2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 376

[ China and Inner Asia Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

The Unfolding Dynamics of Identity, Education, and Heritage in Post-Colonial Macao

Organizer: Chi-kuong Derrick Tam, Sun Yat-Sen University, Macau

Chair: Jorge A. H. Rangel, Independent Scholar, Macau

Discussants: Jorge A. H. Rangel, Independent Scholar, Macau; Antonio Vasconcelos de Saldanha, University of Macau, China

Upon the end of Portuguese rule and China’s resumption of control in December 1999, much has changed in Macao as the PRC’s Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) under the “One Country, Two Systems” formula. There have been breakthroughs in key socio-cultural dimensions of China’s Macao as manifested in the public discourse on identity construction, heritage conservation and educational reform. UNESCO’s 2005 World Heritage designation of “Historic Centre of Macao” has strengthened MSAR residents’ local identity. Heritage protection, driven by civil forces, has become central to cultural tourism and urban planning for Macao’s sustainable development, as clearly charted in Tam’s paper. Education reform is crucial to upgrading human resources for Macao’s sustainable growth. The MSAR government’s introduction of 15-year free education has been highly appreciated. Ongoing education reform ushers forward the issues of teacher professionalism and academic freedom. Wong’s paper explores in depth the rise of teachers’ professional status and civic engagement in school reform. Rapid expansion of higher education has led to tension between the dynamics of academic capitalism vs. scholarly standards and academic autonomy, as critically analyzed in Tang’s paper. Post-colonial social changes and growing China-market economic dependence have significantly reinforced cultural identification with mainland China among the MSAR mainstream population, yet civic identity in the local community has not developed in parallel, as vividly delineated in Kaeding’s paper. These four papers together shed light on the emergence of a unique local identity from various perspectives amid the interplay of social change and development in China’s Macao.

The Interplay of Heritage Protection, Tourism and Urban Planning in Macao
Chi-kuong Derrick Tam, Sun Yat-Sen University, Macau

The Macao government has paid attention to heritage protection since the colonial era and tried to brand the city as a historic East-West exchange hub through the promotion of its unique Luso-Sino hybrid cultural heritage. After the “Historic Centre of Macao” became a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site in 2005, Macao residents have become more commonly identified with the essence for the conservation of historic sites and buildings and more supportive of the systematic promotion of heritage tourism to the international community. However, the Macao SAR heritage protection regime is often merely for window dressing purposes as the local authorities have permitted property developers to dismantle historic buildings and to alter areas adjacent to heritage sites for further urbanization and economic development regardless of heritage preservation and related environmental requirements. This paper will illuminate the serious disarticulation in and contested agenda of heritage protection imperatives with urban planning and tourism promotion efforts by focusing on three major cases of heritage vs. development conflicts--the Social Security Bureau Building, the Guia Lighthouse (the oldest lighthouse on China’s coast), and the Meng Ha Military Barracks. It will argue that the Macao SAR government has failed to adequately integrate heritage management priorities in the policy making processes on urban planning and tourism. It concludes that social movements by concerned residents and NGOs (that lobbied through their UNESCO-Paris to Beijing channels) are crucial to remedy the defective official heritage protection regime, hence savaging some gains from the casino capitalism-fueled crisis of over-development in China’s Macao.

The Politics of Teacher Professionalism in Macao
Wai Kwok Benson Wong, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

This paper aims to study holistically and reflectively the nature and development of teacher professionalism in Macao from political and policy perspectives. Teacher professionalism was generally ignored during the Portuguese colonial period, but it has become more important during the Macao SAR era since the December 1999 resumption of Chinese rule. This is mainly because of the need to improve educational quality and buttress human resources competitiveness in face of globalization. However, development of teacher professionalism is hampered by the absence of a representative force among the teachers, the hegemony of the educational bureaucracy and pro-regime educational associations, and the rapid growth of Macao’s casino industry (that has reshaped socio-moral milieu and severely distorted local youth’s school-job market pattern). Compared with neighboring Hong Kong SAR’s experience, Macao is punctuated by the absence of professional autonomy that has significantly undermined teacher professionalism. With the recent introduction of an official 10-year plan for non-higher education development (2011-20) and the enactment of a regulatory “Framework” on the private schools (with provisions on teacher duties, salaries and service terms) , it is timely and necessary to examine whether teacher professionalism can be redefined with the encouragement of teacher engagement in a post-colonial polity. Blessed with double-digit economic growth, an emergence of youth civic activism and Beijing’s emphasis on the need to nurture Macao talents and skilled manpower for developmental needs and for the eventual convergence with the mainland, the Macao SAR authorities can afford and must undertake substantial education reform starting with local teachers.

Universities Empowered or Endangered? Academic Capitalism and Higher Education in Macao
Hei-hang Hayes Tang, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

This paper examines the state-market power relations in shaping Macao higher education development since preparations for China’s 1999 resumption of administrative control. Endowed with minimal natural resources, Macao has long relied on its human capital for socio-economic survival and enhancement. Working with entrepreneurialism, as maintained by a government-commissioned consultation report, was the theme for advancing Macao higher education. Amid Macao higher education “massification” and quests for educational credentials, education services offer a promising source of entrepreneurial opportunities and revenue. Such phenomenon will become more noteworthy with Macao’s further integration into the Pearl River Delta. In the past decade, privatization was the trend in Macao higher education expansion. All five new tertiary institutions since 1997 are privately-run. Academic capitalism, defined as the utilization of capital to promote educational development and fulfill the objectives of advancing economic development and competitiveness, has been on the rise in post-colonial Macao. Applying this “academic capitalism” concept, this paper highlights the realpolitik configurations among the higher education sector stakeholders and discusses the concerted efforts by officials and capitalists to steer Macao higher education development. It concludes that the continual development and deepening of academic capitalism in Macao will likely undermine the academic profession’s autonomy whereas academic freedom’s prospects will be highly dubious. Recent warnings from the MSAR legislature ex-Speaker and the University of Macau’s Rector on the imperative of “software” merits (high standard academic personnel and program contents) over “hardware” construction (like UM’s new campus) in Macao tertiary sector are powerful rebuttals to academic capitalism threats.

Post-colonial Macao’s Changing Identity
Malte P. Kaeding, University of Surrey, United Kingdom

It has been taken for granted that a very unique Macao identity has been evolving after more than 450 years of Portuguese colonial rule and Lusophone cultural influence in the first and last foreign colony in China. Quantitative research, however, shows that a majority of Macao people identify themselves as Chinese. This paper analyzes the evolutionary transformation of post-colonial Macao's identity along the layered lines of the “ethno-cultural versus civic identity” theoretical framework. A thorough and systematic examination of the ethno-cultural and civic realms in Macao identifies population structure, material culture, languages, education, politico-legal structure and participation patterns as core elements in the construction of collective and individual identity. The paper’s central argument is that the local people’s identification with Macao is primarily ethno-culturally defined. Basic elements of a civic identity exist in the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) since the Portuguese exit upon the December 1999 retrocession to Chinese rule, and there are signs that this part of local identity is slowly developing. For the time being, the newly emerged sense or notion of Macao identity is considerably weaker than that of the people in the other two off-shore Chinese domains of Hong Kong and Taiwan. Cultural identification with mainland China is high in the MSAR, but the core reason lies in its relatively weak civic identity. A pilot study on identity among University of Macau students supports this paper’s principal findings while raising important questions on their no-mutually exclusive cultural and political identifications with Macao and mainland China.