Macao consists of a peninsula and two small islands, totalling 16.143 square kilometres. Macao Peninsula is 6.05 sq. km., Taipa island is 3.478 sq. km. and the Coloane islands are 6.615 sq. km. A 2.5-kilometre-long bridge across the sea and a 2.2 kilometres highway connect these three land formations.
The present population of Macao is over 400,000, 97 percent of whom are Chinese. About 10,000 people are Portuguese descendants and thousands more are of other foreign origins. The majority of the people live on the Macao Peninsula.
At one time Macao belonged to Xiangshan County of Guangdong Province. Legend has it that then the Portuguese landed near the Magog Temple of Macao in 1553 (the 32nd year of the reign of Emperor Jia Jing of the Ming Dynasty), they misread Magog as Macao. The Portuguese call Macao, Macau. After the first Opium War(1840-42), the Portuguese took advantage of the defeat of the Qing Dynasty to remove the Chinese officials and put the whole area of Macao under their colonial rule. In December 1887, the Portuguese forced the Qing government to sign the Sino-Portuguese Beijing Treaty, specifying that the Portuguese "would administer Macao permanently." Moreover, it stipulated that when the two countries sent officials to demarcate the border, another new treaty would be signed. With the strong opposition of the Chinese people, the border demarcation of Macao was not fixed and no special treaty could be produced.
Macao has little natural resources. It has no airport or deepwater harbour. Its only manufactured goods have been matches, joss sticks and other handicraft products. In the 60s and 70s Macao's manufacturing and building industries and tourism developed rapidly. Macao itself provides a very limited market, so more than 90 percent of its products are exports. Clothing, toys, electronics and artificial flowers are sold to more than 100 countries and regions. At present Macao has over 1,300 factories, most of them small, with about 70,000 workers. Industrial production constitutes some 40 percent of the economy. In 1986 the total output value of Macao was about US$1.1 billion and its per-capita output value US$2,000.
There are 23 banks with a total of nearly 100 branches. Towards the end of last year the banks' total deposits and loans were respectively 18.5 billion patacas (US$2.38 billion) and 13.5 billion patacas (US$1.73 billion).
The Portuguese have declared Macao a free port and pursued an open policy to the outside. Foreign exchanges are not controlled, the tax rate is low and free from interest tax. People from Hong Kong and EC countries can freely enter and leave Macao without visas. Macao has carried out a favourable policy towards investment. The interest taxes, workers' income and real estate are cheaper than in Hong Kong. Most of the capital for Macao's economic activities comes from Hong Kong and abroad.
Macao has a university, 29 middle schools and 69 primary schools with over 60,000 students. It has six Chinese and several Portuguese newspapers, two radio stations and a TV station. It has two hospitals and many private clinics with over 700 registered doctors.
The predominant religion in Macao is Catholicism with over 20,000 communicants. Protestant faiths come second.
(Beijing Review No. 14, April 6, 1987)