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Promoting Hybridity: The Politics of the New Macau Identity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 September 2010

Wai-man Lam
The University of Hong Kong. Email:


This article traces the unique process of reconstructing the identity of the Macau Special Administrative Region and its people after the political resumption to China in 1999, and the political and economic significance of the reconstruction. As in other postcolonial contexts, identity is an arena of political contest where various discourses that embody re-appropriation of political traditions and legacies criss-cross. In Macau, the post-handover identity comprises the local, the national and the international components, with Macau characterized as a historical, colonial/cultural hybrid and economic object. In fact, the Macau identity after 1999 represents a re-appropriation of the image of colonial Macau propagated by the Portuguese administration since the 1980s. Also, identity making has been a process of incorporating instead of repressing or eliminating the identities of “the other,” and building a stand-alone national identity is not the prime task in the reconstruction of an identity. Rather, multiple identity components are deliberately incorporated and promoted. The success of the process has fabricated Macau's relatively smooth reintegration with China and enhanced the legitimacy of its new government.

Copyright © The China Quarterly 2010

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1 The article focuses on the identity construction of the Chinese population in Macau and the place as a whole. It does not attempt to deal with the Macanese and Portuguese in Macau. Macanese refers to the descendants of Portuguese and Asians who are born in Macau.

2 Examples include India, Algeria, Kenya and many other colonies in Asia and Africa. See, for example, Chatterjee, Partha, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? (London: Zed Books, 1986)Google Scholar and The Nations and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993); Fanon, Frantz, A Dying Colonialism (trans. Chevalier, H.) (New York: Grove Press, 1965);Google ScholarJanmaat, Jan Germen, “The ethnic ‘other’ in Ukrainian history textbooks: the case of Russia and the Russians,” Compare, Vol. 37, No. 3 (2007), pp. 307–24;CrossRefGoogle ScholarZajda, Joseph, “The new history school textbooks in the Russian Federation: 1992–2004,” Compare, Vol. 37, No. 3 (2007), pp. 291306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

3 Economic nationalism is generally defined as the sentiments and attempts to protect and advance national economic interests and to establish a strong nation by economic means. Helleiner, Eric, “Economic nationalism as a challenge to economic liberalism? Lessons from the 19th century,” International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 46 (2002), pp. 307–29;CrossRefGoogle ScholarWei, C.X. George, “Economic nationalism versus capitalist economic liberalism: the negotiation of the Sino-American commercial treaty,” in Wei, C.X. George and Liu, Xiaoyuan (eds.), Chinese Nationalism in Perspective: Historical and Recent Cases (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 2001), p. 149.Google Scholar

4 A comparative study of the process of building nationalism in Hong Kong and Macau, China's two SARs, will be interesting. Both governments are keen to promote nationalism and in particular economic nationalism among the locals. However, the Hong Kong government is keen to reform the local identity and cultivates state nationalism whereas the Macau government pools its effort in promoting a local and international identity. The nation building process has been met with great resistance in Hong Kong while in Macau it is just the opposite.

5 “Identity” can be variously understood in different academic traditions. Broadly speaking, there are two possible understandings, constructionist and essentialist. See e.g. Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London & New York: Verso, 1991);Google Scholar and Smith, Anthony, Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History, Polity (Oxford: Polity Press, 2001).Google Scholar

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21 Ibid. table 5.7, p. 97.

22 Ibid. table 4.14, p. 74.

23 Ibid. table 4.11, p. 71. Nevertheless, a survey conducted in 1991 indicated that a higher proportion of respondents, 53.6%, were proud to be Macau citizens. See Yee, Herbert S., Bo-long, Liu and Tak-wing, Ngo, Aomen huaren zhengzhi wenhua (The Political Culture of the Macau Chinese) (Macau: Macau Foundation, 1993), p. 42.Google Scholar

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34 The journal ( aims to promote discussion on Macau history and culture as well as anything pertaining to “Macau studies,” and to unravel the unique identity of Macau.

37 For example, Secretariat for Social Affairs and Culture, Policy Aims (Macau: Macau SAR Government), 2001, p. 3; 2003, part 1, p. 37, para 5.2.1, and part 2, p. 80, para. 5.1.1.

38 Ho, Edmund Hau-wah, Policy Address (Macau: Macau SAR Government, 2002),Google Scholar part 3, para. 10.

39 For example, Macau Daily News, 20 December 2002, p. B01; Jornal San Wa Ou, 21 November 2001, p. 01; Ho, Policy Address, 2001.

40 For example, Ho, Policy Address, 2001, part 2, para. 3; 2004, part 4.

41 Ho, Policy Address, 2004, part 2, para. 4. Also see Ho, Policy Address, 2007, p. 24.

42 For example, Apple Daily, 20 December 2004, p. 23; Ho, Policy Address, 2006, p. 23; 2007, pp. 15, 25–26.

43 Ho, Policy Address, 2004, part 2, para. 4.

44 Brooke, “China sees advantages,” p. 4.

45 For example, Macau Daily News, 14 October 2001, p. B03; Ho, Policy Address, 2006, p. 4.

46 Clayton, “Valuing the past,” p. 355.

47 Ho, Policy Address, 2007, p. 3.

48 Hong Kong-Macao Comparative Study: Macao People Support Their Government More (press release on 4 February 2004, p. 4), at, accessed 27 March 2007.

49 Ibid. p. 2.

50 Yee, Herbert and Kwok-man, Lui, “Public political culture,” in Siu-lun, Wonget al. (eds.), Records of Macau Society: Indicators Study and Quality of Life (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Institute of Asia Pacific Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2007), table 13.5, p. 306.Google Scholar

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53 Wei, “Economic nationalism,” p. 149; Helleiner, “Economic nationalism.”

54 Ho, Policy Address, 2006, p. 14. Also see China's official views stated by Bai Zhijian, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Macau SAR in Jornal San Wa Ou, 23 December 2006, p. 02; Wang Hai, “Rebuilding Macao as an international economic and cultural exchange platform,” People's Daily (overseas edition), 20 December 2006.

55 For example, Secretariat for Economy and Finance, Policy Aims (Macau: Macau SAR Government), 2006, pp. 20–22, para. 9.2–9.4; Ho, Policy Address, 2006, part 2.

56 Ho, Policy Address, 2002, part 3.

57 Secretariat for Economy and Finance, Policy Aims, 2002; Ho, Policy Address, 2006, p. 14.

58 Hong Kong-Macau Comparative Study, p. 2.

59 Ibid. p. 4.

60 Ibid. p. 2.

61 Secretariat for Social Affairs and Culture, Policy Aims, 2002, para. 5.4.

62 See n. 34.

63 “Opening,” Review of Culture, No. 1 (1987), p. 3.

64 “Reason for being,” Review of Culture, No. 1 (1987), p. 6.

65 “Connecting link,” Review of Culture, No. 1 (1987), p. 4.

66 “Opening,” p. 3; “Connecting link,” p. 4; “Reason for being,” p. 6.

67 “Reason for being,” pp. 5–6; and de Santa Maria, Bernardo, “The scope and dimension of the Portuguese consciousness in the Far East,” Review of Culture, No. 1 (1987), pp. 2628.Google Scholar

68 The analysis covered the articles in Vols. 38 (1999) to 64 (2007).

69 Review of Culture (Chinese version), 1998, editorial, p. 1.

70 Ibid., Introduction.

71 Ho, Policy Address, 2007, p. 24.

72 Ibid. p. 10.

73 For example, Ho, Policy Address, 2003, p. 12; 2004, s. 3; 2005, p. 14.

74 For example, Jornal San Wa Ou, 23 December 2006, p. 02; Ho, Policy Address, 2006, p. 14.

75 People's Daily Online, 25 September 2006, at, accessed 8 February 2008.

76 Macau SAR Government Fact Sheet, at, accessed 12 January 2008.

77 The Basic Law is the mini-constitution of both Macau and Hong Kong.

78 Article 23 stipulates that the SARs of Macau and Hong Kong shall enact laws on their own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central government or theft of state secrets; to prohibit foreign political organizations from conducting political activities in the cities; and to prohibit political organizations of the SARs from establishing ties with foreign political organizations.

79 Crane, “Special things,” pp. 149–53.

80 People's Daily Online, 15 October 2005, at, accessed 9 February 2008.

81 Chinese Ministry of Commerce, China-Portuguese-speaking Countries Trade and Economic Cooperation Made Active Achievements, 26 September 2006, at, accessed 10 February 2008.

82 Brooke, “China sees advantages,” pp. 2–3.

83 MacauHub, China: Trade with Portuguese-speaking Countries Rises, 29 January 2008, at, accessed 8 February 2008.

84 Brooke, “China sees advantages,” p. 4.

85 Loro Horta and Ian Storey, “China grooms a strategic relationship with the community of Portuguese language countries,” Yale Global Online, 22 June 2006, at, accessed 8 February 2008.