On April 13, the joint declaration regarding Macao of the governments of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Portugal was officially signed in Beijing by Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and Portuguese Prime Minister Cavaco Silva.
Deng Xiaoping, chairman of the Central Advisory Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, and Li Xiannian, Chinese president, attended the signing ceremony which was held at the Great Hall of the People.
According to the declaration, China will resume sovereignty over Macao effective December 20, 1999.
Macao consists of a peninsula and two small islands at the outlet of the Pearl River in the South China Sea. Its present population is over 400,000, of whom 97 percent are Chinese. About 10,000 are of Portuguese descent.
At one time, Macao belonged to Guangdong Province's Xiangshan County. But in 1887, the Portuguese, took advantage of the defeat of the Qing imperial court in the first Opium War, put the whole area under their colonial rule. They forced the Qing government to sign the Sino-Portuguese Beijing Treaty, which said Portugal would administer Macao permanently. Since then Macao has been a Portuguese-ruled colony. In 1979, when China and Portugal established diplomatic relations, the two governments reached an understanding about Macao and agreed to solve the issue through negotiations.
The settlement of the Macao issue in such a short time is due to the joint efforts of the two governments and also to the policy of "one country, two systems" adopted by the Chinese government.
In his speech at the signing ceremony, Premier Zhao Ziyang told Silva, "The joint declaration has been signed thanks to the joint efforts of our two sides. During the negotiations, our two governments, attaching importance to the overall interests of Sino-Portuguese friendly relations and co-operation and bearing in mind the history and realities of Macao, carried out consultations on an equal footing and in a spirit of mutual understanding and mutual accommodation."
He pointed out that the principle of "one country, two systems" is an important state policy formulated by China to achieve national reunification. The successful settlement of the Macao issue has proved that the concept of "one country, two systems" is realistic and viable. "The Chinese people will continue to firmly follow this principle and work hard for the complete reunification of our motherland," he added.
Premier Silva said the signing of the joint declaration solemnized the compromises made by the two governments about the timing and conditions of the transfer. "The joint declaration also has another meaning - it establishes a new perspective for relations between Portugal and China," he continued.
In their speeches, the two premiers also expressed their hopes of promoting Macao's stability and development.
In recent years, Macao's economy has been developing rapidly. Its growth rate last year reached 6.5 percent, compared to 2.5 percent the year before. Prices remained stable and the inflation rate was below 2 percent.
Due to the Chinese government's open policy, economic relations between Macao and interior China have grown greatly. Many factories set up by Macao firms in the mainland have gone into operation, and many commodities gaps in Macao markets have been filled. In recent years, trade fairs and talks held by China in Macao have attracted many firms from Southeast Asian and other countries. This has helped improve Macao's international commercial standing.
For a long time, China has been supplying Macao with necessities, industrial raw materials, semi-manufactured goods and building materials. According to available statistics, the total value of goods and materials imported by Macao from interior China in 1986 exceeded 1.4 billion Macao yuan, nearly twice as much as in 1980.
Before the signing, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said in talks with Silva that the solution of the Macao issue on the basis of the "one country, two systems" policy could be a model for settling international disputes and eliminating the world's hot spots, he said.
Deng described Silva's visit as opening new vistas for the development of Sino-Portuguese relations.
(Beijing Review No. 17, April 27, 1987)