“One country, two systems” (OCTS) is practically a shadow candidate in Taiwan’s January presidential election due to its heavy promotion by China and its collaborators in Taiwan, especially in their pro-China media.
Four generations of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders have made OCTS policy their main political stratagem for convincing Taiwanese to accept “unification” with the CCP’s harsh dictatorship. This would bring an end to their hard-earned freedoms, which makes it unacceptable to most Taiwanese.
In his major January 2, 2019, speech on Taiwan, CCP Secretary General Xi Jinping (習近平) made a strong call for Taiwan to begin “democratic consultations” with China, the goal of which seems to be to begin realizing one country, two systems in Taiwan.
So what is one country, two systems? It has been an evolving strategy that former CCP leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) began forming in 1978 based on a Leninist “taking advantage of capitalism” strategy of “peaceful coexistence” with the non-CCP controlled areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. After an initial acceptance of “one country,” with its CCP-controlled central government, the targeted polities putatively can retain their capitalist system and some degree of self-governing autonomy as they transition toward “unification” or broad CCP control.
Hong Kong’s example, in which OCTS was elevated from a strategy to a policy in the 1997 Basic Law governing China-Hong Kong relations, demonstrates China’s strategy of using OCTS to progressively limit “autonomy” and then to suppress democratic rights. This is seen in China’s early insistence on a sham legislature dominated by appointed pro-China “patriots,” followed by mounting interference. This recently culminated in the promulgation by the Chief Executive of legislation allowing arbitrary extradition of Hong Kong citizens to China. This brazen overreach has resulted in over 100 days of massive protests.
China’s view of autonomy for Taiwan constricted with that island nation’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy. In September 1981, then-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Marshal Ye Jianying (葉劍英), announced what became an early formulation for OCTS, the “Nine Principles” for the return of Taiwan. Number Three states: “After the country is reunified, Taiwan can enjoy a high degree of autonomy as a special administrative region and can retain its armed forces. The Central Government will not interfere with local affairs on Taiwan.”
Compare this to China Daily’s report that in his January 2nd 2019 speech, Xi stated, “On the basis of ensuring China’s sovereignty, security and interests of development, the social system and way of life in Taiwan will be fully respected, and the private property, religious beliefs and legitimate rights and interests of Taiwan compatriots will be fully protected after peaceful reunification is realized.”
Xi then added, “We are willing to create broad space for peaceful reunification, but will leave no room for any form of separatist activities.”
This means OCTS is now pre-loaded to contain the currently “democratic” Taiwan, vice the more generous formulations of the Deng era pitched to an authoritarian and presumably more pliant Kuomintang government. Ensuring “sovereignty and security” while opposing “separatist activities” would appear to give Xi Jinping significant license to “interfere with local affairs on Taiwan.” Doing so can be accomplished more efficiently with imminent 5G surveillance that enables pervasive “internet-of-things”-based data-gathering for monitoring and countering “separatists,” however broadly defined.
Three more key aspects of OCTS deserve mention. First, it is a temporary stage; Hong Kong’s waning remaining de jure autonomy expires in 2047. Its de facto autonomy may well end much sooner.
In 1984 Deng Xiaoping opined that unification with Taiwan could take 100 or even 1,000 years. Xi Jinping may not be so patient. A July 17 report in Singapore’s Straits Times citing sources “familiar with the Chinese leadership’s thinking” suggests Xi may push for political talks following Taiwan’s January elections.
A refusal by Taipei to begin such talks would then put another aspect of one country, two systems into play: China’s constant threat of force against Taiwan. This reveals OCTS for what it is: an essentially coercive strategy. In contrast to 1981, in 2019 China’s threat to use force and to invade Taiwan is credible.
Even if Taiwan’s government were to choose one country, two systems in order to avoid the casualties and destruction of a war, it would ultimately have little choice but to accept China’s definition and structure for implementing OCTS. This means Taiwan’s democracy would be destroyed in a more delimited period of time.
Is there any chance that Taiwan could successfully negotiate for a new “Basic Law” stronger than that allowed for Hong Kong? The Chinese Communist Party Constitution only mentions OCTS once, and only in connection to Hong Kong and Macau.
Perhaps the only publicly revealed attempt in China to create a legal structure for unification was Wuhan University professor Yu Yuanzhou’s (余元洲) 2004 draft “National Unification Promotion Law.” It was quickly dropped as Yu’s draft stipulates Taiwan will not be treated like Hong Kong or Macau if there is non-peaceful unification, while also listing justifications for attacking Taiwan.
All of this points to the only reason for a democratically elected government in Taiwan to begin political talks with Xi Jinping: to present him a list of the changes the Chinese Communist Party must accept in order to live in peace with Taiwan and the world. Ultimately, it is the CCP that must transition to democracy and rule of law. A Taiwan that is free and secure could be the most important partner for the Chinese people in such a transition.
Other democracies should be aware that China’s one country, two systems strategy affects their security — first, considering their own security interests flowing from the preservation of a free Taiwan, and then from Taiwan’s example of how free people can effectively counter China’s political, economic, informational, and military coercion strategies designed to influence, intimidate, isolate, and subordinate democratic states.
Richard D. Fisher, Jr. is a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
An outrageous dismissal of the exemplary Taiwanese fight against COVID-19 has been perpetrated by the EU. There is no excuse. I presume that everyone who reads the Taipei Times knows that the EU has excluded Taiwan from its so-called “safe list,” which permits citizens unhindered travel to and from the countries of the EU. As the EU does not feel that it needs to explain the character of this exclusive list, perhaps we should examine it ourselves in some detail. There are 14 nations on the list that have been chosen as safe countries of origin and safe countries of destination for
Filmmakers in Taiwan used to struggle when it came to telling a story that could resonate internationally. Things started to change when the 2017 drama series The Teenage Psychic (通靈少女), a collaboration between HBO Asia and Taiwanese Public Television Service (PTS), became a huge hit not just locally, but also internationally. The coming-of-age story was adapted from the 2013 PTS-produced short film The Busy Young Psychic (神算). Entirely filmed in Taiwan, the Mandarin-language series even made it on HBO’s streaming platforms in the US. It is proof that a well-told Taiwanese story can absolutely win the hearts and minds of hard-to-please
Drugged with sedatives, handcuffed and wearing a bright orange prison tunic, British fraud investigator and former journalist Peter Humphrey was escorted by warders into an interrogation room filled with reporters, locked inside a steel cage and fastened to a metal “tiger chair.” Humphrey recalls: “I was completely surrounded by officers, dazed, manacled and with cameras pointing at me through the bars. I was fighting for my life like a caged animal. It was horrifying.” Footage from the interrogation was later artfully edited to give the appearance of a confession and broadcast on Chinese state media. While this might sound like an
The US House of Representatives on July 1 passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill that would penalize Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s new national security legislation in Hong Kong, as well as banks that do business with them. The following day, the US Senate unanimously passed the bill, which was later sent to the White House, where it awaits US President Donald Trump’s signature. The bill does not spell out what the sanctions would look like and Trump has yet to sign it into law, but Reuters on Thursday last week reported that five major Chinese state lenders are considering