Amid the social unrest, the huge question is whether “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong will remain intact for 50 years as promised – or grind to a sudden halt.
As we all know, the idea of “one country, two systems” was an ingenious invention of former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, through which the historical territorial dispute between China and the United Kingdom was peacefully resolved.
Yet right from the beginning, “one country, two systems”, which Deng first proposed in January 1982, was actually intended as an alternative and non-force option to unify Taiwan.
However, eight months later, in September 1982, then UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher paid an official visit to China and initiated the Sino-British talks over the sovereignty of Hong Kong after 1997. The rest is history: “one country, two systems”, which was originally intended for Taiwan, became the model to resolve the Hong Kong issue.
In my view, there are two major elements that will affect the implementation of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong in the days ahead: one is political and the other economic.
Politically speaking, Beijing has promised Hong Kong 50 years of status quo, under which we can carry on with our capitalist system.
Yet there is a prerequisite for the fulfillment of that promise: Hong Kong must respect Beijing as the central authority, must never attempt secession, and must make every effort to uphold national security.
As such, Beijing will never make any concession to protesters because the ongoing anti-government movement in Hong Kong, which calls for independence or self-determination for our city, has touched the red line of our state leaders.
Nevertheless, before the resolution of the Taiwan issue, I believe Beijing will continue to stick to the “one country, two systems” approach.
Economically speaking, during the early 1980s, Beijing was placing more emphasis on “two systems” because, back in those days, Hong Kong was making significant and irreplaceable contributions to the mainland’s reform and opening-up.
Nearly four decades on, with China having accomplished a global economic miracle, its reliance on Hong Kong has been diminishing. Hence, the shift of emphasis to “one country”.
But I feel compelled to point out here that whatever the perspective from which we are looking at the issue, it would be impossible for Hong Kong to sustain “two systems” without firmly upholding “one country”.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 18
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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