Urban Image Construction in Macau in the First Decade after the “Handover”, 1999-2008

Hendrik Tieben


This paper describes the transformation of Macau’s urban image in the first decade after the “handover” of the Portuguese enclave to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the pre-handover years and the first years of the newly established Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR), urban interventions created an image thought to assure the continuity of Macau’s Eurasian identity along with future financial stability. In 2002, with the governmental decision not to renew the local gambling monopoly, Macau’s urban image was radically transformed. The liberalization of the gambling industry after Macau’s return to the PRC was combined with the deregulation of building heights, developer-friendly land sales, a growing number of migrant workers, and the liberalization of travel restrictions for mainland visitors. These deregulations were based on decisions by the MSAR and the PRC governments, respectively, and led to the exponential growth of Macau’s GDP within only six years. This paper describes how, through these decisions, Macau’s urban image and space have been transformed.

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