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Exploring Institutional Preparations and Mentality Building for the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan Formula


This lengthy analysis of cross-Strait relations by Tian Feilong, a leading hardline intellectual who was vocally supportive of Hong Kong’s 2020 National Security Law, argues that Beijing’s formulation of “One Country, Two Systems” must adapt to changing circumstances in order to present a realistic path to “reunifying” Taiwan and the mainland.

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On July 1, 2021, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized in his important speech at the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party: “solving the Taiwan issue and realizing the complete reunification of the motherland are the unswerving historical tasks of the Chinese Communist Party.” He also reiterated “promoting the process of peaceful reunification of the motherland, resolutely smashing any Taiwan independence attempts, and jointly creating a bright future for national rejuvenation.” 1 Since 2021, COVID-19 has continued to spread around the world, the global economy has suffered setbacks in getting restarted, and the evolution of power relations between major countries and their norms are accelerating.2 Under Biden’s “democratic alliance,” the degree of confrontation and harm has continued to deepen.3 In this context, the Taiwan issue is more complicated. The mainland’s policy towards Taiwan should remain overall stable and maintain strategic determination, and in the face of the new international situation and the political reality on the island, a more focused and strong strategy must be taken to break through the present situation and promote cross-Strait relations so as to “overcome difficulties and move forward.”


From the perspective of legal politics, the political basis for cross-Strait negotiation has disappeared since the DPP returned to power in 2016 and denied the “1992 Consensus.” With this, the mainland has been using the political decision and systematic expositions of “home field reunification” to maintain a controllable order in cross-Strait relations and strive for the best prospects for peaceful reunification. The Taiwan-related discourse in the 19th Party Congress report had already taken an important “home field” turn (i.e. focusing on one’s own side). On January 2, 2019, at the 40th anniversary meeting of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan, General Secretary Xi Jinping clearly proposed an exploration of the “One Country, Two Systems” formula for Taiwan as a principled and open framework for cross-Strait political consultation and peaceful reunification. This attracted great attention from political and academic circles on both sides of the Strait, and the peaceful reunification of the two sides of the Strait has entered the stage of practical plan consultation. 4


In recent years, the new situation of China-U.S. strategic competition and the “cold confrontation” between the two sides of the Strait have been superimposed on one another, and the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula has been stigmatized by Taiwan independence forces on the island of Taiwan. However, it still has important constitutional value and future-oriented practical significance.5 The more Taiwan independence forces and external forces strongly oppose and resist the formula and path, the more likely it is that it suitably reflects the correct thinking and method of realizing national reunification. There is the need and the space in the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula to further clarify the source, legal theory, and practical orientation.


The basis and environment for the two sides to explore the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula is more complicated than Hong Kong affairs, and there are unavoidable difficulties and challenges. It includes both the obstructing factors of Taiwan independence forces and the interference factors of external forces. The related challenges tend to increase under the conditions of fluctuations in China-U.S. relations and the relative decline in the power of the ruling faction on the island. 6 The exploration and promotion of the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula is not only a matter of the clarification and allocation of institutional principles and rights and obligations but also of the promotion and undertaking of related mentality building. The undertaking of mentality building presents a certain challenge for the national philosophy and civilization discourse on national rejuvenation, but it is also a macro issue that Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era strives to respond to and answer. Based on the new-era framework of national rejuvenation and a community with a shared future for humankind, the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula may be able to face and overcome the risks and challenges faced by cross-Strait relations and effectively complete the mentality building of cross-Strait reunification. This article attempts to discuss these closely related basic legal and institutional Taiwan-related issues in order to contribute to the thinking and practice of exploring how to deepen the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula and make it more concrete.


1.  Policy background and typical characteristics of the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula


To resolve the Taiwan issue peacefully, the great concept of “One Country, Two Systems” was put forward and put into practice first in Hong Kong and Macau. “One Country, Two Systems” is a formula for peaceful reunification. Its essence is reunification, and its method is peace. Overall, it demonstrates China’s peaceful approach and goodwill towards compatriots in the Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan regions, as well as its fundamental moral criticism of the Cold War model, and its will to transcend it. The “One Country, Two Systems” concept is lofty, and its strategic goal is not only to achieve complete national reunification but also to try to resolve the binary opposition between socialism and capitalism through peaceful means and to demonstrate the strong inclusiveness and the superiority of socialism. This strategic vision, within the same sovereign order, uses the methods of recognition of a pluralistic governance system and the establishment of a constitutional system with the long-term coexistence of the state and the local, to explore the higher goal and vision of “One Country, Two Systems” and eliminating differences between the two “isms,” approaching a shared identity, and achieving integration. In this sense, the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula is of major institutional significance for achieving cross-Strait reunification and permanent peace and supporting the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.


In the speech from January 2, 2019, the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula is presented as a framework-like vision which is both based on Taiwan-related policy and is future-facing, proposed in response to the overall goal of national rejuvenation introduced at the 19th Party Congress and to the reality of cross-Strait relations. The vision incorporates both the fixed premise of “One China’s” sovereignty, security, and development interests and the flexible space for imagination of “One Country, Two Systems,” as well as a broad agenda and institutional prospects open to cross-Strait democratic consultation. The “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula is an inevitable requirement for national rejuvenation, and it is also a comprehensive practical proposition for seeking institutional breakthroughs in cross-Strait relations and completing the final reunification of the two sides.


However, what this historical process represents is the creative development of Chinese civilization and its political system, and what it faces is the challenge of the Taiwan-centered so-called “democratic values” and the American hegemony behind it. From the Three Principles of the People of the KMT era to the Taiwan independence under DPP rule, the island is permeated with stigma against “One Country, Two Systems” and an opportunist mentality based on so-called “democratic values” and “relying on the United States and rejecting reunification.” In the external environment, the United States, based on hegemonic interests and strategic demands, continuously promotes the “self-arming” of the Taiwan authorities and carries out “stealth colonization” of the Taiwan region, pushing its allies to jointly guarantee Taiwan’s so-called “liberal and democratic” system. Thus, it ties the region to the “chariot” of China-U.S. strategic competition and geopolitical confrontation. It is the above-mentioned internal and external challenges and huge pressures that the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula needs to deal with and break through.


Therefore, the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula has to it a remarkable sense of historical urgency, sense of strategic advancement, and sense of institutional clarity. The typical features and essential elements of the formula include the following.


First, firmly establishing “One Country” and its legal connotations, that is, China’s national sovereignty, security, and development interests are the fundamental premise and the object of institutional priority protection. No consultation, negotiation or design regarding “Two Systems” shall be permitted to harm this premise. This is the inherent connotation of “One Country, Two Systems,” and it is also a special revelation from Hong Kong’s experience.


Second, fully opening up the consultation space and room for negotiation of “Two Systems.” That is, under the premise that “One Country” has obtained political confirmation and institutional guarantee, cross-Strait political consultations and democratic negotiations can be fully carried out on the Taiwan region’s powers of autonomy covered by “Two Systems” and its flexible institutional arrangements, with the Chinese people on both sides of the Strait carrying out communication and design so as to account for the overall interests of the country and actual interests of the Taiwan region.


Third, the peaceful reunification of the two sides of the Strait must adhere to treating the Chinese people on both sides of the Strait as the subjects in its scope, and resolutely oppose the interference of external forces and oppose the internationalization of the Taiwan issue.


Fourth, for the smooth development of the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula, the mainland will take the initiative to create and provide various social and institutional conditions for cross-Strait peaceful consultations and democratic negotiations and will also severely crack down on Taiwan independence forces and external forces that undermine the peaceful reunification of the two sides of the Strait.


Fifth, the institutional logic and policy actions of “home-field reunification” are to be more prominent. That is, the state will gradually drive ahead with Taiwan residents enjoying more complete and equal civil rights conferred by the Constitution through system improvement and policy actions, implementing “equal treatment” in a concrete and detailed way. “The people are the country”: the will for reunification of the Chinese people on both sides of the Strait is the most powerful foundation and driving force for reunification, and all work on Taiwan must revolve around and serve the shaping, formation, and consolidation of this political will.


2. Exploring the severe challenges facing the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula and its institutional response


In 2021, at the important time node of the centenary of the founding of the Party, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech on July 1 once again made it clear that realizing the complete reunification of the two sides of the Strait is the historical task of the Chinese Communist Party. However, the situation of cross-Strait relations is more complicated and severe. Taiwan independence forces represented by the DPP are in control of the political situation in Taiwan and have been intensifying their collusion with external forces such as the United States and Japan, resulting in the disruption of normal cross-Strait exchanges and leaving the prospects of peaceful reunification unclear. The DPP attempts to seize the last window of opportunity for Taiwan independence, while external forces such as the United States and Japan will play the “Taiwan card” as a support to contain China’s rise and maintain geopolitical hegemony. Although the option of “abandoning Taiwan” and its related reasoning have existed within inner U.S. decision-making circles for a long time, it is unlikely to become a reality in the short term. At the same time, the structural changes in the concept and system of “One Country, Two Systems” brought about by the central government’s decisive action in response to the changing situation in Hong Kong have been stigmatized and misunderstood on the island, resulting in a weakening of the demonstration effect of the Hong Kong experience on Taiwan.


At this stage, the dominant idea of the mainland’s policy towards Taiwan remains to maintain and continue the traditional discourse of “peaceful reunification, one country, two systems” and actively explore the political position of the “two systems” Taiwan formula. The focus of this is on promoting integration and opposing Taiwan independence, serving the greatest interests of national rejuvenation and the historical task of cross-Strait reunification. We should keep pace with the times and seek comprehensive ideas and strategies for breaking through the situation based on changed China-U.S. relations and cross-Strait relations.


In recent years, the situation in the Taiwan Strait has become increasingly complex and severe, which not only severely counteracts the basic consensus and mutual understanding accumulated over the past decades, especially during the eight years of Ma Ying-jeou’s governance from 2008 to 2016, but also slips towards cross-Strait “cold confrontation” and oppositional popular opinion. This may even be further entangled and exploited by the United States’ strategic competition with China and its strategic arrangements for comprehensively containing the rise of the Chinese mainland. Difficulties and challenges in exploring the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula include but are not limited to:


First, the objective reality of cross-Strait political opposition. From a legal point of view, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are still in a state of continuation of the civil war between the KMT and the Communist Party and have not signed a peace agreement or the relevant constitutional arrangements for cross-Strait reunification. Taiwan authorities still have “diplomatic relations” with a certain number of states and receive international support from the U.S. Taiwan Relations Act and international anti-China forces and actions. The mainland’s actual influence, control, and guidance on the political trends and internal governance system of the island is extremely limited. The long-term continuation and intergenerational replacement of this state of political opposition may exacerbate the political risk and separation of people across the Taiwan Strait.


Second, the “1992 Consensus” has been politically blocked for a long time by the DPP, and the island’s political impetus for it to regain confirmation is seriously insufficient. The “1992 Consensus” is the ballast stone for the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and the logical starting point for institutional interaction. However, the continuous blocking by the DPP has fundamentally damaged the institutional foundation for normalized exchanges and cooperation between the two sides of the Strait, and the odds that it can be repaired in a short period of time are slim. Under these conditions, the levels, effect, and sustainability of cross-Strait regularized exchanges, communication and cooperation, and the institutional expectations for peaceful reunification, all show a downward trend.


Third, the United States and Japan have stepped up their use of the “Taiwan card” in their geopolitical strategies, leading to a trend of “quasi-colonialization” in the Taiwan region. On the one hand, the intensification of the new situation of strategic competition between China and the United States and the involvement of Japan have led to the continuous deterioration of the situation in the Taiwan Strait. On the other hand, the more the cross-Strait power balance shifts to mainland China, the more Taiwan authorities rely on the United States and Japan, causing Taiwan to transfer more actual “governance authority” to external forces, shifting to a “quasi-colonial” state. With this, the basic conditions for cross-Strait political consultation are weakened, resulting in the actual rise of the “proxy” of the United States and Japan in Taiwan, creating obstacles to the peaceful reunification of the two sides of the Strait.


Fourth, the island’s “electoral democracy” and the political identity of the young generation have undergone changes that are not conducive to the peaceful reunification of the two sides of the Strait. 7 For a long time, the DPP has been using the building of “Taiwan local consciousness” and a “Taiwan independence” policy system to coerce the Taiwanese people and poison the young generation, and has been drawing on “legal” tools for governing to attack reunification forces. It is very difficult to see hope in the island’s elections turning things around and returning to the “1992 Consensus” framework. Hung Hsiu-chu and Han Kuo-yu’s political setbacks on the island are examples. Without the strong and stable support of mainstream public opinion on the island, cross-Strait political consultations aimed at peaceful reunification are lacking the basic conditions to get restarted and find representativeness in public opinion on the island.


Fifth, the demonstrative effect of Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” practice for Taiwan is not optimistic in the short term. Using Hong Kong as a demonstration model for Taiwan is an important part of the central government’s implementation of the “One Country, Two Systems” strategy and an important way to achieve peaceful reunification across the Taiwan Strait. Thus, the DPP has always attached great importance to and strongly intervened in the political development of Hong Kong and has adopted the strategy of “stigmatizing” and hedging the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong. After the “Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement” of 2019, the formulation and implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law in 2020, and the revision and improvement of the SAR election system in 2021, the “One Country, Two Systems” model in Hong Kong has been rationally upgraded to version 2.0, foregrounding the central government’s comprehensive governing authority, national security, election security, and patriots governing Hong Kong. The legal theory and power of a high degree of autonomy have been structurally reshaped. However, under the stigma attached to them by the Taiwan independence forces, the above-mentioned events may lead to an increase in the negative evaluation of the “One Country, Two Systems” Hong Kong practice on the island of Taiwan. The relationship itself between Hong Kong and Taiwan is also showing a trend toward worsening, such as Hong Kong independence elements fleeing to Taiwan, and the revocation of representative offices between Hong Kong and Taiwan. U.S. negative comments and sanctions on Chinese Hong Kong will also have a negative guiding effect on popular opinion on the island of Taiwan. How the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula and the new changes in Hong Kong practice can be given an inherently self-consistent explanation will become an important theoretical and propaganda challenge for the central government in the future.


Sixth, in the context of normalized COVID-19 prevention and control, under the DPP Taiwan independence forces’ political manipulation, cross-Strait isolation, communication difficulties, and a “cold reception” in epidemic control cooperation mean that the epidemic has not just failed to become a true touchstone and glue to bind the “cross-Strait family” and the “community of with a shared future,” conversely, it has become a political opportunity for the DPP authorities to frantically smear the mainland’s epidemic control efforts, block the mainland’s vaccination aid to Taiwan, and disrupt peaceful exchanges between the two sides. A small number of Taiwan compatriots coming to the mainland for vaccination cannot promote true cross-Strait anti-epidemic cooperation. The unfair treatment of Taiwan compatriots with mainland spouses or children in relation to epidemic control guarantees and vaccine distribution may also further intensify opposition in popular opinion on the two sides of the Strait.


In fact, the above-mentioned difficulties and challenges faced in cross-Strait relations have a long history. They did not form overnight, nor can they be solved overnight. As such, we can consider adopting the following countermeasures to further improve the institutional system and create the most favorable foundation and conditions for exploring the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula.


First, make preparations on “both hands” for achieving cross-Strait reunification and grasp the initiative and dominance in work on Taiwan. Although “peaceful reunification, one country, two systems” is the best outlook and institutional setup for cross-Strait relations, the “non-peaceful approach” in the Constitution and the Anti-Secession Law is also one option for national reunification. The intervention of external forces also gives the mainland no choice but to make “both-handed” preparations for realizing cross-Strait reunification. For one thing, the United States has stepped up legislation related to Taiwan and “recolonized” the Taiwan region, which has led to the U.S. “One China policy” trending towards a “hollowing out.” At the same time, Japan’s opportunistic geopolitical policy has led to its increasingly direct involvement in Taiwan Strait affairs, such as its Defense White Paper position. Induced by the bewitchment of the United States and Japan and the DPP’s own ideas, the actions of Taiwan independence separatists have intensified on the island, and their opportunistic and risky nature cannot be underestimated. The mainland must prepare on “both hands” to use peaceful and non-peaceful means to achieve cross-Strait reunification. In particular, the more fully prepared the non-peaceful reunification plan is, the greater the possibility will be of achieving peaceful reunification, and as the mainland’s ability is to deal with any unexpected events grows stronger, the increasingly clear the strategic deterrent effect will be on the United States, Japan, and Taiwan independence forces.


Second, based on rule of law thinking, accelerate the improvement of the legal system to oppose independence and promote reunification and make full use of legal weapons to engage in anti-independence struggle and promote the reunification process. At present, the legal arsenal in the mainland to oppose independence and promote reunification awaits perfecting. On the one hand, the Anti-Secession Law needs to be interpreted and revised to keep pace with the times, and its precise applicability is not yet sufficient.8 On the other hand, a “national reunification law” 9 based on the needs of cross-Strait reunification in the new era is missing, and the principles, standards, procedures, paths, and law enforcement powers of cross-Strait reunification are unclear. Judging from the available legal tools, although the Anti-Secession Law, the Hong Kong National Security Law, and the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law have certain regulatory functions, this is clearly still insufficient in terms of the legal support needed for national reunification. We must carry out rigorous planning and accelerate the improvement of the anti-independence, reunification promoting legal system, which includes not only the interpretation and revision of the Anti-Secession Law, but also the planning and laying out of a “national reunification law.” It should also involve the precise application of the Taiwan-related provisions in the Hong Kong National Security Law and the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law, demonstrating upon different levels the national will and legal action capability for resolving the Taiwan issue in accordance with the law and for governing Taiwan after reunification.


Third, comprehensively and accurately explain and interpret the legal principles and institutional system of Hong Kong’s “One country, Two systems” and provide positive normative guidance for exploring the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula. 10 The Hong Kong practice of “One Country, Two Systems” has proved that the “One Country, Two Systems” system design that simply delegates power and benefits is not an ideal and sound solution, and effective institutional arrangements for state authority must be made at the beginning of system configuration. The explanation of the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” should focus on four levels: first are the basic aspects of national sovereignty and its institutionalization, including the institutional guarantees for national security and development interests. Second is the globalization aspect of “One Country, Two Systems.” That is, Taiwan needs to flexibly allocate its rights and interests in accordance with its global status and role. The new concept of globalization is not about simply relying on and participating in the international system dominated by the West but rather is based on the Belt and Road Initiative and the construction of a community with a shared future for humankind. Third, in terms of national education and cultural dominance, the state must have the power and responsibility for supervision and planning, and “patriots governing” should also become the cornerstone of the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula. Fourth, if Taiwan is to achieve permanent peace and long-term development, this can only be ensured by relying on the single option of reunification; this point must be clearly explained.


Fourth, make policy upgrades for cross-Strait integrated development. The mainland has issued many policies to benefit Taiwan in the past, but there is a lack of reasonable distinction between national standards and local standards and standardized operations in implementation. The mainland is still slightly conservative in terms of policy scope, and the strength and sustainability for driving cross-Strait integration and development remain insufficient. As such, the following is recommended: first, clear up and evaluate Taiwan-friendly policies and sort out unified national standards as the minimum standards for each locality’s implementation. On this basis, encourage all localities to introduce local standards according to local conditions, forming a policy system for benefiting Taiwan that has the same policy objectives but reasonable differences in different regions and give clear and visible guidance to Taiwan compatriots. Second, implementing the principle that the “equal treatment” of Taiwan compatriots is not national treatment as foreigners but equal treatment as Chinese citizens requires considering expanding, in an appropriate and orderly way, from an economic and wellbeing level to the level of public affairs and administration. In this regard, the “equal treatment” of Hong Kong and Macau compatriots has made certain breakthroughs and recruitment for public institutions and for civil servants include a reasonable proportion open to compatriots from Hong Kong and Macau. Taiwan policies should also be upgraded accordingly. Third, explicitly incorporate content related to the Chinese Communist Party in the curriculum of national-conditions training and teaching at all levels for Taiwan students and people from all walks of life in Taiwan, and establish a clear and complete common sense of national history, politics, and institutions. This will help with the institutional design and governance practice of the follow-up “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula. Fourth, focus on cultivating a new generation of young intellectual leaders, political leaders, and industry leaders among Taiwan students and compatriots. Shift away from the original passive, coping, waiting, and traditional approaches and concepts that focus more on guidance by interests. Break the stigmatizing and confrontation by the DPP by using the “youth-to-youth” united front and competitive thinking. Focusing on young people’s futures and the process of personal development, guide Taiwanese youth to actively “go west” and join in the historical task of promoting the peaceful reunification of the two sides of the Strait, cultivate their new political notion that “we have a share in the reunification of the two sides of the Strait, we are responsible for governing Taiwan, and we are the masters of Taiwan’s future.”


3. Mentality building and value foundation for the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula


“One Country, Two Systems” is a brand-new institutional experiment, a functional integration of national reunification and national modernization, and represents the institutional dialectical thinking and progressive historical philosophy of the Chinese Communist Party for governing the country. Though ancient China and the West had different forms of “one country, many systems,” the political environment faced in that classical system cannot compare to the capitalist and socialist dualistic world system in which “One Country, Two Systems” is found and the depth and brutality of the system’s institutional struggle. Therefore, “One Country, Two Systems” must be an innovative historical practice. The “One Country, Two Systems” strategic vision originated from the Taiwan issue, is being implemented first in Hong Kong and Macau, and will inevitably end with the resolution of the Taiwan issue. As far as the demonstrational nature of the system is concerned, the Hong Kong experience of “One Country, Two Systems” is the most intuitive and enlightening for Taiwan, and it will therefore inevitably become the primary target of smearing and attacks by Taiwan independence forces. The legal theory and institutional development of the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong has important significance as a guide and reference for exploring the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula.


As far as Hong Kong’s whole experience of practicing “One Country, Two Systems” is concerned, system building and mentality building are equally important, or the latter may even be more important. In terms of system building, Hong Kong’s experience is roughly as follows: first, the central government’s political decision came first. That is, as early as 1982, Article 31 of the Constitution left constitutional space for the special administrative region, and then in April 1983, the central government officially adopted the 12 policy guidelines on “One Country, Two Systems.” Second, the Sino-British Joint Declaration incorporated and endorsed the 12-point policy of the “One Country, Two Systems,” and the Basic Law of Hong Kong transformed “One country, Two systems” into law, using the principle of rule of law to uphold established policies, maintaining their stability and continuity. Third, setbacks and progress coexisted in the construction of specific systems. Specifically, there have been setbacks in Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23-related national security legislation and national education. There has also been an accumulation of experience in constantly exploring and practicing the mode of exercise of central governance. With this comes stronger understanding about, and responses to, the risks of “One Country, Two Systems” and the laws of its system building. Fourth, introducing the “comprehensive governing authority” legal principle and the “One Country, Two Systems” institutional system building requirements, formulating the Hong Kong National Security Law and improving the SAR election system, and observing the basic principle of “patriots governing Hong Kong” have all been driving the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong to enter version 2.0 with ample legal theory, rigorous systems, and deepening social approval. The basic experience of building these systems provides important reference for exploring the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula. General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech at the 40th anniversary of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan not only discussed the space of “Two Systems” from an institutional perspective but also attached great importance to the premise of “One Country” and its institutional guarantees, especially emphasizing that any institutional design must guarantee national sovereignty, security, and development interests.


It is relatively easy to construct a rationally conceived system, but the mentality building of communication to the heart is not simple. Still taking Hong Kong as an example, although the Constitution, the Basic Law, and the Hong Kong National Security Law have formed an increasingly strict “One Country, Two Systems” legal system, one could not describe the socio-political foundation and cultural identity of “patriots governing Hong Kong” as deep-seated and reliable, and there may even be adverse currents and conflicts. First, the setback in the implementation of Article 23 legislation and national education in Hong Kong shows the spiritual resistance of a portion of people in Hong Kong society to national security and national identity. Second, the rapid development of “nativism” in Hong Kong and its having become a social movement pose serious risks to the security of the “One Country, Two Systems” system and have misled some Hong Kong youths into the disobedience of the so-called “revolution of the times.” Third, the serious infiltration and manipulation of Hong Kong’s cultural institutions and election process by external forces has damaged some Hong Kong people’s understanding of and identification with the country. Fourth, Hong Kong’s education, media, justice, and other fields that shape public opinion and social values are filled with ideological and organizational networks of “opposing China and disrupting Hong Kong” and have become the focus of political conflict. Fifth, on the first anniversary of the implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong there still transpired the “July 1 stabbing of a Hong Kong police officer” sparking public opinion turmoil (the employee of Vitasoy Hong Kong committed suicide after attacking the police officer, and the company issued a statement saying that the perpetrator had “unfortunately passed away” and sent “deep condolences”; the Hong Kong University Students’ Union Council “mourned” the rioter who attacked the police officer). As well as this there has been the recent spate of resignations of district councilors and the “non-cooperation in elections” in the later period, proving that the “return of people’s hearts” in Hong Kong is still a severe challenge and an incomplete task.11 The practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong still needs to go through a difficult process of institutional transformation and mentality reconstruction.


The DPP and other Taiwan independence forces, with ideology and political interests as their point of departure, have long been interfering in Hong Kong affairs and stigmatizing “One Country, Two Systems.” On basic issues involving China’s national sovereignty, security, and development interests, they have carried out a series of political operations such as “local prioritizing” and “foreign-derived self-enhancement,” not hesitating to endanger national security or betray national interests. Even in epidemic prevention and control, which relates to the lives and safety of people on both sides of the Strait, they were unable to adhere to the idea of “one family on both sides of the Strait” and interact and cooperate closely with the mainland. Therefore, learning from the Hong Kong experience of “One Country, Two Systems” to explore the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula cannot look only at the “high degree of autonomy,” simply pondering how to give Taiwan a higher degree of autonomy. Rather, we should also attach great importance to the state power and interests level, especially to system building at the level of national security, national education, and cultural leadership, and we must undertake prior research and policy design. We must also attach great importance to doing the related mentality building.


This shows that we need to face up to the political and cultural difficulties that may exist in the specific implementation of the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula. In particular, we must clearly see the fierce resistance and struggle from the levels of both legal theory and mentality by Taiwan independence forces such as the DPP and external intervening forces. First, the primary difficulty in mentality building lies in the struggle for values. The main weapons of mentality struggle for Taiwan independence are “nativism” and “democracy.” This is a combination of local nativism and the West’s so-called “universal democratic values” and is in an oppositional relationship with the patriotism upon which the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula is based and with the rule of law philosophy of having “two systems coexist.” Second, the United States has been turning Taiwan into a chess piece and a battlefield and has continuously promoted Taiwan-related legislation and decision-making, resulting in Taiwan’s “democratic hollowing out,” dependence, and “quasi-colonialization.” Taiwan appears to be democratic in form, but under the influence of American hegemony, it has lost its democratic national sentiment, political reason, and self-determination. Third, the Taiwan independence nationalism of the DPP authorities and the KMT’s deepening awareness of local separatism or Taiwan independence have caused Taiwan to develop, ideologically and culturally, a mixture of radical Taiwan independence and “little happiness” civic culture. This has been continuously eroding the cultural, psychological, political, and social foundations of the peaceful reunification of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Fourth, the Taiwan authorities have revised the “Five National Security Demands” and formulated the Anti-infiltration Act under the “legal system” to obstruct cross-Strait peaceful exchanges and cultural exchanges, to deter or even punish reunification forces that respond to the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula, and to create a comprehensive cultural atmosphere of terror and institutional pressure for “rejecting reunification.” Fifth, is the painting of all cross-Strait exchanges and all the mainland’s efforts toward promoting reunification as “united front-ified” and “hostile” efforts, which greatly compresses the limited space for cross-Strait cultural interaction and institutional negotiation. Moreover, a continued exaggeration of the negative image and false threat of the mainland with anti-intellectual media hegemony has deteriorated public perception and understanding of the people on both sides of the Strait.


In this context, the conceptual update and system building that are taking place in the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong must keep pace with the times on the basis of its mentality and culture, and it is precisely this level that must be recognized as greatly important when exploring the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula, requiring serious thinking and careful development.


First, clarify the national legal theory and institutional premise of “One Country, Two Systems.” We need to systematically explain the legal and cultural basis of “One Country, Two Systems,” especially with regard to national sovereignty, security, and development interests, as well as the system of “comprehensive governing authority” and “One Country, Two Systems.” In this regard, the white paper The Practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, first published by the central government on Hong Kong affairs in 2014, is still an indispensable key policy document. This white paper is an authoritative judgment of the central government on the basic experience and future direction of the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong’s 17 years since return (1997–2014). It sets out clearly for the first time the core legal theory and concept of “comprehensive governing authority,” and has reorganized the complete institutional logic of “One Country, Two Systems,” highlighted the principle of “patriots governing Hong Kong,” and also put forward a more complete and basic way of thinking for preventing Hong Kong’s “local” forces and external forces from interfering in, and undermining, “One Country, Two Systems” that is more in line with the requirements of the modernization of national governance in the new era. It has become a new policy guide for the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong. 12 The basic legal basis and policy basis for the formulation and implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law, the revision and improvement of the SAR election system, and the deepening of related governance areas can be found in this white paper.


Second, pay more attention to the reasonable existence and institutional space of national security and the national leadership system in “One Country, Two Systems.” We need to go further in clearly explaining that without national security, there will be no stable and long-term “One Country, Two Systems,” let alone a “high degree of autonomy” for democratic politics. This logical chain must be articulated clearly and visibly, and at the same time, the bottom line, standards, due process, and protective functions of the national security rule of law must be made clear to Taiwan compatriots using the popularization and case studies of the National Security Law in Hong Kong. During the process of the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula’s macro conception, the one-China sovereign order should be better maintained. On the one hand, in traditional fields such as national defense and diplomacy, national security, political security, national education, and other fields that directly affect national sovereignty, security, and development interests, there must be an initial legislative configuration and a bottom line of principles; they cannot be sacrificed in the negotiation and compromise process for the “Two Systems” solution. On the other hand, under this security premise, Taiwanese society’s institutional retention, autonomous design, and international participation can take into account local conditions, with flexible negotiation and rational allocation, reflecting the institutional inclusiveness and creativity of “One Country, Two Systems.”


Third, based on proper, complete, and outstanding Chinese traditional culture, deepen the cross-Strait cultural blood and common bond, unite intellectuals and young people on both sides of the Strait to jointly advance the historical retrospective, consensus building, and legal consensus of the “cross-Strait community with a shared future.” In the future, we should build a cultural system of socialism with Chinese characteristics based on outstanding traditional Chinese culture, with the goal of realizing national rejuvenation and building a community with a shared future for humankind, jointly deepening the cultural content of the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula.


Fourth, we must achieve common progress across the Taiwan Strait and make unique contributions to humankind in new globalization development and cultural creation. Chinese culture is a widespread culture of the eastern civilizational kind, with the character of a noble person embodied in the saying that “to govern a country and bring peace to all, one must first be able to govern one’s family; to govern one’s family, one must first learn to govern oneself.” The foundation of legitimacy of the historical mission of the Chinese Communist Party and the meaning of its action 13 is the key to understanding China’s system and China’s path, and is also the key of the mind for understanding the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula. The culturally correct methodology of the Chinese revolution is “the Sinicization of Marxism.” The modern history of the West and the history of globalization have made important contributions to the progress of human ideas and institutions, but the hegemonism of the major Western powers and the cultural norms of the Cold War that it has spawned have always been an inextricable threat to globalization and the peaceful development of humankind. The de-globalization and democratic populism in the West are threatening signals. Trumpism was the first of its kind. After Biden took office, the ‘Trump+’ hegemonic model has continued to threaten global peace and development. The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation cannot be a mere revival of Chinese nationalism or a mechanical imitation of the hegemony of Western powers, but instead will inevitably be a new world historical process in which the revival of Chinese culture and the Sinicization of Marxism will give back to and revive globalization. In the future, after the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula is applied to achieve peaceful reunification across the Taiwan Strait, the active participation in this process of Taiwanese people from all walks of life, especially the young, will mean participating not only in the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation but also in human peace and development. This is the fundamental way out for the realization of permanent peace and long-term stability in the Taiwan Strait.


4. “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan Formula for National Rejuvenation


2021 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Party, and national rejuvenation has become the main theme of various commemorative activities and ideological discussions. The basic logic of national rejuvenation inevitably includes the complete reunification of the motherland. This explicit logic has long been engraved in the Party’s previous policy documents and included in the preamble of the Constitution. Solving the Taiwan issue and realizing the complete reunification of the motherland is one of the three major historical tasks of the Chinese Communist Party in the 21st century. The Chinese Communist Party, in its political ethics, adheres to the dialectical logic of “Sinicization of Marxism,” organically combines national interests with human interests, and sees that national rejuvenation and a community with a shared future for humankind complement each other. The Taiwan issue is a legacy of China’s civil war, and it is also the result of the complex effects of the hegemony of foreign powers and the Cold War. However, whether it is the unified will of the Chinese people internally or the general trend of world peace and development externally, the resolution of the Taiwan issue is a historical inevitability. In short, if the Taiwan issue is not resolved, China’s national rejuvenation and complete national reunification will be impossible to achieve, China’s modernization process will encounter serious setbacks, internal and external struggles will not end, and peace in the Asia-Pacific region and even the world will lack an orderly basis for stability.


“One Country, Two Systems” is a long-term strategy for the peaceful reunification of the country and the modernization of the system. Its practice in Hong Kong and Macau, especially the experience in Hong Kong, having been through the “Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement” and the country’s remedial legislation, is clearer and more complete. Therefore, it is of more direct and valuable significance as a reference for thinking about and shaping the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula. The particularity of the Taiwan issue cannot be used to oppose and eliminate the applicability of Hong Kong’s experience because Hong Kong’s experience itself is not the result of Hong Kong’s practice in isolation but is instead the result of the dynamic adjustment and comprehensive effect of the central government’s “One Country, Two Systems” strategy, and it still has strong implications for the Taiwan formula. From the original intention of following the “One Country, Two Systems” policy to the continuous improvement of the “One Country, Two Systems” institutional system in practice, the central government’s principles and policies have been consistent and never wavered and, in the new era, continue to promote the positive interaction between theoretical innovation and practical innovation. 14 We expect that under increasingly severe internal and external challenges Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait can reach a consensus on peaceful reunification and negotiate the best model for the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula and can create a permanent value consensus and institutional foundation for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the long-term stability of Taiwanese society.


Systems are rigid, and there are core interests that cannot be given up that need to be maintained, but the human heart is soft, and there are inescapable values and meanings that need to be pursued. “One Country, Two Systems” must have a complete institutional system and strong value attraction. 15 On the one hand, it is necessary to carry out system building and follow the basic laws of the rule of law and governance. On the other hand, there is a need to undertake the enormous but most crucial job of mentality building rooted in civilizational foundations and world views. It is only in this way that the ideational obstacles of the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula can be gradually removed, and the institutional process can be substantively launched and steadily implemented. The “One Country, Two Systems” Hong Kong model is creative and advancing with the times, and the exploration of the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan formula can draw lessons from Hong Kong’s practice. Through the joint efforts of all walks of life on both sides of the Strait, we can gradually pass through blockage points to realize the optimal cultural foundation, mentality building, value foundation, and institutional framework and achieve the great cause jointly pursued by the Chinese on both sides of the Strait in the new stage of world history.


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Cite This Page

田飞龙 (Tian Feilong). "Exploring Institutional Preparations and Mentality Building for the “One Country, Two Systems” Taiwan Formula [探索“一国两制”台湾方案的制度准备与心理建设]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Modern Taiwan Studies [现代台湾研究], July 1, 2021

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