2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 350

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Domestic Politics and External Links in China’s Macao Transformed

Organizer: Eilo Wing-yat Yu, University of Macau, Macau

Chair: Ming K. Chan, Stanford University, USA

Discussant: Ming K. Chan, Stanford University, USA

Since its 1999 retrocession, developments in China’s Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) have been dramatic. Its economy has enjoyed double-digit growth since the 2002 gambling liberation. Macao’s GDP per capita surpassed Hong Kong’s while gambling revenue outstripped Las Vegas’ in 2006. This panel offers penetrating analysis of key dimensions of the transformations reshaping China’s Macao in domestic political dynamics and external strategic interface. Many assume that Macao’s economic growth would improve the local quality of life and contribute to social harmony. Instead, rapid economic growth has intensified social tension and challenged governance. Based on surveys and interviews, Hao’s paper explores social stratification and critiques regime response to alleviating public dissatisfaction. The blossoming of information and communication technologies has heightened Macao youth’s political engagement. The rise of youth activism poses a new challenge to the MSAR regime, as illuminated in Yu’s paper that pinpoints cyber politics-social mobilization dynamics in a partial democratic system. Law and order maintenance has been a prime concern to the Macao populace since the 1990s transition to SAR era. Crucial to local stability, Ho’s paper examines the reforms in MSAR policing under the colonial legacies of intra-force divides, corruption and dubious effectiveness that necessitated the stationing of PRC troops. Matias’ paper highlighted how its SAR status opened new horizon for Macao’s global reach as Beijing-designated platform for the expanding Sino-Lusophone bloc partnership the includes Brazil and Angola. Collectively, these papers magnify internal and external political changes in post-colonial Macao under the PRC’s “One Country, Two Systems” formula.

E-Politics and the Rising Tide of Macao Youth Activism
Eilo Wing-yat Yu, University of Macau, Macau

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are deemed to have significant impacts on political communication and popular movements. Recent studies have shown that ICTs have created favorable platforms and effective channels for youth engagement in politics and have become major tools and vital means for political mobilization. For the 1 May 2010 demonstration, a group of Macao young activists deployed ICTs to mobilize hundreds of youth to protest against regime policies. Afterward, protest participants inaugurated the pro-democracy group Macao Youth Dynamics (MYD) and have continued to use the Internet for political communication and collective actions. The rise of pro-democracy young activists prompted the local pro-Beijing camp to promote its young members’ participation in local politics. This paper charts the dramatic rise of Macao youth activism among both pro-democracy and pro-Beijing circles in the post-colonial era and illuminates how such groups have exploited the Internet as an effective political campaign platform. It will present survey findings from focus groups encompassing university students whose understanding and use of ICTs for political engagement were asked. This paper will conclude that pro-democracy and pro-Beijing forces in China’s Macao are undergoing a transition in leadership succession process while their political campaigns no longer can rely on traditional community services and old-fashioned mobilization approaches as they are fast extending into the cyber world.

Social Tension and REgime Response in Post-colonial Macao
Zhidong Hao, University of Macau, Macau

Macao society is faced with a widening gap between the rich and the poor, resulting in increased social dissatisfaction. The Macao SAR government is trying to alleviate the dissatisfaction by means like cash payments and subsidies to residents. But it looks like they function only like a band aid and do not have much long term effect to address the root causes. This paper will delineate how Macao society is stratified in terms of power, wealth and prestige and what it means for social mobility. It will investigate what social issues the Macao people are most concerned with, economic, social, and political, and explore how they think social progress can be attained. Among other things, it will look at the dynamics between social class and political attitudes. Currently the Macao authorities are resisting political reform like the reform in neighboring Hong Kong, citing a different culture and Macao’s lack of need or interest. It will examine whether that is true. The paper is based on the results from a representative survey and semi-structured interviews of local residents from various social strata. The questions dealt with include not only the respondents' socioeconomic statuses but also their attitudes toward specific political reforms regarding the election of the chief executive and the legislators, issues that are often overlooked in other studies. These findings will help to amplify the political, social, and economic changes in the past dozen years since Macao’s 1999 retrocession to China with policy implications for future government undertakings.

For Law and Order: Policing in the Macao SAR
Lawrence Ka-ki Ho, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

This paper analyzes the major factors shaping Macao policing transformation since the mid-1970s. As its colony, Macao’s criminal justice system inherited the main features from Portugal’s continental law system. Two key non-interdependent law enforcement arms-- Judiciary Police (JP) and Public Security Police (PSP) took charge of internal security. The PSP assumed daily management of law and order, immigration, customs and fire services duties while the JP concentrated on criminal investigation tasks. Both were headed by expatriate commanders of military or legal background, with mainly local Chinese subordinates. This dual-policing mechanism coupled with a colonial ‘laissez-faire’ policing philosophy caused the segregation of policing agencies and the community. Generally skeptical toward police professionalism, capacity and reliability in effective law and order maintenance, Macao residents preferred minimal interactions with police agencies. Transformation has been unfolding since the 1990s due to the Luso colonial exit. Forces pushing forward policing reform have emerged in several dimensions, including an increase in cross-border economic activities and population mobility; the need for localization of both policing agencies; and rising violent and organized crimes associated with the gambling industry. After Macao became China’s Special Administrative Region in 1999, internal social conflicts have intensified amid the casino boom since the 2002 gaming franchise liberalization. The local policing context has been reshaped by the growing public demand for transparency and accountability, presence of more critical local and overseas media, and emergence of social activism. These new factors will trigger another wave of Macao policing reforms in organization, staffing and management philosophy.

Macao, China and the Portuguese Speaking Countries
Jose Carlos Matias dos Santos, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Macau

The Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-Speaking Countries, established in Macao, in 2003, reflects China’s creativity and far-reaching strategy in international affairs. Though it is sponsored by the PRC Ministry of Commerce, it is mostly a political instrument to boost China’s image and extend its global links. Through the Forum, China has set up a kind of lightweight para-regime, specifically designed to effectively spread China’s soft power abroad. Despite the low level of institutionalization, by using a multilateral institutional mechanism and by bumping up the ideas of a mutually beneficial Sino-Lusophone partnership with Macao as a platform, China is instilling a looming narrative. Mutual benefits in a “win-win” situation can bring a bolder power projection. China emerges in this process as reliable and responsible partner and paves the way for keener political support from these countries in the global arena. Macao, as the Forum’s host, projects an external relations identity and is portrayed as an effective platform and important complement to China’s strategy towards the Portuguese Speaking Countries. Such functional responsibilities also enable Macao to serve as a bridge linking mainland Chinese business with the Lusophone markets in nine countries on four continents (like major trade partners Brazil and Angola), thus facilitating Macao’s economic diversification beyond casino tourism. Simultaneously, this has been a kind of laboratory for promoting the “para-diplomatic” functional vitality of the Macao SAR under the “One Country, Two Systems” formula that also applies to the Hong Kong SAR in China’s global interface.