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One country, two systems
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 一國兩制
Simplified Chinese 一国两制
Portuguese name
Portuguese Um país, dois sistemas

"One country, two systems" is an idea originally proposed by Deng Xiaoping, then Paramount Leader of the People's Republic of China (PRC), for the reunification of China during the early 1980s. He suggested that there would be only one China, but areas such as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan could have their own capitalist economic and political systems, while the rest of China uses the "socialist" system. Under the suggestion, Taiwan could continue to have its own political system, legal, military, economic and financial affairs, including commercial and cultural agreements with foreign countries, and would enjoy "certain rights" in foreign affairs.[1]


Hong Kong and Macau

In 1984, Deng Xiaoping proposed to apply the principle to Hong Kong in the negotiation with the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher over the future of Hong Kong when the lease of the New Territories (including New Kowloon) of Hong Kong to the United Kingdom was to expire in 1997. The same principle was proposed in talks with Portugal about Macau.

The principle is that, upon reunification, despite the practice of "socialism" in mainland China, both Hong Kong and Macau, which were colonies of the UK and Portugal respectively, can retain their established system under a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years after reunification. What will happen after 2047 (Hong Kong) and 2049 (Macau) has never been publicly stated.

Chapter 1, Article 5 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, reads:[2]

The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years."[3][4]

The establishment of these regions, called special administrative regions (SARs), is authorized by Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, which states that the State may establish SARs when necessary, and that the systems to be instituted in them shall be prescribed by law enacted by the National People's Congress in light of the specific conditions.

The SARs of Hong Kong and Macau were formally established on 1 July 1997 and 20 December 1999 respectively, immediately after the People's Republic of China (PRC) assumed the sovereignty over the respective regions.



The two SARs of Hong Kong and Macau are responsible for their domestic affairs, including, but not limited to, the judiciary and courts of last resort, immigration and customs, public finance, currencies and extradition. Diplomatic relations and national defense of the two SARs are, however, the responsibility of the Central People's Government in Beijing.

Hong Kong continues using English common law. Macau continues using the Portuguese civil law system.


In Hong Kong, the system has been implemented through the Basic Law of Hong Kong, which serves as the "mini-constitution" of the region, and consistent with the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Similar arrangements are in place with Macau. Under the respective basic laws, the SARs have a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. They formulate their own monetary and financial policies, maintain their own currencies, formulate their own policies on education, culture, sports, social welfare system, etc. within the framework of the basic laws.

As stipulated by the basic laws, while the Central People's Government of the PRC is responsible for foreign affairs and defense in relation to the SARs, representatives of the Government of the SARs may participate, as members of delegations of the PRC, in diplomatic negotiations that directly affect the Regions, and in other international organizations or conferences limited to states and affecting the region. For those international organizations and conferences not limited to states, the SARs may participate using the names in the form of Hong Kong, China and Macau, China. As separate economic entities, both SARs of Hong Kong and Macau are members of the World Trade Organization. Hong Kong is also one of the member economies of APEC.

The basic laws also provide constitutional protection on various fundamental human rights and freedoms. Specifically, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is given a constitutional status through the basic laws.

Some international observers and human rights organizations have expressed doubts about the future of the relative political freedoms enjoyed in Hong Kong, and about the PRC's pledge to allow a high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong. They considered, for example, that the proposals in Article 23 of the Basic Law in 2003 (which was withdrawn due to mass opposition) might have undermined autonomy.

Nonetheless, the governments of the People's Republic of China and Hong Kong both consider the principle to have been successfully implemented, quoting official reports of both the United Kingdom and the United States.

Republic of China/Taiwan

This system has also been proposed by the PRC government for Taiwan, but the Republic of China (ROC) government has refused this suggestion (it has also been claimed that the system was originally designed for Taiwan). Special provisions for the preservation of the military in Taiwan have also been proposed. All of the major parties in Taiwan, including those that lean toward Chinese reunification have come out strongly against "One country, two systems". Some proposed "One country, two governments" which was opposed by the Chinese communist party, while some proposed the "one country" in "One country, two systems" should be ROC instead of PRC. One of the few Taiwanese who have publicly supported "one country, two systems" is novelist Li Ao.

Although the "One country, two systems" guarantees that Hong Kong's economic and political systems will not be changed for 50 years after the British handover in 1997, Mainland Affairs Council of the Republic of China has cited 169 cases in which they claim the PRC has breached the right of the people of Hong Kong to self-rule and severely intervened in the judicial system as well as freedom of speech.[5]

Since the accession of Hu Jintao, the PRC has stopped promoting immediate reunification via "one country, two systems" (although it remains official policy). The "one country, two systems" framework was not mentioned in the Anti-Secession Law of the People's Republic of China. A new policy of gradual economic integration and political exchanges is now preferred:[6] this new policy was emphasized during the 2005 Pan-Blue visits to mainland China[7] as well as all subsequent major cross-strait exchanges.


The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has expressed interest in using "one country, two systems" for governing Tibet. He has said that under such a system he would be willing to return to Tibet from exile. The government of China, however, considers this system inapplicable to Tibet as Tibet is already a part of China and fears that "one country, two systems" will be used as a gateway to Tibetan independence.[8]

See also


  1. ^ "" One Country, Two Systems. Retrieved on 2008-01-04.
  2. ^ "Chapter I : General Principles". Government of the Hong Kong SAR. 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  3. ^ Luo, Jing. Over A Cup Of Tea: An Introduction To Chinese Life And Culture. [2004] (2004). University Press of America China. ISBN 0761829377
  4. ^ Wong, Yiu-chung. [2004] (2004). One Country, Two Systems in Crisis: Hong Kong's Transformation. Lexington Books. Hong Kong. ISBN 0739104926.
  5. ^ "Chen vows to safeguard Taiwan sovereignty, rejects China overture". MediaCorp News. 29 June 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  6. ^ "The Risk of War Over Taiwan is Real". Financial Times. 1 May 2005. Retrieved 26 July 2006. 
  7. ^ "Hopes grow as second Taiwan leader visits China". 13 May 2005. Retrieved 26 July 2006. 
  8. ^ The 14th Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle Way’ ridiculous


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