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Geography of Macau

Learn Information about the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Macau


Macau Flag

The Macau flag is light green with a lotus flower above a stylized bridge and water in white, beneath an arc of five gold, five-pointed stars: one large in center of arc and four smaller.

Source: CIA World Factbook, 2007
Updated July 22, 2011

Population: 573,003 (July 2011 estimate)
Area: 10.8 square miles (28.2 sq km)
Coastline: 25 miles (41 km)
Highest Point: Coloane Alto at 564 feet (172 m)

Macau is one of China's two special administrative regions (SAR). The other is Hong Kongand as a SAR, both Macau and Hong Kong are parts of China but each gets a high level of autonomy and they do not have to follow all of the laws that Chinese provinces do. Instead Macau is able to make its own laws regarding certain issues and it has a different political and judicial system from the rest of China. Macau is a former territory of Portugal.

History of Macau

According the U.S. Department of State, the first official records of Macau date back to 1152 when Xiangshan County was formed and administered the area. By 1516 however the region was used considerably by Portuguese traders and in 1557 China agreed to allow a Portuguese settlement in Macau. The first settlement built by Portugal was a established as a trading post for China-Japan trade and a staging port for trade between Portugal and Japan (U.S. Department of State).

In 1680 the first Portuguese governor to Macau was appointed but the area remained under Chinese control and Portugal paid land and customs taxes until the 1800s. In 1849 Portugal declared Macau's independence and in 1887 the Chinese government and Portugal came up with an agreement called the Protocol of Lisbon which said that Portugal would never give control of Macau to another country without China's permission.

From 1887 until the mid-1900s Portugal peacefully controlled Macau as a territory. In 1949 China's government shifted to communist control and declared the Protocol of Lisbon as invalid. The matter was not settled at that time however and throughout the 1960s there were riots and social instability as pro-communists and Macau's non-communist government clashed. In 1966 and 1974 Portugal tried to give China control of Macau but China did not accept it because of political problems.

In 1979 Portugal and China again began more diplomatic relations and the two agreed at that time to consider Macau as a Chinese territory under Portuguese control. In 1987 China and Portugal came to an agreement that Macau would be returned to Chinese control as a Special Administrative Region in 1999. On December 20 of that year, Macau became China's second SAR (the first was Hong Kong in 1997) and it was to be governed as a part of China with a high level of independence to make its own laws.

Government of Macau

Today Macau is still considered a Special Administration Region of China and as such it has limited democracy. Its executive branch of government is that of China and it has a chief of state (the President of China) and a head of government (China's Chief Executive). Macau's legislative branch is made up of a unicameral Legislative Assembly and its judicial branch is made up of the Court of Final Appeal in Macau Special Administrative Region. Most of Macau's legal system is based on Portugal's model of civil law.

Economics and Land Use in Macau

Macau has a relatively strong government that has grown considerably since 2010. It is highly focused on tourism and gambling but other industries in Macau include clothing and textile manufacturing, electronics, footwear and toys. Agriculture is not large part of Macau's economy due to its small area. Only around 2% of the land there is cultivated and vegetables are the main products of that agriculture (CIA World Factbook). Fishing however is an important part of Macau's economy.

Geography and Climate of Macau

Macau is located in eastern Asia along the South China Sea (map). It also shares borders with China and has 25 miles (41 km) of coastline. Macau has a small area at just 10.8 square miles (28.2 sq km). Most of this area has a flat topography but its highest point is Coloane Alto at 564 feet (172 m).

The climate of Macau is considered subtropical and it has cool winters and mild summers. The average July high temperature is 88.7˚F (31.5˚C) and the average January low temperature is 54˚F (12.2˚C). Most of Macau's precipitation falls from May through August and during that time it gets about 52.874 inches (1,343 mm) of rain.

To learn more about Macau visit the official website of Macau's Government Tourism Office.


Central Intelligence Agency. (5 July 2011). CIA - The World Factbook - Macau. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mc.html

United States Department of State. (22 February 2011). Macau. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/7066.htm

Wikipedia.org. (19 July 2011). Macau - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macau

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