An Analysis of Formula "One Country, Two Systems": The Role of Macau in China's relations with the EU and the Portuguese Speaking Countries.

April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2013
36 months
Funding Entity
Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology

This project examines how the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) has been a case of successful implementation of the formula “one country, two systems”. It focuses on the 1999-2009 period, the ten years of existence of the Macau SAR after the handover from the Portuguese to the Chinese administration. During this period, Macau has arguably been erased from the Portuguese political agenda, but it has assumed an unexpected role on China’s foreign policy, as a bridge between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and two big units: the Portuguese speaking countries (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Timor, Brazil and Portugal) and the European Union (EU). The role of the Macau SAR in China’s foreign policy has not to date received a great deal of scholarly attention; it is only partially approached in some of the works mentioned in the state of the art. Regarding the two case studies, despite their relevance, research on the importance of Macau in the relationship between the PRC and the Portuguese speaking countries and on Sino-European relations are practically inexistent. This project is an attempt to fill that gap. The research team shares know-how in different study areas, from International Law and International Relations in general to Chinese Studies in particular: the leading researcher wrote her PhD thesis on the Macao Transition Process and her Master thesis on EU-China relations; two of the other team members are committed researchers and made practical contributions to the area of EU-China relations; the other two researchers have been working on theoretical issues within the fields of International Relations and International Law. Moreover, the project will hire a PhD student specializing on the relationship between China and the Portuguese speaking countries. The research team is highly motivated and experienced in the area, expecting to contribute to the evolution of the state of the art. The project will analyse the way in which the Chinese government formulates and implements its foreign policy towards the Portuguese speaking countries and the EU through Macau, in much greater detail than any previous studies on this subject. It is argued that China has developed a selected integration of the Macau SAR in its foreign policy, using the specificities of this region to approach the two groups of countries mentioned above. The way China has dealt with Macau integration emphasizes the strong pragmatic dimension of its foreign policy, successfully integrating a region with a different political organization. The PRC has been broadening its international contacts and partnerships in order to fulfil one of its major goals: economic development. This context stimulated the role of Macau in the Chinese foreign policy especially as a way of China establishing further contacts with three strategic areas: Europe, Africa and Latin-America. These regions are assumed by Beijing as important alternatives to the deep but problematic relation with the United States of America. In addition, this project may shed some light on the dynamics between the foreign relations of a national state actor (China) and the external relations of a sub-national unit (Macau). With this purpose, it will analyse the institutional framework created to support these relations between a nation state and an autonomous region. Moreover, the active role played by Macau raises also questions related to “paradiplomacy”, “low politics” and “second line” relations (at a city and municipal level). The research will always take into account the multi-layer and multi-level dimension of China’s foreign policy and pre-existing strategy towards the Portuguese Speaking Countries and the European Union. The external relations of this new political entity – a SAR of China – have also been a test case of the practice of the formula “one country, two systems”, regarding the autonomy and usefulness of the second system. The successful application of this principle in Macau suggests a comparative analysis with other colonial possessions that did not achieve independence. An original idea raised by this study relates to the fact that the important contribution that Macau (and arguably Hong Kong) gives to the foreign policy of its mainland does not occur in any other remain of decolonization. After the Second World War, the trend in international politics has been secession: several new countries were born as larger units broke down to give rise to independent states; but in some unusual cases small units joined bigger ones. At a theoretical level this project highlights the importance of retrocession, an area where International Law and International Relations theories have not been developed adequately. The role given by China to its recovered territories is unique, and may be a very relevant contribution for a new dimension of the International Law.


Publication of paper; Organization of focus group and conference.

Carmen Amado Mendes (coord)
Daniel Cardoso
Helena Rodrigues
José Carlos Matias
José Luis de Sales Marques
macau special administrative region, China, european union portuguese speaking countries, one country two systems