabral (2002). Between China and Europe: Person, Culture and Emotion in Macau. Berg Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8264-5749-3.
  • Eayrs, James (2003). Macau Foreign Policy and Government Guide. International Business Publications, United States. ISBN 978-0-7397-6451-0.

External links[edit]


Coordinates: 22°10′N 113°33′E / 22.167°N 113.550°E / 22.167; 113.550


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