But there’s a slight difference in population. San Leandro has 86,000 people to Macau’s 636,000.
So there’s something to keep in mind the next time somebody complains about “density.” Macau, one of the most densely populated regions in the world, is a former Portuguese colony and now one of two “Special Administrative Regions” of China, along with nearby Hong Kong.
Two scholars on Macau – Professor Ming K. Chan and Dr. Roy Eric Xavier – talked about the small nation this week at the San Leandro Library. It’s an interesting country, even more so now that it’s one country under two systems – a capitalist economy full of gambling casinos, but run by Beijing. Sounds like California’s future.
Macau is the wealthiest city in Asia and it has the lowest unemployment rate, said Chan, a Stanford professor. But the “miracle capitalism” comes with a cost.
“Macau’s golden era may be the past tense,” Chan said. “Macau is suffering from a crisis of over-devleopment.”
The huge increase in development has sent the cost of housing skyrocketing and there is little social safety net for people who can’t afford the high rent. There’s little or no regulation of the casino industry, and the government gets 40 percent of the casino revenue, Chen said.
On the surface, Macau is towering casinos and glittering lights, but it has rush hour traffic most of the day, housing shortages and inadequate social services, Chen said.
Macau is just 30 square kilometers but it gets 30 million tourists a year, 70 percent from mainland China. So it’s economy is really dependent on China.
The challenge for Macau now is to “redeem the sins of runaway casino capitalism,” Chen said at the talk organized by the Macau Arts, Culture and Heritage Institute for the 15th anniversary of the handover of Macau to China.
There are around 1.5 million Macanese people worldwide, said Dr. Roy Eric Xavier, president of the International Macanese Alliance.
Macanese Migrated All Around the World
After World War II, people from Macau immigrated to the United States, Canada, Brazil and Australia, so there are Macanese all around the world now, Xavier said.
The Macanese are a mulit-racial people, descended from Portuguese and all the Asian countries that traded with Macau since the Portuguese established a trading post there in 1557. The mixed race group is also called Luso-Asian and that in itself is a milestone, Xavier said.
In 2005, UNESCO declared Macau a “world heritage site,” causing China to move to preserve Macau’s culture.
In the future, Macau should move beyond gambling and take advantage of its cultural diversity and East-West connection as a conduit to China. Tourism, media and technology are other industries that offer hope for Macau’s future, Xavier said.
“There is a future that can be realized if the right collaborations and strategies are done,” Xavier said.
After the talk, a delicious lunch of Portuguese and Macanese food was served, prepared by several cooks, inclulding Marie Mennell and Mandy Britto.
A few of the dishes were cheese toast, Portuguese chile and one of the desserts was Cabelo de Noiva (bride’s hair), shredded toasted coconut, covered with a syrup made of whipped egg yolk.