Macau (English: Macao), a Special Administrative Region of China on the south China coast. It lies on the estuary of the Pearl River south of Guangzhou (Canton), China, and across the estuary from Hong Kong. Macau consists of the mainland city of Macau and two islands—Taipa and Coloane. Together they have an area of about 6 square miles (16 km2).
Macau's economy is based on light manufacturing, commerce, tourism, gambling, and fishing. Most of Macau's food and all of its freshwater are imported, primarily from China. More than 95 per cent of the people are Chinese; the rest are Portuguese or persons of Portuguese-Chinese descent. The Cantonese dialect of Chinese is the prevailing language. Portuguese is also spoken. Buddhism is the chief religion. Macau's population in 2000 was about 443,000.
Macau is the oldest European settlement in the Far East. It was established by Portuguese traders with China's permission in 1557. Trade flourished, and until the early 1840's Macau and Guangzhou were the only Chinese ports open to European trade. The development of Hong Kong and other rival ports, beginning in the 1840's, greatly reduced Macau's importance. In 1887 China formally recognized Portugal's sovereignty over the settlement.
The official position of the Chinese government since 1949 has been that Macau is a Chinese territory under Portuguese administration. In 1976 Portugal granted Macau internal self-government and in 1999 transferred administration of the territory to China. Edmund Ho, a local banker, was chosen by the Chinese government to serve as Macau's first chief executive.