Fernando Chui Sai On, Chief Executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR), hailed the “One Country, Two Systems” principle as the fundamental guarantee for the region’s long term prosperity and stability before the 20th anniversary of Macao’s return to the motherland, which falls on Dec 20.

With great support from the central government of China, the Macao SAR government and people from all social sectors have followed the principles of “one country, two systems,” “Macao people governing Macao” and a high degree of autonomy in a comprehensive and accurate way, Chui said in group interview with the press.

He hailed the steady economic growth, sustained improvement in people’s livelihood and social stability and harmony in the SAR, stressing that it has shown the world the successful practice of the “one country, two systems” principle with characteristics of Macao.

The principle of “one country, two systems” was formulated by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and central government in the early 1980s in an effort to realise the peaceful reunification of China.

According to the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, “one country, two systems” means there is only one China and under this premise the mainland adheres to the socialist system while Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan may retain their capitalist systems over a long time to come.

Chui also reviewed Macao’s effort over the past 10 years to promote moderate economic diversification, including seizing opportunities arising from the construction of Belt & Road Initiative which was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, aimed at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond along ancient trade routes.

“Over the past 20 years, the Macao Special Administrative Region has strictly followed the Constitution and Macao’s Basic Law, implemented the principles of ‘one country, two systems,’ ‘Macao people governing Macao,’ and a high degree of autonomy, and widely promoted the Basic Law both at schools and in whole society as an important legal foundation for Macao.

We have positioned ours as the world’ tourism and leisure centre, and platform serving trade and business cooperation between China and Portuguese speaking countries. We have been actively involved in the Belt & Road Initiative. With support from the central government and concerted efforts by people from all social sectors in Macao, we are promoting a properly diversified economy,” Chui said.

Over the past two decades, Macao has made great achievements in various undertakings. Sustained economic growth and abundant fiscal revenue have significantly improved people’s livelihood and welfare.

Macao’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew from 51.9 billion patacas (about 6.4 billion U.S. dollars) in 1999 to 440.3 billion patacas (about 55 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018. Its accumulated fiscal surplus reached 505.6 billion patacas (about 62.7 billion U.S. dollars) by the end of 2018, which is 193 times that of 1999, while the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3 percent in 1999 to 1.8 percent in 2018.

Chui, who became Macao’s chief executive in 2009 and will be succeeded by Ho Iat Seng on December 20, said the Macao SAR government has given a top priority to develop economy and improve people’s livelihood in the past ten years during his term in office.

“We attach great importance to improving people’s livelihood and have set up six long-term mechanisms in this regard. We also pay high attention to education, health care and disaster prevention and reduction.

We have two measures in place. One is to provide services to our Macao compatriots and the other is to distribute every year’s revenue surplus, known as the secondary allocation. We also take a series of preparations as Macao is soon to enter an ageing society,” he said.

Macao provides 15 years of free education for its citizens from kindergartens to high schools, five years more than that before its return. After Macao’s return, the SAR government has greatly promoted patriotic education and loving China and Macao has become the mainstream value in the region.

“We pay special attention to cultivating the young generations. We have promoted non-higher education to higher education and continuing educational training, especially the core value of loving China and Macao, in a comprehensive way in the hope that the Macao people can pass on this most important core value from generation to generation,” said Chui.

Chui called on the Macao youth to seize opportunities arising from the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and vows to offer more support for them to joint the mega project.

The Chinese authorities unveiled the outline development plan in February 2019 for the Greater Bay Area, aiming to develop the region into a role model of high-quality development.

The Greater Bay Area consists of Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in Guangdong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen & Zhaoqing.

“What we have to do first is to get the Macao prepared for an active involvement in the Greater Bay Area. I always hope the Macao people, especially young friends, could go to the Greater Bay Area for development, for more exchanges and a better understanding of it.

It is also very important that the government can take the initiative to help young people, giving them financial and professional support so that they could get integrated into the urban development of the Greater Bay Area. I think this is a great opportunity for our development.

I believe the bay area economy of the Greater Bay Area will be a world-level one in the long run, so we will try our best to join the development of the Greater Bay Area. It’s a precious opportunity provided to us by our country, which makes up many of our shortcomings,” Chui said.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Macao’s return to the motherland. Macao was administered by Portugal for 442 years until its return to China on Dec. 20, 1999.