Macau, also spelled Macao, is, along with Hong Kong, one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China. It lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, bordering Guangdong province to the north and west and facing the South China Sea to the east and south.

Macau was a Portuguese colony and both the first and last European colony in China. Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 16th century and subsequently administered the region until the handover on 20 December 1999. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Macau stipulate that Macau operates with a high degree of autonomy until at least 2049, fifty years after the transfer.

Under the policy of “one country, two systems” the PRC’s Central People’s Government is responsible for the territory’s defense and foreign affairs, while Macau maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, and immigration policy. Macau participates in many international organizations and events that do not require members to possess national sovereignty.

Macau is situated 60 kilometres (37 mi) southwest of Hong Kong and 145 kilometres (90 mi) from Guangzhou. It also has 50.2 kilometres (31.2 mi) of coastline, yet only 0.31 kilometres (0.19 mi) of land border with Guangdong. It consists of the Macau Peninsula itself and the islands of Taipa and Coloane, which are now connected by landfill forming the Cotai Strip. The peninsula is formed by the Zhujiang (Pearl River) estuary on the East and the Xijiang (West River) on the West. It borders the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone in mainland China. The main border crossing between Macau and China is known as the Portas do Cerco (Barrier Gate) on the Macau side, and the Gongbei Port of Entry on the Zhuhai side.

Macau has a humid subtropical climate, with average relative humidity between 75% and 90%. Similar to much of South China, seasonal climate is greatly influenced by the monsoons, and differences in temperature and humidity between summer and winter are noticeable, though not as great as inland China. The average annual temperature of Macau is 22.7 °C (72.9 °F). July is the warmest month, with average temperature being 28.9 °C (84.0 °F). The coolest month is January, with a mean temperature of 15.0 °C (59.0 °F).

Macau’s economy is based largely on gaming and tourism. Other chief economic activities in Macau are export-geared textile and garment manufacturing, banking and other financial services. Gaming, tourism and hospitality industry is the main contributor to Macau’s GDP and to Macau’s government revenue.

Starting in 1962, the gambling industry had been operated under a government-issued monopoly license by Stanley Ho’s Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau. In 2002, the Macau government ended the monopoly system and six casino operating concessions and sub-concessions are granted to Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau, Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Galaxy Entertainment Group, the partnership of MGM Mirage and Pansy Ho (daughter of Stanley Ho), and the partnership of Melco and Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL).

Macau is an offshore financial centre, a tax haven, and a free port with no foreign exchange control regimes. The Monetary Authority of Macau regulates offshore finance, while the Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute provides services for investment in Macau.

Official language(s)     Chinese, Portuguese

Area 30.4 km2 (11.73 sq mi)

Currency     Pataca (MOP)

Time zone     MST (UTC+8)

Drives on the     left

Internet TLD     .mo

Calling code     +853

Government website

2013 2014 2015
Population (millions) 0.6 0.64 0.64
Gross Domestic Product (10^9 USD) 51.2 55.4 46.0
Real Growth Rate (%) 10.7 -0.4 -20.3
Gross Domestic Product per capita (USD) 86,447.00 89,189.00 71,848.00
Inflation – annual average (%) 5.5 6.05 4.56
Unemployment rate (%) 1.7 1.7 1.9
Imports (10^6 USD) 10100 11244 10582
Exports (10^6 USD) 1100 1239 1336
Exchange rate to the USD 8 8 8
External debt (10^9 USD) 0 0 0
External help per capita (USD) 0 0 0
Sources: DSEC