The first noteworthy measure came when the Chinese State Council announced it was streamlining the procedures for Macau residents, as well as those of Hong Kong and Taiwan, to apply for a residence permit in the Mainland (five years, renewable), if they are already living or working in China.
Later, another policy, this time benefitting Chinese residents from the Mainland who wish to visit Macau – or Hong Kong and Taiwan – was also unveiled last week. Starting on September 1, a total of new 386 visa application offices will be open in Guangdong Province alone. The novelty of this policy is related to the relaxation of the household registration system (hukou) – which ties a person to his or her place of origin to enjoy medical and other benefits – thus enabling people working but not registered in several cities in Guangdong to apply directly there, instead of having to go back to his or her hometown to apply for a tourist visa to Macau.
Since it is on China’s side of the rope to allow more or less visitors to come to the city, the effects of the new policy might have an impact on the local tourism market. Chances are the number of people visiting casino venues and heritage sites, not to mention those transiting through the Macau airport – which again recently registered a record number of passengers – will increase. Remember that the head of the Tourism Bureau, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, said last year that they aim to welcome 40 million tourists per year to the city. At nearly 32.61 million at the end of 2017, the new policy might slowly work to get us there.
But the main point is that those initiatives that we could clearly say are aimed at gearing up integration within the Chinese idea of Greater China – including the Special Administrative Regions (SARs) and Taiwan – have been announced by the central government, with no prior note by the local administration to the local population about their enactment.
In addition to an overtly top-down approach – we know policy design is usually top-down, although we expect their announcements be made at the local level – the Macau government has remained mute about the new policies. There is not much information available to residents, and all that could be gathered so far has come from official Chinese statements and Mainland Chinese media. A sign of the times.