MACAU/ Hengqin Development Plan: Borrowing land as a new Macanese way of expansion?

Macau, as a small island, is running out of land to develop. In the past, the government has resorted to land reclamation to make more usable island space but it only adds a limited amount of space from 15km2 in 1972 to 30.3 km2 in 2014 A new solution has recently arisen, which is the borrowing of land from Macau’s neighboring special economic zone- Hengqin.(Fig.1)

Fig.1 Comparison of land area between Hengqin and Macau

“The 106.5 square kilometer island, then with perhaps 7,000 inhabitants, linked to Cotai via Lotus Bridge could serve as the backyard for land scarce Macau”(Fig.2)  and “offers space that can expand Macau’s appeal as a tourist destination, broaden its economic horizons, relieve its housing shortage, and connect Macau more closely with its neighbors and the broader world”.[1]

Fig.2 Hengqin island connected to Cotai through Lotus bridge

This acts as a suitable solution for Macau’s lack of land partly because of Macau’s identity as a frontier city, it’s close proximity and political relationship with Zhuhai and its unique geographical quality being comprised of segregated islands, causing it to have a rather blurred authenticity.[2]


An architect, Pinheiro noted that Macao should emphasise on developing the land provided by Hengqin to build public housing since land reclamation takes a long time and by the time everything including the building of residential on the reclaimed land is finished, new demand for housing will have arisen which the newly reclaimed land is not enough to address.[3] This can benefit more than 70000 migrant workers in Macau since property is less than half the price in Hengqin and with the “24-hour opening of the border gate on 20 November last year, citizens of Macao can buy apartments in Hengqin and go easily to and from across the border”.[4]


Other ways of diversifying Macau’s industries through Hengqin development should be specialised in tourism, leisure and health care: business and financial services: culture, science and education: and high technology.[5] Some successful development plans that Macau has already benefitted from Hengqin includes the expansion of Macau university into Hengqin; participation in the building of Chimelong International Resort on Hengqin area to radiate from macau’s entertainment industry and the building of “a strong trading platform for commodities from Portuguese-speaking countries and regions by taking advantage of Macao’s international links”.


Future possible development plans could include building of maritime museum to highlight its rich cultural history with Portugal as well as building of medical clinics and a chinese medicine industrial park with China on Hengqin to make use of China’s resource in Chinese medicine research and development as well as the western medical technology in Macau and the human resource provided by Macau University. Pinheiro also suggested that “Macau could also consider integrating medical tourism within the territory to attract millions more visitors from China, as there is more trust in the medical western system than in the mainland’s system.”



[1] Hengqin Island Next to Macau Looks Too Big to Fail, Forbes, June 11 2016,

[2] Hong Kong, Macau struggle with their identity as cross-border cities, South China Morning Post, 23 March 2014,

[3] Architect: Macau Should Expand Using Hengqin, Zhuhai Land, Macau Daily Times, March 30 2017,

[4] “Macao Has Special Place in New Hengqin Area.” Macao Magazine, 3 Feb. 2016,

[5] “Macao Has Special Place in New Hengqin Area.” Macao Magazine, 3 Feb. 2016,


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