Почему так получается, что мы столь часто слышим про Гонконг и почти никогда про Макао? Что там, вообще, происходит?
Недолгий поиск в интернете навёл на довольно интересный краткий рассказ о сравнительной истории этих двух колоний, которым я хотел бы поделиться с читателями. Возможно, это кому-то еще окажется полезно (особенно меня впечатлило упоминание Шелдона Адельсона; удивительно, насколько же сейчас в мире всё взаимосвязано….)
Apart from the fact that Hong Kong and Macao were both colonies of European countries, are both located on the Pearl River Delta, and both returned to the People’s Republic of China at the end of the millennium, there is little in common between these two places.
Even the colonial history was very different. Macau was settled much earlier than Hong Kong, in the late 1500s. The Portuguese left a very different footprint on their colony than the one the British would later leave in Hong Kong. To this day, old Macau is a treasure trove of historic architecture from the Portuguese period, some of it dating back to the 1600s and 1700s.
The British didn’t seize the territory of Hong Kong until the mid-1800s (as reparations for the Chinese loss in the Opium Wars), and the few buildings remaining from that period today reflect that Victorian time period.
The British invested far more in their Hong Kong colony than the Portuguese ever did in Macau. After all, in the second half of the Twentieth century Britain was the world’s superpower, and Portugal was but a fading colonial empire with a handful of dwindling outposts around the world.
While Macau had served as a major trading center and seaport in the 160ss and 1700s, that role was superceeded by Hong Kong, and also by Guangzhou (Canton) which allowed foreign merchants to do business on Shamian island even before the Opium Wars.
After World War 2, when the Communists won the civil war and took over mainland China, Hong Kong’s fortunes changed forever. Most of China’s shipping magnate families immigrated to Hong Kong and proceded to transform Hong Kong’s old port into the modern colossus it is today (the container ship revolution got its start here).
With “Red China” being essentially closed off to the outside world, Hong Kong took on enormous importance to the West as its window in on China. Many Hong Kong Chinese families had relatives on the other side of the border, so what little information managed to get out of China usually reached Hong Kong first.
Into the 1970s and 1980s Hong Kong invested a tremendous amount in improving its infrastructure, building a subway system, and many new cities in the New Territories.
When Deng Xiaoping set up Shenzhen as the first Special Economic Zone in the early 1980s, Hong Kong played a huge role in its development. Shenzhen had the cheap land and labor, while Hong Kong provided the management expertise, capital, and cross-border family connections to make Shenzhen take off. A lot of the profits from the early boom in Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta of mainland China went into the hands of Hong Kong businessmen.
All the while, Macau languishing in the background, one of history’s forgotten stories. The one thing that did keep Macau on the map was gambling (as made famous in the James Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun). Up until 1999 when Macau was handed back to China, all the casinos in Macau were run by the entrepreneur (some would say gangster) Stanley Ho.
When the Chinese took over in 1999 (ending more than 400 years of Portuguese rule) they broke up Stanley Ho’s casino monopoly and opened up the casino market to Vegas magnates like Sheldon Anderson, who has now built Macau into the world’s most profitable casino resort (yes, more profitable than Vegas). Since 1999, the Chinese nearly doubled the size of Macau through landfill, which they have filled in with dozens of mega casinos geared towards mainland gamblers.
In recent years, Macau was a favorite playground for Hong Kong and Chinese businessmen. I personally have no interest in the casinos, but I love Macau’s well-preserved historic Portuguese old town, which is is UNESCO World Heritage Site. As of 2015, since Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption in mainland China, there has been a temporary slowdown in casino business in Macau.
Hong Kong, which returned to the PRC two years earlier than Macau in 1997, was the far bigger prize. It dwarfs Macau in every way.
Hong Kong’s land area is 36 times larger than Macau’s, its population is 11 times larger than Macau’s, and its GDP is 5 times larger than Macau’s. The return of Hong Kong was also much more significant for China’s pride, since the memory of the Opium Wars and defeat at the hands of the British, which China views as its greatest national humiliation, was much more recent.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s top financial centers, although Beijing is gradually trying to shift the balance from Hong Kong to Shanghai. Shenzhen is now a city of 14 million people, and the outsized role Hong Kong played in its inception is no longer quite as important. Today, mainland Chinese are affecting Hong Kong much more than Hong Kong is affecting mainland China.
It started about five years ago when the PRC stated allowing its citizens to travel to Hong Kong. Hong Kong quickly became a favored destination for the nouveaux riches of the mainland who loaded up on tax-free name brand luxury goods which they smuggled back into the mainland. Hong Kong is also a favorite with expecting mainland mothers, who, if they can time their birth right, can bestow their children with a Hong Kong passport, which is a much more valuable commodity than a mainland passport.
Of course, anyone who didn’t live under a rock this last year saw the democracy protests in Hong Kong unfold. Young Hong Kongers are increasingly worried about their future, and what will happen when 2047 rolls around and the protections Hong Kongers enjoy today will no longer be guaranteed. Macau, like Hong Kong, enjoys free speech and a free press and other rights denied in mainland China. Like Hong Kong, it also lacks direct democracy. However, the residents of Macau are not as radical as those in Hong Kong and have yet to replicate its protest movement.