"Macao's successful experience speaks volumes about the viability and strength of 'one country, two systems' as long as we are committed to it and act on it." -- President Xi
MACAO, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday lauded Macao's "shining chapter" of practicing "one country, two systems" with Macao characteristics that led the capitalist city to achieve its greatest development in history after it returned to the socialist motherland 20 years ago.
"The success of 'one country, two systems' practice has been widely recognized by the world," said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, at a gathering in celebration of the anniversary.
"Macao's successful experience speaks volumes about the viability and strength of 'one country, two systems' as long as we are committed to it and act on it," Xi said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the Macao East Asian Games Dome, in Macao, south China, Dec. 20, 2019. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)
At the gathering, a new government of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) was inaugurated.
Ho Iat Seng, former president of Macao's Legislative Assembly, was sworn in as the fifth-term chief executive of the Macao SAR.
His two predecessors -- Ho Hau Wah and Chui Sai On -- as well as Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam sat in the audience.
Upon assuming office, Ho, 62, pledged to continue fully and faithfully implementing "one country, two systems" to advance Macao's economic and social development.
BEST DEVELOPMENT PERIOD
Flags adorned the streets, banners flew from the lamp posts and huge lanterns lit up public squares in this corner of the Pearl River Estuary.
Macao in late December is in a festive mood. Yet this is no ordinary Christmas cheer, and today represents a key day in the history of this former Portuguese-occupied territory.
On Dec. 20, 1999, China resumed exercising sovereignty over Macao and established the Macao SAR. Under "one country, two systems," the socialist system is not practiced in Macao. It is allowed to retain its capitalist system and way of life and is given a high degree of autonomy.
Once notorious for its gangs and burdened with a floundering economy, Macao has morphed into one of the safest cities and has the second-highest per capita gross regional product in the world.
Education is free from kindergarten to high school. With good health care, life expectancy has risen to 84 years, also one of the highest in the world.
Aerial photo taken on Nov. 18, 2019 shows the scenery of Macao Peninsula in south China. (Xinhua/Cheong Kam Ka)
Upon arriving in Macao Wednesday, Xi told reporters that the central government and the Chinese people are proud of the achievements and progress of Macao.
"The past 20 years are also a period that saw Macao compatriots share the dignity of the great motherland and enjoy the greatest sense of glory," said Xi at a welcome banquet Thursday.
Earlier in the day, he visited a one-stop government services center and praised the government for providing efficient public services to the people.
The residents' "greater sense of fulfillment and happiness," as described by Xi, was endorsed by people on the streets.
"Macao is stable. We have a good business. Retirees live well on pension and cash hand-outs," said 58-year-old Macao native Sou Pui Leng, who runs a roadside eatery selling milk tea and coffee. "We Macao people really have a good life."
"Macao is a land of fortune, and I hope it will always be," she said.
People visit the Macao Museum in south China's Macao, Dec. 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Jing)
HOW MACAO MAKES IT
Macao's achievements should primarily be attributed to its full and faithful implementation of the "one country, two systems" principle, said Teng Pio Iau, assistant dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Macao.
Xi summed up four pieces of important experience from Macao's successful practice.
Macao compatriots always have firm confidence in "one country, two systems," maintain the right direction and uphold a strong sense of mission and responsibility, Xi said.
They recognize that "one country" is the prerequisite and basis of "two systems," unequivocally uphold the constitutional order established by the Constitution and the Basic Law, respect the socialist system adopted on the main body of the country and correctly handle issues concerning the relations between the central authorities and the SAR, Xi added.
But the most important reason, according to the president, is patriotism.
Xi praised Macao's patriotic education when he visited a local school and spent time watching a Chinese history class themed "'one country, two systems' and Macao."
Chinese President Xi Jinping watches a Chinese history class themed "'one country, two systems' and Macao" at the Premier School Affiliated to Hou Kong Middle School, in south China's Macao, Dec. 19, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Tao)
Founded in 1932, the Premier School Affiliated to Hou Kong Middle School has the largest number of students among Macao's basic education institutions.
It was precisely in Hou Kong Middle School where the national flag of the People's Republic of China (PRC) was first raised in Macao on Oct. 1, 1949, when the PRC was founded.
Today, the national flag flies high at all levels of educational institutions in Macao and the flag-raising ceremony has become a fixture of campus life.
The president said patriotic education is essential and stressed the need to know the history.
"One can easily feel a strong sense of national self-esteem and national pride after knowing our uninterrupted history spanning over five millennia," Xi said. "And only by knowing the nation's history of humiliation after the Opium War, can one understand the Chinese people's strong yearning for national rejuvenation."
A senior high school student surnamed Ng said he was inspired by the president's words and wanted to be a teacher when he grew up.
"I would like to spread my love for the country and Macao with my students," Ng said.
Photo taken on Dec. 10, 2019 shows the west square of the new Hengqin port in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province. (Xinhua/Liu Dawei)
TO A HIGHER LEVEL
On Friday, Xi raised four expectations to lift the Macao SAR's development to the next level.
The president spoke of more efforts to improve governance, further diversify the economy, improve the people's well-being and promote social harmony and stability.
In particular, Xi urged Macao to grasp the opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA).
Experts say limited space has been a bottleneck of development for Macao, whose land area is even smaller than Shanghai Pudong International Airport. And it needs to nurture new growth drivers to balance the gaming industry.
Lao Chi Ngai, president of the Macao Economic Association, said a series of policies have been issued by the central authorities to help Macao overcome these challenges.
Macao is designated one of the four core cities, along with Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, in the GBA, an emerging world-class city cluster with a combined population of about 70 million. This has provided a broad stage for Macao entrepreneurs.
Lai Hon Cheng, 28, founded the music training start-up Music Cracker in 2016 to help adults learn how to play the piano. He has opened three stores and trained more than 1,500 people in Macao and is now setting his sights on the mainland market.
"The country offers us a big stage," Lai said. "But if we young people don't take it, we will always be passive observers."
In addition, Macao is strengthening its role as a service platform for commercial and trade cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries, which include Portugal and emerging economies such as Brazil, Angola and Mozambique.
On Thursday, Xi visited a complex that is being developed into a regular meeting venue for such cooperation.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has exchanges with students from countries along the Belt and Road who are studying in Macao while visiting the China-Portuguese-speaking Countries (PSCs) Commercial and Trade Service Platform Complex, in south China's Macao, Dec. 19, 2019. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)
Leong Vai Tac, former secretary for economy and finance of Macao, said building the platform is crucial for Macao to pursue appropriate economic diversification.
"We still have much work to do," Leong admitted.
Wrapping up his speech at the gathering, Xi said he believes the Chinese people have the wisdom and capability to improve the "one country, two systems" practice and run the special administrative regions even better.
But he stressed that the affairs of these two special administrative regions are entirely China's internal affairs.
"There is no need for any external force to dictate things to us," Xi said to a round of loud applause.
"The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will not be stopped. The path of common development and prosperity of Hong Kong, Macao and the mainland will be even wider." ■ (Video editors: Ma Ruxuan, Zheng Xin)