Macau developments

A small but interested audience today for the talk on fossils – final day of exams, so not good timing. In the questions I said a bit more about the thinking behind the book project.

It’s also been good to have another chance to see this fascinating place – even more building of casinos since I was here in 2008, with the Galaxy opening yesterday. There is a brief BBC news report on that here. More interesting, at least for me, was to discover that the University of Macau is relocating to a new site in the near future. Currently it is on Taipa island, which is linked to the Macau peninsula by long bridges. The new university site is on Hengqin island, which is part of China, or as it’s confusingly described part of the Chinese ‘mainland’ – i.e. not part of the old Portuguese colony of Macau (though Portugal claimed it). The site is being leased to Macau for the building of this new campus and will be linked by a tunnel. At the moment you need a visa to get there – you don’t need one as a UK citizen to visit Macau, but you do to China – but this will change. Hengqin island will have further development, with the campus separate from the rest of it. There are reports on the development of the island from the BBC here ; from the Macau Daily Times here and from China Daily here.

What’s interesting, if you see the land projects here in Macau, is how space is at a premium. They really make the most of a little here – lots of the casinos are on reclaimed land between Taipa and Coloane island which is further south. And yet right on its doorstep are the vast spaces of China – Hengqin is apparently three times as big as Macau, and only a small part of the area of Zhuhai in the Guangdong province. Zhuhai is a special economic zone, and if I’ve followed the logic, Hengqin is a special economic district within it. So the campus will be a particular area within a district, within a zone, within Guangdong province, but linked to an Special Administrative Region (Macau).

So the SAR of Macau, which like Hong Kong is both part of China and not part of China (‘two systems, one country’), will lease part of a district of a zone of China which will become part of Macau for some purposes, but not for others. The island as a whole will be a special economic district, with tourism development etc. but the campus will have a different status from the rest of it. All sorts of jurisdictional and geographical issues arise. A great example of the complicated nature of political, economic, and cultural borders and the dynamic nature of territory.

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