Building Identity via the International Parade

The event is a successful example of unobtrusively enhancing identity among Macau people, says research involving IFTM alumna and IFTM scholar

Research Corner | A partnership between Macau Business and the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM)


Macao International Parade appears to be a “successful case” – in a “postcolonial destination” context – of an event that is able to enhance identification among locals with the national identity. So says a research paper involving an alumna and a scholar from the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM).

The parade has been able to achieve this by making use of “an entertaining celebration” that is only “softly associated” with the handover to Chinese administration from that of Portugal and with Chinese national identity, say the researchers.

“Organising a cultural festival to celebrate the city’s uniqueness and newly-acquired identity may be a better means” to achieve identity-formation than by directly imprinting “multiple Chinese political symbols” on locals, wrote the authors of the research. “This soft process, more reliant on the social and cultural aspects,” than other forms of identity-building, has “proved to be useful to generate positive emotions.”

The comments were featured in the paper “National identity and cultural festivals in postcolonial destinations,” produced by four international researchers, including IFTM alumna Carol Xiaoyue Zhang – now a scholar at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom – and IFTM scholar Tuan Phong Ly (Jack). The other authors were Lawrence Hoc Nang Fong from the University of Macau and Shina Li from Sun Yat-sen University, in mainland China. The work was published last year in the academic journal Tourism Management.

This was not the first academic paper on postcolonial identity to bring together Dr. Zhang and Dr. Ly. Previously they jointly wrote – along with two other scholars – the paper “Politics of memories: Identity construction in museums,” published in 2018 in the Annals of Tourism Research. It analysed commentaries on the Hong Kong Museum of History and Macao Museum, respectively, which were used to describe exhibits to local and international visitors.

Macau was hired and administered by Portugal for centuries, until 1999, when it was returned to Chinese control, becoming a Special Administrative Region of China.

Hybrid identity

In the “National identity and cultural festivals in postcolonial destinations” paper, the authors pointed out that Macau’s “hybrid identity” – often described as ‘East meets West’ – revealed that the city’s identity had “not yet become purely Chinese.” The Macao International Parade “symbolises a softer process to legitimate the Chinese national identity,” associating the handover with “the celebratory atmosphere of a festival to generate positive emotions and inform identity,” said the researchers.

The annual Macao International Parade – known until 2016 as “Parade through Macao, Latin City” – has been held annually by the city’s Cultural Affairs Bureau since 2011. The parade features performing groups from around the world and local artists. Its route includes places that are part of the UNESCO-listed Historic Centre of Macau. The event attracts thousands each year.

According to the researchers, the parade has “a clear political agenda to celebrate Macau’s handover and bring the community together.” While festivals elsewhere “have often utilised their own cultural heritage symbols to reinforce significant historical events, this festival seems to reuse [Macau’s] Portuguese legacy to celebrate its newly acquired Chinese identity.”

They added that “downplaying” the “colonial legacy” of Macau through “transferring the colonial cultural [heritage] to a multi-culture” event, further helped the Macao International Parade’s national identity-forming function.

The authors used a mixture of methods for their research. There was a qualitative study to investigate the rationale for organising festivals to celebrate postcolonial hybrid identities, taking as an example the Macao International Parade. There was also a quantitative study using a survey – collecting a total of 255 valid responses from parade-goers – to investigate the socio-political role that festivals play in postcolonial destinations.

“For a new postcolonial destination, such as Macau, the historical event that changed its identity from a colony to a Special Administrative Region of China is magnificent,” said the researchers. “Encouraging positive emotions towards the handover” – via the parade – “should eventually legitimate Macau’s newly-acquired Chinese national identity,” they added.

The researchers indicated that similar situations were “widely visible” in other postcolonial destinations with hybrid identities. In such places, the organisation of cultural festivals and events also went through “a process similar to Macau, where identities are negotiated to demonstrate local uniqueness and international position.”

– The researchers

Carol Xueyue Zhang is an assistant professor of tourism marketing and management at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. She has a PhD from the University of Surrey, also in the UK. Dr. Zhang began her higher education studies at the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM), graduating in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Tourism Business Management. Her research interests include identity, tourist behaviour and destination marketing.

University of Macau assistant professor, Lawrence Hoc Nang Fong, holds a PhD in hotel and tourism management from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research areas include tourist behaviour, the impact of casinos on communities and the effects of online reviews.

Tuan Phong Ly (Jack)

Shina Li is a professor at the School of Tourism Management at Sun Yat-sen University, in mainland China. She has a background in tourism economics and her research interests cover tourism and event-impact evaluation. Dr. Li has a PhD from the University of Nottingham in the UK.

Tuan Phong Ly (Jack) is a visiting assistant professor at IFTM. He holds a PhD from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interests include ecotourism, national park model management, cultural heritage management, tourism development in Southeast Asia and museum development. He teaches tourism management and culture-related subjects at IFTM.

– The paper

Carol Xiaoyue Zhang, Lawrence Hoc Nang Fong, ShiNa Li and Tuan Phong Ly: “National identity and cultural festivals in postcolonial destinations”, Tourism Management, Volume 73, pages 94-104, 2019.