Forget the gang violence and the relative tedium in the ‘good old days’ of Portuguese rule; with casinos flourishing in, and with up to 20 million tourists – most of whom are Mainland Chinese – visiting every year, and with revenues up to 5 times those of Las Vegas (gambling alone contributes nearly 40 billion US$, annually, to this city of 500,000 inhabitants), Macau, for most of its locals, has been an entirely brand-new world. One that is marked, instead of by burning cars and all-hell-break-loose waves of retaliation, by glitzy, candy-colored towers of casinos; by a hodgepodge of tourists than a serene wave of relative quiet; and also by a wave of unease perceived by the locals, despite its record-shattering GDP-per-capita accomplishment, than one of joy.
Even for an ex-gangster, the changes have been tremendously insurmountable.
Read the full article on Foreign Policy (released in January 2013).
Under Portugal, a somewhat reluctant colonial power, the city had a sleepy air and a sluggish economy to match: a combination of triad violence and the Asian financial crisis caused Macau’s gross domestic product to contract by 6.8 percent in 1998. Portugal repeatedly tried to return Macau to China as part of its 1970s decolonization push, but Beijing refused to retake sovereignty until 1999. At the time of the handover, textile manufacturing dominated Macau’s economy, and the relatively small casino industry was controlled entirely by Stanley Ho. Seen in Macau as a sort of roguish, eccentric patriarch — part Howard Hughes, part Donald Trump — Ho allegedly earned the money to start his first business as a reward for single-handedly defeating pirates who attacked an employer’s ship during World War II.
Bonus: slide show included.