In a meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, President Xi Jinping solemnly declared to the world that “there is no reason for us to change such a good policy (‘one country, two systems’), and we must adhere to it in the long run.” Xi’s remarks, though widely hailed as a breakthrough in the “50 years no change” mantra, raised questions on what prompted the assurance to announce the resolution to keep “one country, two systems” unchanged in the foreseeable future, especially when the first half of the policy’s 50 years was not all smooth sailing.
The arrangement of keeping “one country, two systems” unchanged for 50 years was put forward by then-State paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and was thereafter written into the Basic Law. Deng then specified two indispensable preconditions that served as the basis for his faith in the special administrative region’s unswerving implementation of the policy for 50 years.
The first precondition was “keeping two aspects unchanged”. Deng put it as saying that both aspects must remain unchanged. First, the socialist system in the mainland must be kept intact for 50 years and afterward; otherwise, Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity would be unable to stand. A stable State ensures the stability of a region like Hong Kong. Deng pinned his faith on socialism practices on the State level, so maintaining capitalism in the SAR would be constructive.
The other precondition lies in the State’s three-step development strategy in which Deng envisaged that China would attain the goal of being a medium-developed country in the mid-21st century, the point in time that neatly coincides with the “50 years no change” in the SAR. Deng believed that, with the nation becoming increasingly stronger, regions practicing capitalist systems would be all the more stable. If so, who would ever think about changing the status quo? With this vision in mind, Deng, therefore, had the assurance to declare that no change would be considered for the first 50 years, and no need for change in the second.
If Deng’s theory of “unchanged for 50 years” was a portrayed vision, Xi’s affirmation of keeping “one country, two systems” unchanged is testament to a more-solid foundation that stands greater assurance. As the three-step development strategy has been accomplished ahead of schedule, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China formulated a new “three-step development strategy” aimed at upgrading China into a great modern socialist country by the middle of the 21st century. Thanks to the 40 years of reform and opening-up, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is becoming unstoppable. The confidence in socialism with Chinese characteristics is in full blossom, with its course, theory, institution, and culture being cherished and appreciated.
Hong Kong, after weathering storms and challenges during its 25 years of implementing “one country, two systems”, has proved the governance model to be efficacious and effective. With the central government’s guidance and unswerving support, the SAR is gifted the ability to self-adjust and rectify deviations. The city, by venturing its way to the new explorations, will unleash its great vibrancy and vitality. Such a scenario neatly befits Xi’s reiteration that “one country, two systems” has been tested repeatedly in practice. It serves the fundamental interests of not only Hong Kong and Macao, but also the whole country and the nation. It has gained wide support from the 1.4 billion-plus Chinese people, including the residents of Hong Kong and Macao. It is also widely accepted by the international community. There is no reason for us to change such a good policy, and we must adhere to it in the long run.
From Deng to Xi, the two generations of CPC leaders demonstrated their full confidence in adhering to “one country, two systems” in the long run, which is underpinned by their indomitable faith in the socialist path chosen by the Chinese people and by their sagacious vision of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. “One country, two systems” is one of the major achievements of the CPC through 101 years of epic fighting against all odds. It has been incorporated into the fundamental strategy for upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the modern era and established as the outstanding strength in the State system and national governance. “One country, two systems”, without a shadow of a doubt, will remain unchanged and must be continuously adhered to in the long run.
The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.