The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region stipulates that Hong Kong will not exercise socialism as the main body of the nation does after its return to the motherland, and its capitalist system and existing way of life will remain unchanged for 50 years. The then-State leader Deng Xiaoping also said back in the day that “one country, two systems” was “a very important part” of socialism with Chinese characteristics. How should we make sense of these notions?
Deng gave as his reasoning a fact: The main body of China exercises socialism with Chinese characteristics, which allowed the “one country, two systems” arrangement to be introduced in the first place. What is socialism with Chinese characteristics? Simply put, it is “socialism” combined with “Chinese characteristics”, meaning the country adheres to the basic theory of socialism while blazing its own socialist path suited to its actual conditions and national interest. Practices such as reform and opening-up, a socialist market economy, co-existence of different forms of ownership, and various methods of wealth distribution being employed at the same time are all different from the previous, rigid school of socialism we knew in the past, and they make up the socialism with Chinese characteristics we exercise today.
Similarly, “one country, two systems” was created by the Communist Party of China to better facilitate the national development strategy with Hong Kong’s history and present condition in mind. It is the outcome of seeking truth from real life (or pragmatism at work) and therefore may appear at odds with the classical definition of socialism in terms of system arrangement. Deng once said, “Our social system is socialism with Chinese characteristics, which is demonstrated in part by how we handle the question of reunification with Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, namely, through ‘one country, two systems’.
“Ours is socialism with Chinese characteristics, which is why we introduced the ‘one country, two systems’ policy so that the two systems can exist side by side.”
There are three points of significance in understanding “one country, two systems” as an essential part of socialism with Chinese characteristics. First, one system comes before the other when we talk about “two systems”: The practice of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” on the mainland is the precondition for Hong Kong to maintain a capitalist system. “One country, two systems” was created on the precondition that the main body of the nation — the mainland — will always exercise socialism, or “one country, two systems” would not have been possible. Second, the capitalist system of the HKSAR must operate in a way that is in harmony with the socialist system of the mainland. Hong Kong’s system is not one that belongs to an independent political entity and must not work against the socialist system of the mainland. Rather, it should adapt to and harmonize with the mainland’s socialist system instead. Third, Hong Kong’s capitalist system will remain unchanged only when the socialist system of the mainland remains unchanged. Deng Xiaoping said it best when he laid down this rule: “In order to keep Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability for 50 years and beyond, the country must maintain its socialist system under the leadership of the CPC.”
Explaining why “one country, two systems” is an essential part of socialism with Chinese characteristics does not mean we want to replace Hong Kong’s capitalist system with the mainland’s socialist system. On the contrary, the goal is to boost Hong Kong’s socioeconomic development while facilitating the country’s development, which is crucial to Hong Kong’s development after all. To build up socialism with Chinese characteristics, we need to learn from the great achievements of other civilizations around the world, and Hong Kong should play an important role in the process. Thus “one country, two systems” serves the national development strategy perfectly. As Deng explained back in the day, “Letting a capitalist system exist in a small region should facilitate socialist development better.”
President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said in his keynote speech at the gathering celebrating the 25th anniversary of the HKSAR and the swearing-in of the sixth-term HKSAR government on July 1: “Socialism is the fundamental system of the People’s Republic of China; the leadership of the CPC is the most basic characteristic of socialism with Chinese characteristics; and all residents of the HKSAR should conscientiously respect and uphold the country’s fundamental system.” The CPC is the leader of socialism with Chinese characteristics and therefore also the leader of “one county, two systems”. Under the leadership of the CPC, socialism with Chinese characteristics allows the existence of capitalism in a small region of the country as long as it contributes to national development. That is why the CPC Central Committee regards “one country, two systems” as an outstanding advantage of the country’s social system and governance system as well as one of the basic strategies for maintaining and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.
The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
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