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Backgrounders> Nation
UPDATED: May 26, 2009
'ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS': The Best Way to Peaceful Reunification
Wen Qing

"One country, two systems" is a scientific concept put forward by Deng Xiaoping for the peaceful solution to the issue of China's reunification; it is a new policy adopted by the Communist Party of China (CPC) towards Taiwan under the new situation.

Formation of the Concept

The "one country, two systems" concept was formed after repeated discussion and careful consideration.

On December 15, 1978, while speaking about the work related to Taiwan, Deng Xiaoping proposed a third round of Kuomintang-CPC co-operation to bring about reunification of the country. According to him, Taiwan's socio-economic system, lifestyle and foreign investment will remain unchanged and its army will become local armed forces. The watchword is patriotism, or, in Deng's words, "All patriots belong to one big family."

The Communique of the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, adopted on December 22, 1978, pointed out: "The normalization of relations between China and the United States further places before us the prospect of the return of our sacred territory Taiwan to the embrace of our motherland and the accomplishment of the great cause of reunification."

On January 1, 1979, the Standing Committee of the Fifth National People's Congress at its Fifth Session published the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan, making known to the world the cardinal policy for reunification of the country. The message stated, "In accomplishing the great cause of reunifying the motherland, we respect the status quo on Taiwan and the opinions of people in all walks of life there; we adopt reasonable policies and measures in settling the question of reunification so as not to cause the people of Taiwan any losses."

On January 30 the same year, Deng Xiaoping told a meeting of the Sino-US Friendship Association and the All-America Chinese-Americans Association: "We no longer use the phrase 'liberate Taiwan.' So long as Taiwan returns to the embrace of the motherland, we will respect Taiwan's reality and its current system."

In a talk given on April 20, 1980, Deng Xiaoping stated: "Taiwan is allowed to keep its social system and lifestyle intact. It is even permitted to function as a local government and retain its armed forces, as long as the Taiwan authorities recognize Taiwan as part of the People's Republic of China. It is a local government with a wide range of autonomy."

In his interview with a Xinhua correspondent on September 30, 1981, the late Ye Jianying, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, elaborated on the policy concerning China's peaceful reunification, (referred to as the 'nine-article statement' for short). Article 3 says, "After the country is reunified, Taiwan can enjoy a high degree of autonomy as a special administrative region and it can retain its armed forces. The central government will not interfere with local affairs on Taiwan." Article 4 says, "Taiwan's current socioeconomic system will remain unchanged, so will its way of life and its economic and cultural relations with foreign countries. There will be no encroachment on the proprietary rights and lawful right of inheritance over private property, houses, land and enterprises, or on foreign investments." These two articles outline the basic content of the "one country, two systems" concept.

In his talks with foreign guests on January 11, 1982, Deng Xiaoping summed up for the first time the idea of "one country, two systems." He said, "The 'nine-article statement' made in the name of Vice-Chairman Ye (Ye Jianying was then vice-chairman of the CPC Central Committee), actually means 'one country, two systems.' Two systems are permissible. They (Taiwan) should not undermine the mainland's system, neither should we undermine theirs: Roughly speaking, these articles apply to not only the question of Taiwan, but the issue of Hong Kong as well." Since then, the CPC's concept for the solution to the Taiwan issue has basically taken shape.

In a meeting with British Prime Minister Thatcher in September 1982, Deng Xiaoping publicly presented the "one country, two systems" concept. He said, "....with regard to the recovery of sovereignty over Hong Kong, it can be resolved by following the 'one country, two systems' formula."

In June 1983, when meeting with Dr. Winston L.Y. Yang, professor of a university in New Jersey, Deng Xiaoping clearly noted that "after the reunification of the motherland, the Taiwan Special Administrative Region can have its own independence, practise a system different from that of the mainland, and its independent judiciary and right of final judgment need not reside in Beijing. Taiwan can retain its army so long as it does not constitute a threat to the mainland. The mainland will station neither troops nor administrative personnel in Taiwan. Taiwan's party, government and army departments are managed by Taiwan itself. The central government will reserve some seats for Taiwan." Deng also pointed out, "The systems can be different, but only the People's Republic of China can represent China in international affairs."

On October 15, 1984, the weekly Outlook published an article quoting Deng Xiaoping as saying, "The 'one country, two systems' concept is an important strategic decision; it is not a measure of expediency."

On December 19, 1984, when the joint declaration on the issue of Hong Kong was signed in Beijing between China and Britain, the "one country, two systems" formula was written into an international accord for the first time. This fact proves the practicality of the concept.

From the above fact it can be seen: First, the starting point of the "one country, two systems" concept is the solution to the question of China's reunification, that is, the solution to the issues, of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. Second, a comparison between the question of Hong Kong and Macao and that of Taiwan shows that they are different in two aspects: first is the difference in nature and second is that conditions for solution are different. Hong Kong and Macao are a matter of resuming exercise of sovereignty, which requires negotiation with foreign countries. Taiwan is a matter of internal affair among the Chinese, which is to be resolved through cooperation between the ruling parties of the two sides across the Taiwan Straits. With regard to the terms of solution, they are more relaxed for Taiwan than for Hong Kong and Macao on matters such as the stationing of troops. Third, the "one country, two systems" concept is designed to address the issue of Taiwan, but it will first be implemented in deeling with question of Hong Kong. Fourth, "one country, two systems" is a strategic decision. In the course of resolving the Taiwan issue, the concept will be enriched, supplemented and brought to perfection in accordance with the different opinions of various quarters.

The Connotations

The contents of the "one country, two systems" can be summed up as follows: Within the unified People's Republic of China, the mainland practises socialism, while the current capitalist system of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao will remain unchanged. With socialism as the main, the whole country will include the three special administrative regions under a different social system.

The "one country, two systems" is, in the first place, one country, i.e., the People's Republic of China, not "two countries." This is the prerequisite, a precondition. There can only be one China in the world, there cannot be "two Chinas." There cannot be "two Chinas" in a disguised form nor can the "independence of Taiwan" be tolerated.

With regard to reunification with Taiwan, a few points have to be made: First, the reunification of China's mainland with Taiwan is China's internal affair which brooks no interference from outsiders. Second, China's peaceful reunification is in the interest of peace in Asia and the whole world. With regard to China's peaceful reunification, we welcome efforts, if any, made by politicians and people of all circles in foreign countries to promote this cause through their own influence. Third, we firmly oppose any country or individual who obstructs or sabotages China's reunification in whatever manners. We will never tolerate any plot and act to create "two Chinas," "one China, one Taiwan," or the "independence of Taiwan." Fourth, under the principle of one China, the central government has no objection to Taiwan's economic, cultural and other non-governmental relations with foreign countries. Taiwan can join nongovernmental or certain specialized international organizations in the name of "China's Taiwan" or "China's Taibei," attend non-governmental international conferences and take part in specific multilateral foreign affairs activities, but in doing so it must change its flag, anthem and emblem. This policy demonstrates the CPC's respect for reality.

The "two systems" is an important component of the "one country, two systems" concept. Without the "two systems," the concept would be non-existent. The "two systems" will continue at least 50 years as the Sino-British Joint Declaration clearly stipulates that after the recovery of sovereignty over Hong Kong, its capitalist system will remain unchanged for 50 years. After the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland, the duration of time during which it will retain capitalism will not be shorter than that allowed for Hong Kong. The Communist Party of China has long indicated that peacefully reunifying the motherland was an established policy and that, after China's peaceful reunification, the "one country, two systems" would be put into practice.

The policy of allowing Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao to keep the capitalist system for 50 years means that the mainland government will not force its system on them or interfere in their internal affairs. Reunification will be based on reality. It does not mean that one side gobbles up the other. Relevant stipulations have been laid down in the state's Constitution and specific policies.

With regard to the varions factions and divergent opinions existing in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, it is up to their respective authorities to handle. The central government is concerned with only two matters: one is that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao cannot be separated from the motherland; and, second, they should not constitute a threat to the mainland and should not serve as a base to subvert socialism and the People's Republic of China.

Theoretical Basis

There is a theoretical basis for the "one country, two systems" concept.

First, it was adopted after the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee, the Communist Party of China restored the ideological line of seeking truth from facts. At that time, the whole Party and the people of the whole country were confronted with "three major tasks for the 1980s.": construction, combating hegemony and reunification. Although these tasks cannot be completed in the 1980s, they must be placed high on the agenda.

As far as "reunification" is concerned, there are only two methods, through force or through peaceful means. But peaceful means are obviously the ideal choice. This is because, first, China needs a peaceful environment for construction, not a destructive war; second, any conflict between the compatriots in the mainland and Taiwan can only weaken the Chinese nation, to the benefit of outsiders; third, liberation by armed force will inevitably consume large amounts of human, material and financial resources and hamper the development of the Chinese nation; and fourth, Taiwan compatriots oppose the possible consequences of a war and do not want to change their present way of life. Peaceful reunification conforms with the wishes of the people on both sides of the Taiwan straits.

A peaceful solution requires consideration of the interests of the various related quarters, including the Kuomintang and other political parties, organizations and people of all strata. Of course, the overall interests of the Chinese nation are of paramount importance. Only the method of "one country, two systems" can make all this possible. This method enables Taiwan to return to the embrace of the motherland without suffering major turbulence and guarantees Taiwan's prosperity and stability. It helps accomplish China's reunification and allows Taiwan to remain in touch with the various parts of the world, particularly the capitalist world, and retain the necessary international conditions for further development. Although Taiwan is different from the mainland, the two can form close ties, complement and help each other for common progress.

Since a peaceful method is advocated for reunification, why doesn't the CPC promise refrain from using force? The Communist Party of China has repeatedly declared that it does not want or prepare to use force, there are three main reasons why it does not commit itself to give up the use of force: First, matters that concern national dignity must not be handled at the beck and call of a foreign country and any promise that would harm national dignity must not be made. For matters relating to China's internal affairs, we will not tolerate any foreign country's indiscreet remarks. Since some foreign countries have always cast greedy eyes on Taiwan, we must not bind ourselves hand and foot and thus be at a loss what to do if foreign involvement should occur. Second, the statement is also directed against the plot for the "independence of Taiwan." The "movement for independence of Taiwan" is making increasing noise and so we must be on the alert. Third, the statement is aimed at those Kuomintang members opposed to reunification. If we promised to relinquish the use of force, these people would wax cocky and never accept peace negotiations.

Second, the "one country, two systems" concept fits in with the theory on the primary stage of socialism and constitutes one characteristic of Chinese-styled socialism.

According to Deng Xiaoping's plan, China's socialist modernization should proceed in three steps: First, double the 1980 gross national product (GNP) to solve the problem of clothing and feeding the Chinese people; second, redouble the 1980 GNP by the end of the century so that the people will become well off; third, by the middle of the next century, basically accomplish modernization, that is, the percapita GNP will reach the level of a moderately developed country and the Chinese people can live a comparatively affluent life." Throughout the period, the mainland will be in the primary stage of socialism while Taiwan practises capitalism. That is to say, the "one country, two systems" will persist throughout the primary stage of socialism.

The solution of the issue of Hong Kong and Macao will put an end to the century-old national humiliation and set the stage for the settlement of the Taiwan question.

Third, the "one country, two systems" represents a development of Lenin's strategic idea of "taking advantage of capitalism." Shortly after the founding of New China, the Communist Party of China creatively applied this idea when it adopted a policy of utilizing, restricting and transforming the national bourgeoisie.

After 1978, in order to build socialism with Chinese characteristics, the Party adoped the policy of diversifying the economy with socialist public ownership as the mainstay and giving full play to the role of the individual economy, the private economy as well as Sino-foreign joint ventures, co-operative enterprises and wholly owned foreign enterprises as necessary supplements to the socialist economy. In addition, special economic zones and open cities were established. All these policies are aimed at making capitalism serve socialism.

The "one country, two systems" formula developed the idea of "making use of bourgeois capital" by allowing two or three capitalist regions to exist in a socialist country. This is a development of great significance.

Fourth, the "one country, two systems" concept is an application of the principle of "peaceful coexistence" for settling domestic questions. It also provides an example for solving certain international disputes.

The peaceful co-existence between countrieswith two different social systems was proposed by Lenin. In 1954, the prime ministers of China and India initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and, in April 1955, the Five Principles were confirmed by the Bandung Conference. When the principle of peaceful coexistence was taken to apply to China's domestic affairs, the "one country, two systems" concept was put forward. On October 31, 1984, when meeting with Burmese President U San Yu, Deng Xiaoping noted, "Viewed from international experience, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence have a strong vitality," and, as we further consider such questions, the principle of 'peaceful coexistence,' when applied to solving a country's domestic problems, is perhaps also a good guide because the 'one country, two systems' we have put forward entails yet another form of peaceful coexistence."

In the world today, there is no lack of precedent for the use of the armed forces to solve many knotty problems. The solution of the Hong Kong issue by China and Britain demonstrates that it is entirely possible to solve certain international disputes by the method of "one country, two systems." Therefore, the "one country, two systems" concept has enriched the principle of peaceful coexistence and made it possible to avoid sharp domestic and international conflicts. It is not difficult to see that the "one country, two systems" concept will become an important factor for long-term stability in the world; it is where its significance to world peace lies.

Fifth, the law of unity of opposites is the theoretical basis of the "one country, two systems." Unity of opposites is the basic law governing everything in the universe. According to Mao Zedong's explanation, two conflicting aspects struggle against and depend on each other at one and the same time, and, under given conditions, they coexist in one entity; under other given conditions, one side may be transformed into its opposite. Undoubtedly, socialism and capitalism are antagonistic, but they also maintain close ties. Socialism is established on the capitalist material foundation; they two are linked in the chain of development of human history. In a certain historical stage, they will coexist and infiltrate each other. The value of the "one country, two systems" concept is that in a socialist country, it is possible to keep several capitalist regions intact, a practice which also benefits socialism.

In short, the "one country, two systems" is a strategic policy adopted by the Chinese Communist Party in the highest interests of the Chinese nation and in light of the status quo of the two sides. Making China united, prosperous and powerful is the common desire of all the Chinese people. The issue of Taiwan will eventually be solved; the "one country, two systems" concept will become the best method to achieve China's. peaceful reunification.

(Beijing Review, No.33, 1990)

Deng On 'One Country, Two Systems'

Deng Xiaoping said Dec. 19 that the Hongkong agreement had removed a shadow over Sino-British relations. He predicted a bright future for cooperation and friendship between the two countries.

Deng said in a meeting with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that the Hongkong issue dated back one and a half centuries. Unless this question was settled, it would always cast a shadow on relations between China and Britain and their peoples, he said.

Deng told Thatcher that the concept of "one country, two systems" was formulated in accordance with the principle of seeking truth from facts and it could be raised only under the conditions of China. "Facts over the past two years have proved the feasibility of the concept." he added.

The proposal that the existing system of Hongkong will not change for 50 years after 1997, Deng said, was formulated in the light of China's open policy and endeavour to catch up with the advanced level of the developed countries. "To be well-to-do by the end of the century calls for dozens of years of efforts," he said.

Deng added, "When we speak of two systems, it is because the main part of China, with a population of one billion, is practising socialism. It is under this prerequisite that we allow capitalism to remain in a small part of the country. This will help develop our socialist economy, and so will the policy of opening to the world."

(Beijing Review, No.52, 1984)

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