By Huang Hanquiang*

(Speech given at the Conference on Social Sciences of Macau, held at the University of Zhongshan in Guangzhou, on 16th July 1987).

For the first time ever the academic institutions of Guangdong Province and Macau have held a joint meeting on studies. It is rather important that such an event -called Conference on Social Sciences of Macau - be promoted in order to study Macau's social-cultural reality.

Having in mind what I have been requested, I am going to offer a general but yet short approach to some of the problems and opinions, both studied and brought up within the Social Sciences Association of Macau (hereinafter referred to as 'SSAM') whose members, together with Macanese academics have lately made Macau the object of their studies.

In the past, there have not been many people who dedicated themselves to the sociological research. However, since the academic circles have started to wake up to social studies, SSAM (since the date of its foundation) has been in the vanguard. In the last two years and thanks to the important support given by the Government of Macau, it has started the publication of a research magazine, 'Hou Keng', and held several meetings.

SSAM is, however, in its early days for a systematic and comprehensive research into Macau's society. This is due mainly to the fact that its members are mostly amateurs and therefore they can only spare a few hours of their daily life to the investigation. Most probably, some important issues might be overlooked by me, I trust this address will meet its goal in helping those present to understand the social trend of Macau.

I would start by outlining them:

1. Survey;

2. History;

3. Economy;

4. Legal System and Political-Administrative Frame;

5. Education and Culture.


Although the academic circles had many different views on Macau society, they all agree that Macau is a very particular society due to its geographical conditions, history, economic development and cultural background. Historically, Macau was the first and the oldest of China's Special Zones which opened to the outside world and was later leased to the Portuguese. Currently it is a Chinese territory under Portuguese administration, and as of 20th December 1999 it will become a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China for which a transition period is to start at medium term.

Physically, the overall area of Macau is but 16.92 sq. km, with a population of 426,400 inhabitants (according to the late 1986 census) and its density is 25,200 people per square kilometer. Macau is a harbour city although the sea is just 0.5m deep at low tide.

The dredged channel giving way to the Inner Harbour is 3 to 5m deep only and 50m wide while the access channel to the Outer Harbour is 5 to 7m deep and 70m wide.

From the above, one can easily realize the existing lack of space (mainly in terms of deep-water harbours) and natural resources which, together with a huge population pyramid, create very unfavourable conditions for the economic growth of Macau.

It should be stressed that before 1842 Macau used to be the biggest international trading emporium in the Far East being the port-of-call of China's foreign trade and it was therefore the economic interchange centre between the East and the West.

Since the seventies (20th century), Macau has been a very active 'little dragon' in Asia, serving as China's gateway to the outside world.

From 1971 to 1981, Macau has recorded a soaring economic growth, becoming one of the world's fastest economic growth regions with average rates of 16.7% per annum.

Apart from a few financial years, these rates have been kept for most of the eighties. In its first five years, the gross product income has recorded an average growth of 8.8% which has put Macau ahead of all Asian countries. The annual income per capita in 82 and 83 was US $2,600, which placed Macau on the fiftieth place among 180 countries and regions in the world and fifth in Asia. Despite dropping to the sixth place (behind Brunei, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan), Macau is not that far from the 'four little Asian dragons' in terms of economic growth, and today it is indeed a 'little dragon'in Asia.

The political system of Macau is very complex and sui generis - a mixture of colonialism, Western democracy and traditional Chinese paternalism.

In the cultural field, Macau was the first Western catholic province in the Far East, a crossroad between Eastern and Western cultures. Nowadays it is a history museum, a cultural town marked by long time fusion of those cultures for four hundred years.

As regards the above, the circles of social sciences are of the general opinion that Macau far from being a barren desert, is rather a rich source yet to be explored.

Thus, our objective is a comprehensive and systematic investigation aimed at serving, pursuant to the guiding principle 'science and democracy' and the criterion approach 'opening to society without running away from reality'. This is an historical objective that must be achieved.


As an historic perspective, the SSAM members (who pay special attention to the economy and culture) basically accept the point of view that Macau was the first and oldest of China's special zones to open to the outside world and are investigating the role it played in the development of China. This encompasses the appraisal of the historic action that the Portuguese people, who came to the East and settled in Macau, have carried out. Also under investigation are the zone's origin and policies applied thereto in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

One aspect must be highlighted; the Portuguese, who made Macau a trading port, played the role of cultural interchange promoters, and at the same time paved the way to the development of capitalism in China and its scientific and cultural progress. This was the positive and major aspect of the period from 1557 to 1846.

Since most erudite people have given priority to the economic development in Macau, the study of its economy is relatively systematized.

As regards the chronological characterization of the economic history of Macau, two views have been proposed which I will refer to below.

One states that the Macau's economic history has two main periods, the ancient and the contemporary.

The first runs from 1557 (the year in which the Portuguese settled in Macau) to 1644, by the end of the Ming Dynasty. It covers the most prosperous phase of foreign trade. The main reasons behind are:

1) At the time, Macau was the best equipped harbour for man-of-war ships;

2) In its wide inland, Macau had a large market for consumer goods;

3) During the Ming Dynasty in Macau (known as 'Hua Wai Zi Qu', an area of naturalized foreigners) special policies were applied and the Portuguese set up a privileged policy for commerce whereby sea trading was enhanced.

In the second period, running from 1644 (at the beginning of the Qing Dynasty) to the beginning of the 20thcentury, Macau's foreign trade slumped. This period is supposed to have had the following sub-divisions: from 1644 (when Emperor Shun Zhi sworn in) to 1683 (the twentieth year of Emperor Kang Xi's reign). In the first phase, Macau's trade slowed down, compared to the strength shown in the Ming Dynasty. This was due to the restrictions imposed by the Qing's court on sea traffic and the weakening of Portugal. In the second phase, from 1683 (the twenty-third year of Emperor Dao Guang's reign) the opium war broke out. While some powers -Holland, United Kingdom, United States and France -were trying to gain power in Macau, the Qing's court lifted the sea trading bans in exchange for Portuguese support, but this proved useless in stopping the decline of Macau's economy. In the third phase, from 1840 to date, the geographical features of Macau were the major problem as they did not favour the development of foreign trade and Macau's economy therefore entered a radical period of decline.

The second view sets up four periods in Macau's economic history, i. e., from 1557 to date:

- The period of great economic growth, from 1557 till the end of the Sino-British Opium War, based on the export trade of commercial commodities and it is therefore called the period of trading economy;

- The period of decline in economy, from 1842 (end of Opium War) till the 40s of the 20th century. The sudden emergence of Hong Kong and the official opening to the outside world of 34 by-coastal towns in China, imposed a set-back to Macau's foreign trade which, in view of the decline, resorted to substitutes, like opium and manpower traffic, and later to prostitution, drugs and gambling which were to become tourist attractions. The economy of this period could be characterized by the mixing of specific tourism with a specific trading activity;

- The period of renaissance, dating from the end of World War II till the end of the sixties, in which, because of internal and external changes, Macau's economy started to change shape; on one hand Portugal issued a decree (1961) authorizing gambling as an 'exceptional entertainment' and this caused gambling and tourism to soar; on the other hand a network of industrial units started to build up (among others, garment, handbag, furniture and chinaware factories);

- The period to date, with a few set-backs but tending to raise the economic level.

In this period, the West and Hong Kong (mainly) have recorded a fast economic growth which has pushed Macau's economic growth forward; both the successful Portuguese revolution in 1974 and the progressive decolonization forced Macau's conservative administration to change and the Chinese Government started, late in the seventies, to adopt a program of reforms and a policy of openness to the world. Macau's economic development was given a thrust by these national and international factors.

In this respect, attention should be drawn to the industrial growth as it became the economic strength of Macau, and this brought Macau to the edge of industrialization.

On the political side, we have three different views on the settlement and conditions of the Portuguese in Macau.

The first supports the view that the Portuguese invaded Macau as a colonialist power. No pretexts are allowed as it considers it a colonialist invasion at the end of its apogee.

The second considers that the Portuguese settlement was different from the British invasion of Hong Kong. In the middle of the 16th century, when capitalist production relations were building up in the feudal society, the rising bourgeoisie longed for new maritime routes in order to expand the overseas markets by exploring gold and silver mines and accumulating capital. Feeling the same need, the Portuguese colonialists discovered the route linking Europe to Asia by sea. They then arrived in Macau, where they witnessed the Ming Dynasty's prosperous period, with a desire to penetrate the Chinese market and facilitate trading relations between the East and the West.

To achieve that they had to rent a piece of land as a base for their business activity. They neither occupied Macau by force as China continued to be its sovereign, nor invaded it to make it a colony. The Court's high officials were only expelled from Macau by the Governor João Ferreira do Amaral in 1846, and only then everything changed.

The third view states that the Portuguese came to Macau and took it over because they had helped the Chinese to fight the pirates who used to plunder around the Pearl River estuary. Macau served therefore as a gift to the Portuguese presented by China's emperor. This point of view has been, however, contested by Chinese academics who say that that is a fiction tending to distort the historical facts.

The above three different views are worthy of deep study by Macau historians.


Economic Structure Features - Advantages.

The economic structure of Macau has three major components: industry, tourism and civil construction (some also add the financial sector).

It is a small economy characterized by the rules of a free market and an openness to the outside world. Its survival depends directly on its relations with the Western markets (trading and tourism markets). It is therefore an economic model which has slowly developed within the historical conditions of Macau.

In general, a small economy has large adaptability, vitality and survival potential.

Furthermore, the economy of Macau, strengthened by the industrial and tourism sectors and set up to meet the Western markets' demand, has a rather unusual degree of vitality. However, in order that these factors and competitive ability may be used in the international markets the following conditions must be conformed to:

1. Workability and modernity of infrastructures fundamental to the free economic system (transport, communications and finance).

2. General conditions offering free competition and investment incentives (reduction and elimination of taxes).

3. Access to the widest network of foreign markets with privileges (Macau's industrial products are currently being exported to over 90 countries and regions).

4. To secure the endless supply of cheap manpower, production means and raw materials.

5. To adapt its special historical, social and geographical conditions to the neighbouring geo-economic frame as it is located in the middle of a region which scores the world's fastest economic growth.

The large economic progress of Macau, since the seventies, which has now its place among 'Asian little dragons', is due to the conjunction of national and international factors.

Currently, Macau's economic development is facing its fourth historical turning point, caused by the change in the objective and subjective conditions which will lead to a gradual fall in the favourable conditions, according to some erudites.

Below are some guidelines to this changing framework:

- Recently, China has adopted a reformist policy with the opening of its borders, ending the isolationist policy in force for many years. After Hong Kong, Macau will no longer be a privileged gateway linking China to the outside. On the other hand, it must be stressed that the opening of more coastal and inland towns and regions of China, the flexibility of certain policies, cheap manpower, touristic promotion and operation, are factors that attract investments from several countries, including those of Hong Kong and Macau.

Macau no longer has a privileged relation with Hong Kong in terms of investment, tourism and industry. Besides, a portion of Macau's capital and industrial production has been absorbed by the Pearl River Delta, mainly Zhuhai's Special Economic Zone where an attractive environment has been set up for investors. History tells us that everytime China opens its coastal cities, the strategic importance of Macau as a doorway between the mainland and foreign countries weakens and consequently the development of Macau slows down or even comes to a standstill.

The concentration of capital and new technologies, being the world's new trend in terms of economic development, is once again threatening the income and labour demand. Protectionism tends to grow, affecting the sales of products of those industrial sectors where production requires a large amount of manpower. In view of the above, there are some doubts about Macau's industrial development since its goal is the optimum exportation of its products.

Pursuant to the Sino-Portuguese agreement on the future of Macau and the principle of 'one country two systems', Macau's historical path is now changing more abruptly than ever before.

This is the present belief of the Macau population while, at the same time, the economic development of this region is undergoing a trial.

With this historical turning point, one gets a clear view of the restraints that a small economy like Macau's is subject to an incorporating new technology and reaching new markets. It is foreseen that an increase in the ability to adapt the system will cease.

With this turning point and 'the critical conditions from inside and outside', Macau's economic development faces new disturbances and problems:

- How is the shortage of manpower going to be solved (Macau lacks 20 to 30 thousand workers in the industrial sector alone)?

- How can one deal with Chinese competition, improve the investment opportunities and increase the product's competitiveness?

- How are the problems of a shallow-water harbour and the lack of space for infrastructures going to be solved?

- How to perform the adequate reform having in mind the internal and external changes?

Economic Reform

As regards economic reform, the following four perspectives are presented:

1. Conversion of the industrial sectors dependant upon abundant manpower, into high technology industry aimed at making Macau's industrial production more sophisticated.

2. Reduction of the relative weight of those sectors in the overall economy which should be directed to a modern tourism model.

3. Transformation of Macau into a special economic zone like Bermuda.

4. Keeping the present economic model, improving its expertise and technological standards as well as the production quality by increasing the demand in the local market and promoting the population growth to a million.

The last perspective is supported by the majority, although some disagree with the population growth.

Economy's Three Pillars Industry

In 1984 and 1986, Macau's industry represented 36.9% and 38.1% respectively of the overall production turnover, and it is therefore considered the first pillar. In general, Macau's industrial system has the following features: free investment (60% of investment originated from Hong Kong); small economic agents (average below 54 jobs per production unit of which 30% had less than 4 employees, according to 1983 statistics); predominance of light industry (1983) with the manufacturing industry reaching 93.4% of the total turnover in which the textile and garment represented 64.7%. Manpower concentration, average fixed capital per production unit under MOP 880,000, low automation ability in respect of existing machinery (the production being mainly manual); imports of production means and exports of 90% of the products. The above show the advantages and restraints of Macau's industry.

The advantages can be described as follows: quick adaptation, ability to export, need for large amount of manpower, ability to mobilize human, natural and financial resources. Thanks to them, for a certain period of time, the industry was able to expand rapidly and this, in turn, accelerated the improvement in the population's standard of living as well as allowing for a fast return on small investments.

The small size of the system is however a limitation that is making difficult the introduction on a large scale of new technologies and advanced management methods needed to answer ever increasing competition and Western protectionism; converting the industry and reaching new markets is therefore harder and harder.

The manpower shortage is also a difficult problem to solve at short notice.

Then, how can Macau's industry meet today's needs? What is its future? These are the questions asked by those who worry about the matter.

As regards the need to re-formulate Macau's industry, some people say it is a difficult and needless task. It would be better if the existing advantages of small-sized companies could be maximized as well as making the best of the quotas market and privileged rates. Yet some think exactly the opposite: survival depends always upon the ability to adapt oneself to changes and challenges, and it should really be done as the pressure on Macau's economy is growing everyday. It must be reformed as quickly as possible.

Three views govern such reform:

1. To economize on manpower and increase production efficiency; only a technical modernization is required if the same industrial framework is to be kept;

2. To reform radically Macau's industry by creating an industrial sector of specific technology with specialized production, similar to the Swiss watch industry;

3. A conservative approach favours the old principle whereby Macau was able to set up its garment and textile industry and penetrate the world market, 'I take what others abandon'. The same principle should apply when reforming its industry, trying to adopt a hybrid industrial system with manpower and technology, a trend adopted by most of the Third World countries but the industrialized ones. The above proposals should be coordinated in order to get to an overall solution: how to reform Macau's industry, improve investment conditions, the transport system and the development of Taipa and Coloane.

Four opinions on the solution of manpower shortage:

1. It is generally thought that Macau lacks no manpower, but the truth is that due to the low salaries being paid, many people prefer to operate as middlemen, the so--called 'Shui Ke' (people who buy in Macau and re-sell in Gongbei or vice-versa) rather than being employed by someone else. To avoid this, huge salary increments are therefore recommended.

2. It is also thought that the modernization and introduction of new technologies will lay off automatically large number of manpower as manual jobs will be lost to mechanization;

3. It is considered that the shortage of manpower is a structural fact. However, the factories here are unable to raise the wages. Therefore, we would request the Chinese government to permit, at a certain stage, people to come and settle in Macau provided that those who are granted permit should be young and strong skilled workers.

4. On the other hand, as regards the above proposal, it must be stressed that this increase in population may worsen the population burden in Macau. It is not yet known whether that population as a whole can be employed in the industrial sector.

Although manpower imports from China's inner regions, in secondment, is recommended, the best solution would be the construction of dormitory blocks in Gongbei where they could spend the night and leave for Macau in the morning.

With this, the social burden would be lessened in addition to securing the manpower that Macau's industry needs.


In general, the main features of Macau's tourism are freedom, openness to foreigners and a wide selection of attraction and tourism assistance programs. Nevertheless, the biggest attractions are gambling and traditional entertaining festivals. Macau's tourism is still growing and is a source of foreign currency and revenue to the Government of Macau.

Last years' records show that an average of 4 million tourists/year visited Macau from Hong Kong (including Hong Kong people) 1 million of which were in transit to other countries. In accordance with a survey carried out by the Tourism Department of Macau in 1984, each visitor spends approximately MOP 800, exclusive of gambling. Every year, the tourism business provides Macau with over MOP 2,600 million (USD 350 million). Bearing in mind the existing area available (around 16 sqKm) Macau's population (approximately 400,000 inhabitants) the balance of arrivals and foreign currency is very significant even when compared with the world's most developed countries in terms of tourism.

As regards the future perspective, some say that due to Macau's peculiar attractions tourism will develop for sure. However, others think that the tourism boom of the neighbouring regions, mainly on the continent, which tends to facilitate the arrival and departure of foreign visitors, is becoming a negative factor to Macau's tourism. If that is so, Macau must mobilize all available resources to promote its image worldwide.

Firstly, some say, it is necessary to increase the variety of entertainments; others think that apart from being a modern city in terms of gambling opportunities and the Far East's garden city, Macau has to look after its monuments. It is also suggested that as we are entering a transition period, Macau should adopt the principle of 'one country, two systems' to attract even more tourists.

Among all the proposals aimed at expanding Macau's tourism the one supporting the development of the link between the small touristic triangle (Macau - Zhuhai-Zhougshan) and the large touristic triangle (Guangdong- Hong Kong - Macau) as well as coordinating and improving the co-operation of Macau with those regions is the most important.

Civil Construction

Macau's academic circles have yet to carry out a comprehensive analysis on the civil construction, one of the three pillars of Macau's economy. There are however three major issues that call for a serious study:

1. The relation between the protection of monuments and the development of civil construction is of major importance as it will be reflected in the city's urban plan;

2. The setting up of the differences betwen civil construction, industry and tourism since civil construction supplies an internal market only. How can it be expanded to reach foreign markets?

3. The design of a plan having in mind the provision of housing for all the population.


Macau academics have never been too involved in the study of the Territory's legal system and politics because all the information available is written in Portuguese. This approach must be changed.

Since Macau is about to adopt the 'one country, two systems policy', the systematic study of Portugal and Macau's legal system should start as soon as possible.

The analysis on Macau politics does not have any relevant contribution or systematization either. It is commonly accepted that it is a rather special system comprised of colonialism domain, capitalist democracy and China's feudal patriarchism.

1. Macau's current political system is based on three independent powers: legislative, administrative and judicial. A third of the members of the Legislative Assembly is elected through direct polls, a third is chosen by the associations and the remaining third is appointed by the Governor, who controls a significant portion of the legislative power. One should be aware that the Governor holds almost absolute power since he can only be appointed or dismissed by the President of Portugal. Any bill proposed, debated and approved by the Legislative Assembly can only be enforced if signed by him.

The Governor is also empowered to propose the dismissal of Macau's Legislative Assembly to the President of Portugal.

As regards its classification, some people think that Macau's political system is based on the formula below: 'Three independent powers, limited proportion of members and absolute power of the Governor'. The main power is the State.

The anti-colonialism policy whereby Macau was declared to be a Chinese territory under Portuguese administration was implemented after the 1974 revolution in Portugal. Only then was a democratic element added to Macau's political system.

Speaking of its nature, some say that Macau's political system is colonial open policy if compared with colonial totalitarism, i. e., a colonial democratic system, a model of transition from dictatorship to democracy. This exceptional political system still should remain in force in the historical period that Macau is currently entering.

Other people say that 2 years after the 1974 revolution, Macau's colonial system was completely abolished both in theory and practice.

However many people still see Macau as a 100% colonial system.

2. Features and nature of the future political system of the Special Administrative Region of Macau.

Pursuant to the provisions on the Special Administrative Region of Macau set out in the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration on the Future of Macau, and taking into consideration the current system, some people think that this frame corresponds to the current historical development although in some cases it is contrary to the present needs and the economic development.

Take for instance the democratic insufficiency, the disequilibrium of three powers and inefficiency of public service. In future, the political system of the Special Administrative Region of Macau must broadly keep the current system's pattern. It must do away with the colonial component and at the same time introduce a new capitalist democratic system. This should offer the Macau people a greater autonomy allowing the promotion of individual well being as well as fulfilling the needs of economic and social progress. The Region's political system should be a capitalist one, but the adoption of any imported model should be ruled out.

It will be the bourgeoisie's political system which allows the participation of all social strata emphasizing the role of democratic capitalist freedom. These should be the main features of the future political system of Macau; it would then be known as democratic system ruled by the bourgeoisie.

Meanwhile, some favour future political power should be elected as it can neither be a class political power nor a class dictatorship.

The political system of Macau's Special Region will keep the three powers independent, and this should be secured in formal and practical terms.

That is the only way to assure a reciprocal moderation, to prevent a too powerful government arising, and preserve the principles of a greater autonomy for Macau people as the 'one country, two systems' matrix.

The participation of people born in Macau, Portuguese nationals, shall also be secured, taking into consideration their own interests. This will be very important in view of the principle 'one country, two systems'.

The following aspects should also be considered:

1. In the transition period, the political system's reform will be carried out under Portuguese rule and it is necessary that Portuguese interests be protected;

2. Until 20th December 1999, when Portugal gives up Macau, there will be huge technical problems in carrying out the reform; which will be accompanied by an obsolete administrative system that Macau people must improve.

In view of the foregoing, it would be better if a provisional government is set up after the transfer of the political power in order to remedy the old system and carry out the necessary reforms. The Special Administrative Region's government would then be formed at an opportune time.

It would also be an asset if the relations between the present and future systems are properly known and understood, in order to lead the reform process in the transition period. It is the relation between inheriting, reforming and developing. Inheriting what may favour the society's stability and prosperity; reforming what prevents the society's progress and developing all positive factors. Thus, the reform established in the transition period must be a limited one, rather than a radical one, because the main objective should be keeping stability and promoting progress.

In short, pursuant to the principles set out in the Sino-Portuguese Agreement, the reform shall end the colonial system and localize and democratize the administration.

Localizing the political system means the gradual transfer of Macau's administrative power to be executed and controlled by Macau people. Localization covers three areas: language, legislation and civil service.

Currently, the official language in Macau is Portuguese. However, over 90% of its inhabitants speak Chinese which has yet to be accepted as the official language. There is therefore a big gap between the Chinese community and the Government. Localizing the political system should start with the language issue, i. e., make the Chinese language official, otherwise it will be very difficult to localize the other areas.

Presently, the Government is introducing a 'bilingual' policy which is considered to be a very important step.

Localizing the legislation should bear in mind the following:

1. In view of the reality of Macau, an analysis of the whole juridical system should be made in order to select the most suitable laws and revise the outdated or unsuitable ones;

2. Improvement of the legal system by amending obsolete laws and passing new laws to fill the existing gaps;

3. Translation into Chinese of all laws and decrees in force giving both versions equal value for legal purposes. A list of priorities should then be drawn up.

Localizing the civil service should follow the steps below:

1. Percentage of civil servants to increase step by step to over 90%.

2. Gradual increase in the number of Chinese civil servants which should reach a percentage of 60 to 70% of all civil servants;

3. Progressive knowledge of both written and spoken Chinese by the Portuguese descendants born in Macau.

Democratization should be based on the principles of respect for human beings and human rights. This calls for an improvement in the electoral system, perfection of the legal system and assurance of freedom.

Reforming the election system includes the improvement in the election of the members of the Legislative Assembly as well as the Leal Senado's Managing Committee. This would be aimed at reducing gradually the percentage of members appointed, increasing therefore the percentage of members directly elected and adapting it to the Basic Law provisions.

Improving the juridical system will mean, basically, re-inforcing the power of judiciary and its independence.

As regards the right of freedom, it is thought that the existing framework should be kept intact, with further extensions at a later stage.

Some people think that Macau people should be given more than one nationality in order to meet today's needs and re-inforce Macau's identity as an international city and also preserve Macau's own reality and history.

Localization and democratization wise, there are some views that are supposed to promote the economic stability and prosperity of Macau, as well as keeping capitalism unchanged in the 50 year transition period.

The present task should be to train local staff and help them to grow in civic awareness. This is a basic factor in any political reform as it will attract people to participate in politics.

The reform of the political system has been the subject of some proposals, like the revision of Macau's Administrative Law. This includes the increase from 10 to 12 the number of directly and indirectly elected members, the setting up of new posts like Under-Secretary General and Assistant Under-Secretary to the Government.


In general, Macau academics have researched culture and art's past history rather than their present status. As regards the study of the present Culture and Education, more emphasis has been put on the latter.

Macau contributions

to the cultural interchange

between China and the West.

Historically, Western culture in China and Chinese culture in the West were mainly spread by the catholic missionaries.

The first catholic diocese in the Far East was established in Macau in 1575. Prior to that, in 1568, D. Belchior Carneiro, the first Macau bishop, had arrived in Macau.

St. Paul's Cathedral, a cultural interchange centre between China and the West, is the key to Macau's past culture.

Historians say that in 1594, St. Paul's Cathedral housed the 'Madre de Deus' College which was later to be considered a University due to the number of syllabuses taught there. Destroyed one year after its foundation, it was once again devastated by fire in 1601. Its re-construction started in 1602 but the Church's façade was only completed late, in 1640. In 1834, the cathedral was again burnt down when it was struck by lightning.

In spite of these mishaps, it played an important role in the cultural interchange betwen China and the West, for over 200 years, thanks to the Jesuits that came and lived there. Once in Macau, the missionaries would go straight to the cathedral where they could learn the Chinese language and study its culture. Whenever they faced problems in their mission of propagating the Faith in China, or for any other reason, they could always come back and make a deep study of other subjects. Many were experts in Music and in Arts and all of them were important messengers of the Sino-Western cultural relationship.

Pursuant to historical documents, many Jesuits, remarkable men of culture, completed their studies in that Cathedral. The following are some of those men who had the privilege to benefit from it: You Wenhui (Chinese, Western Literature researcher); Wu Li (scholar, Chinese); Eduardo de Sande, João Soeiro, Gaspar Ferreira, Gabriel de Magalhães, António da Silva and Tomás Pereira (all Portuguese); Matteo Ricci, Giuseppe Castiglione, Alexandre Valignani, Michele Ruggieri, Lazaro Cattaneo and Sabatino de Ursis (all Italian); Nicolas Goubil, Jean Régis, Romanus Hinderer, Antonius Goubil, Jean-Joseph-Marie Amiot and Michel Benoist (all French); Jean Terrenz Terrentio (German) and Ferdinandus Verbiest (Belgian). It should be stressed that Nicolas Goubil arrived in Macau in 1610, carrying 7,000 valuable books which later were taken into China. These were books on astronomy and almanacs.

St. Paul's Jesuits not only took into China original books but also Chinese translations and dictionaries made by them. Thanks to this prestigious institution, China could receive Western knowledge on Astronomy, Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Medicine, Painting, Music, Architecture, Fine Arts, armoury, war technics and Latin which later influenced the Chinese phonetics.

On the other hand, the Chinese culture was propagated in the West through the Jesuit mission who used to publish articles on China in their Annual Letters. It also studied the Chinese culture in general and in particular Confucius' doctrine, translated Chinese classical works, made dictionaries and introduced the Chinese horticultural art into Europe.

From the above one can realize the important role that Macau played in the cultural interchange between the West and the East.


In short, there are three major problems that are now under study and research:

1. Shortage of skilled people. Education at University level was set up only in 1981. There are a few government schools and a lot of private ones.

Compulsory education has yet to be introduced.

Most of the teachers have not received a proper education or had any specific pedagogic training. The education level is low. Also, the teachers' performance is low due to the poor conditions.

2. The education system requires modernization. It needs a standardized examination system and a single body to manage it. The number of study rooms and libraries must also be increased.

3. It is of great importance that Education be promoted rapidly in order to train people for the transition period. Besides, Mandarin and Civic Education should be made compulsory in all schools.

As I am about to end my short speech, I would be most obliged if the Macau academics could now comment on any of the issues that I may have failed to cover.

Translated by José da Silva Vieira

*President of the Association of Social Studies of Macau.

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