Is critical thinking something to be encouraged? What might at first seem an obvious “yes” turned out to be a rather nuanced issue in the consultation document for the coming decade’s Macau Youth Policy (2021–2030).
Macau Business Editorial | January 2021 | By José Carlos Matias – Director
While the previous blueprint (2012–2020) stated the importance of fostering a younger generation with “independent thinking and a critical mindset”, the new proposed Policy, in its Chinese version, handles these qualities with a “lighter” touch, having abandoned that wording in the wake of opinions collected in favour of an expression (審辨) that resonates an “ability to examine and distinguish”.
Behind the shift is the way current education authorities regard the expression used in the previous blueprint for “critical” (批判) – seen as primarily having a negative implication. One should note that, despite having been widely used as choice of characters to translate ‘critical (thinking)’; the expression itself has been disputed by some experts. It’s not our place here to throw the hat into the ‘linguistic discussion’ ring. Nonetheless, it’s noteworthy that the rationale behind the move stems from an official view that criticism is welcome but has to be constructive.
What might sound, at first glance, like a ‘storm in a tea-cup’ embodies a wider question. It appears the language advocating critical thinking endorsed by local authorities a decade ago has given rise to second thoughts this time around and been redacted. Does this point to a “change of heart” over the degree to which criticism ought to be cherished? Couldn’t the current environment lead to a narrowing of the space in which youngsters are likely to freely express their points of view?
One can’t overstate the usefulness of independent-minded, critical thinking for correcting mistakes and improving decision-making.
A reduced scope for critical thinking has a negative knock-on effect on civic participation, pluralism and innovation. It may also be reflected in less-than-bold problem-solving skills and fewer breakthroughs in knowledge, science and entrepreneurship. This should not be underestimated in light of the much-touted need to nurture “local talent”, a buzzword embodying a crucial challenge for the younger generations in the coming decade as the SAR faces a more competitive environment.
It’s important to highlight that the Youth Policy blueprint does address a number of these issues and rightly sets out key objectives, while bearing in mind that a paternalistic approach is not necessarily the best way to attain these goals.
This is constructively critical and critically constructive.
The idea has been floated before, but it gained new impetus when mainland media reported that a representative from the National Development and Reform Commission said authorities were indeed considering a plan to establish a Macau Stock Exchange in Hengqin. No specific details were provided, and as seen in these pages a number of questions have surfaced. Whatever the case, this signals a welcome determination of mainland authorities to assist Macau in its push for economic diversification and regional integration. Development of new financial services is the way forward. What’s needed now is to hammer out the many details and build a solid legal framework, attract the necessary skilled human resource and find a competitive advantage in the division of labour between Macau and its neighbours, considering the mammoth capital market of Hong Kong and the rising star that is Shenzhen. A creative approach to the functionality of a future Macau–Henqgin financial hub is needed, as is a long-term focus on developing an ecosystem that will reinvigorate the SAR’s economic structure in the coming decades by making the best of the accumulated capacity of the gaming and tourism industries and the injection of new blood from the drive for financial innovation. And by learning the lessons of imbalanced financial centres that failed to be people-centred.
Macau has been home to many foreigners who became truly distinguished citizens and benefactors. Sister Juliana Devoy, who passed away last month, was one of a kind. She leaves behind a priceless legacy of kindness, compassion, solidarity and humanity. She was an angel to countless women, victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. Her determination to raise awareness of the need to make domestic violence a public crime will forever be remembered as an inspirational gesture of selfless public service.