Macau is China's route to Taiwan

AN ENORMOUS red clock in Peking's Tiananmen Square is counting the seconds to midnight on December 19, when Macau will return to the motherland's embrace. Some 1,500 miles south, in the tiny Portuguese enclave itself, the flags are already up and the cameras are ready to roll over the lavish firework and air displays that will celebrate China's resumption of sovereignty.

There will be a national holiday, and China's top leaders will fly to Macau for the handover - not to party, or even to try their luck in Macau's famous casinos, but to hammer home a clear political message.

The end of Portuguese administration in Macau marks the end of 442 years of "humiliating" European control over parts of China. More significantly, once Macau, like Hong Kong, is in the bag, then only Taiwan is outside Peking's control. And the underlying reason for Peking pulling out all the stops for the three tiny islands of Macau - population, less than half a million - is that it wants to woo renegade Taiwan on to the same path of reunification.

"Taiwan is now the major issue for Peking," commented Jia Qingguo, associate dean of Peking's University of International Studies. Ever since the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, Peking has been offering a similar "one country, two systems" formula to the island. With Macau soon under the same formula, the pressure on Taiwan is bound to grow.

According to sources in the Chinese capital, President Jiang Zemin will lead the first move, a full-scale propaganda campaign aimed at the three main candidates for Taiwan's presidential elections in March. The message is likely to be a very hard sell to Taiwan, which has been a separate political entity since 1949 when China's defeated nationalist government fled there after civil war with the Communists.

But far from responding positively to Peking's overtures, Taiwan's President, Lee Teng-hui, raised tensions in July by insisting that all contact between Peking and Taipei be on a "state-to-state" basis. That sent alarm- bells ringing on the mainland and throughout the region, as Peking had vowed to take the island by force should it declare official independence.

Macau remains an important bridge between Taiwan and China, with about 850,000 visitors from Taiwan passing through to the mainland each year. They are represented by the Taipei Trade and Tourism Office. But Peking finds even that hard to stomach. Chinese officials want the title toned down, to sound less official. It's not a move likely to endear Peking to Taiwan.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links