Driven by favourable trade prospects and missionary enthusiasm, Portugal made the territory of what is now Macau one of its trading posts in 1537. The trading post acted as a base from which the Portuguese enjoyed a monopoly in trading Chinese products with countries in Southeast Asia and Japan.
In 1845 Portugal declared Macau a free port. In the disputes that followed this declaration, Portugal expelled Chinese officials from Macao and declared the territory to be Portuguese. In 1951, however, it was decided that Macao would be an overseas province of Portugal only in administrative terms. This decision returned Macao to Chinese territory under Portuguese rule and left it under Chinese sovereignty. The administration of Macao was placed in the hands of a Portuguese governor. In 1974, Governor Col Garcia Leandro initiated a policy of developing a Macao market economy and made Macao's administration less dependent on the Portuguese government. However, the policies of the Macao authorities remained subject to Portugal's approval. After diplomatic relations between China and Portugal were established in 1979, the first negotiations between the two countries on the future of the Portuguese colony began in 1986.
In January 1988, China and Portugal ratified a joint declaration establishing that, under the "one country, two systems" principle, Macao would become a Special Administrative Region of China on 20 December 1999. The declaration stated that Macao will have autonomy until 2049 and can formulate policies independently, except in the area of foreign and security policy. A Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group was set up to manage the handover of Macao to China.
Macao's constitution, the Basic Law, was drafted in 1991 and ratified by the Chinese government in 1993. The Basic Law defines Macao's constitutional status within China and should ensure the sustainability of the "one country, two systems" formula. Edmund Ho was elected as the first Chief Executive of Macao SAR in 1999 and re-elected for a second five-year term in December 2004. The next elections will be in 2009.
On 26 July 2009, Fernando Chui Sai On was elected Chief Executive. The real power rests with the Chinese President which has been Xi Jinping since 2013. Since 2019, Ho has been the Chief executive.
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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