December 20 is the 10th anniversary of Macao's return to the motherland. In 1999, the Chinese Government resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Macao and established the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR), and the Basic Law of the Macao SAR officially became operative. Since then Macao has stepped into a new era in which "one country, two systems" is implemented and "Macao people governing Macao" has been realized.
For China, this was another milestone in the process of peaceful reunification, and the second successful example of implementing "one country, two systems" following Hong Kong's return.
During the 10 years following its return, Macao has experienced a rapid and constant economic boom. From 1999 to 2008, Macao's gross domestic product averaged an increase of 13.30 percent every year. In 2008, per-capita gross domestic product reached about three times that of 1999—among the highest in Asia. Residents' average monthly income increased from MOP4,500 ($563.85) to MOP8,000 ($1,002.40). Together with high-speed economic development and continuous inflow of foreign investment, unemployment rate dropped from 6.3 percent in 1999 to 3 percent in 2008. Macao has retained its advantage of being a free port with low taxes, its infrastructure has been greatly ameliorated, the investment climate has been further improved, and it has been commended as the best international region for trade and investment by various bodies including the World Trade Organization.
Such remarkable achievements are borne of three factors: First, the successful implementation of the Basic Law provided elementary legal protection for Macao's long-term prosperity, stability and development; second, the Macao SAR Government and Macao residents united firmly and pooled their efforts to form an internal driving force for Macao's development; and third, support from the Central Government and the mainland strongly supported progress.
Macao's Basic Law, with "one country, two systems" as its guideline, has constitutional status in the SAR and has allowed it to retain its social system and lifestyle unchanged. The SAR's political system, led by its administration and checked by an independent judiciary, has proved to comply rightly with Macao's reality. It is the best system to carry out the policies of "one country, two systems" and "Macao people governing Macao," and opens up space for vast development of Macao's economy, society and culture.
During the past 10 years, Macao compatriots have actively participated in the management of local affairs and maintained the SAR's prosperity and stability; residents, according to the Basic Law, have elected three consecutive chief executives and all Legislative Council members, and have steadily, step by step, propelled the development of democracy. Under the effective management of the SAR Government, the local security situation has been stable, making Macao an impressive international tourist and recreational attraction.
Over the past 10 years, the Central Government strictly adhered to Macao's Basic Law, strongly supported chief executives' and the SAR Government's performing official duties according to law, and assisted Macao to achieve further development. From permitting recreational travel and signing a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement to speeding up cooperation between Macao and Guangdong Province, the motherland has always acted as a vital support for Macao's development.
Macao is experiencing its fastest developmental stage in its history, and is confronted with a wide range of opportunities and challenges. It's well founded for us to believe that as long as people from all walks of life pull together, firmly stick to and carry out the SAR's Basic Law with the backing of the motherland, Macao is certainly heading for a brighter future.