MRI Forum 21

"Macao: Living in China, Living with the Border"

by Werner Breitung


Summary of the Presentation

Macao people are border people. They live with the border to Zhuhai, which has become part of their everyday lives. Their identity, their thinking and their choices are influenced by this spatial setting, as much as they are influenced for example by living in a Chinese, in a post-colonial or in an urban environment. The lecture is based on quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews in Macao, Zhuhai and Zhongshan conducted in 2003 and 2004. They reveal a wide array of experience with the border and with the places and people beyond it. People recall the rapid transformation of Zhuhai and changes in the border administration. They also comment on their identities and the perceived differences between Macao and Zhuhai people. While most of them emphasize the unity of the country and people, a striking amount of negative views about mainlanders also emerges in the interviews. The border still features strongly in the minds, and few Macao people would agree to remove it. They have, on the other hand, already developed a transborder life style as is exemplified by issues such as shopping, petty smuggling, cross-border marriages and cross-border commuting. The border is apparently seen less as a limitation than as an opportunity.

Profile of the Speaker

Werner Breitung was born in Berlin ( Germany ). He currently is Associate Professor of Geography in Guangzhou. His research interests are cities and borders, especially the impact of globalisation and political change on cities and transborder developments. His regional foci are China and East Asia, partly in comparison with European examples. With degrees in geography and mathematics from Free University Berlin he did his PhD in geography at the University of Basel ( Switzerland ). His doctoral thesis on “ Hong Kong and the integration process. Spatial patterns and planning concepts” was published as a book in 2001. Dr. Breitung has lived in Hong Kong since 1994 and taught at the University of Macau from 2001 to 2003, University of Hong Kong since 2001 and Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou and Zhuhai since 2004. He was a research scholar of the Instituto Cultural do Macau (ICM) and has recently been appointed Regional Editor for China of the German geography journal Geographische Rundschau International. His publications are mainly on Hong Kong as a global city and on cross-border integration in the Pearl River Delta.