Deng Xiaoping

China Will Always Keep Its Promises


Published: December 19, 1984
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


In reaching an agreement on the question of Hong Kong, the leaders of our two countries have done something highly significant for our countries and peoples. This problem has lasted for a century and a half. As long as it remained unsolved, it cast a shadow over the relations between us. Now that the shadow has been lifted, a bright prospect has opened up for cooperation between our two countries and friendly contact between our two peoples.

If the concept of “one country, two systems” has international significance, that should be attributed to Marxist dialectical materialism and historical materialism or, in the words of Chairman Mao Zedong, to the principle of seeking truth from facts. This concept was formulated on the basis of China’s realities. The practical problem confronting China was how to settle the questions of Hong Kong and Taiwan. There were only two possible ways: one was peaceful, the other non-peaceful. To settle the Hong Kong question peacefully, we had to take into consideration the actual conditions in Hong Kong, in China and in Great Britain. In other words, the way in which we settled the question had to be acceptable to all three parties.

If we had wanted to achieve reunification by imposing socialism on Hong Kong, not all three parties would have accepted it. And reluctant acquiescence by some parties would only have led to turmoil. Even if there had been no armed conflict, Hong Kong would have become a bleak city with a host of problems, and that is not something we would have wanted. So the only solution to the Hong Kong question that would be acceptable to all three parties was the “one country, two systems” arrangement, under which Hong Kong would be allowed to retain its capitalist system and its status as a free port and a financial centre. There was no alternative. The idea of “one country, two systems” had first been suggested not in connection with Hong Kong but in connection with Taiwan. The nine principles concerning the Taiwan question, as proposed by Ye Jianying, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, on the eve of National Day in 1981, were not summed up in the formula “one country, two systems”, but that is in fact what they meant. And when the Hong Kong question was put on the table two years ago, we presented the idea in those terms.

When this idea was put forward, it was considered a new formulation, one that had never been offered by our predecessors. Some people doubted that it would work. They will have to be convinced by the facts. It seems to have worked so far. The Chinese, at least, think it works, because the negotiations of the past two years have proved that it does. This concept of “one country, two systems” has played a very important, if not decisive, role in the settlement of the Hong Kong question. It has been accepted by all three parties. Its viability will have been further demonstrated 13 years from now and 50 years after that. Some people are worried whether China will abide by the agreement once it has been signed. Your Excellency and the other British friends present here and people all over the world may be sure that China will always keep its promises.

A Japanese friend once asked me: Why do you specify a further period of 50 years? Why do you need to keep Hong Kong’s current capitalist system unchanged for 50 years after 1997? What is the basis for this proposal? Do you have any particular reason in mind? I answered that we had, that this proposal too was based on China’s realities. China has set itself the ambitious goal of quadrupling its GNP in two decades — that is, by the end of this century — and of reaching a level of comparative prosperity. But even then, China will still not be a wealthy or developed country. So that is only our first ambitious goal. It will take another 30 to 50 years after that for China to become a truly developed country, to approach — not surpass — the developed countries. If we need to follow the policy of opening China to the rest of the world until the end of this century, then 50 years later, when we are approaching the level of the developed countries, we shall have even more reason to follow it. If we departed from it, we could not accomplish anything. It is in China’s vital interest to keep Hong Kong prosperous and stable. When we gave the figure of 50 years, we were not speaking casually or on impulse but in consideration of the realities in China and of our need for development. Similarly, we need a stable Taiwan for the rest of this century and the first half of the next. Taiwan is a part of China. China can have two systems within one and the same country. That is what we had in mind when we formulated our state policy. If people understand our fundamental viewpoint and the basis on which we have put forward this concept and established this policy, they will be convinced that we are not going to change it. I also explained to the Japanese friend that if the open policy remains unchanged in the first half of the next century, it will be even less likely to change in the 50 years after that, because then China will have more economic exchanges with other countries, and all countries will be more interdependent and inseparable.

I should also like to ask the Prime Minister to make it clear to the people of Hong Kong and of the rest of the world that the concept of “one country, two systems” includes not only capitalism but also socialism, which will be firmly maintained on the mainland of China, where one billion people live. There are one billion people on the mainland, approximately 20 million on Taiwan and 5.5 million in Hong Kong. The problem arises of how to handle relations between such widely divergent numbers. The fact that one billion people, the overwhelming majority in a vast area, live under socialism is the indispensable precondition that enables us to allow capitalism in these small, limited areas at our side. We believe the existence of capitalism in limited areas will actually be conducive to the development of socialism. We have opened some 20 cities to the outside world, on condition that the socialist economy remains predominant there. These cities will not change their socialist nature. On the contrary, the policy of opening to the outside world will favour the growth of the socialist economy there.

(Excerpt from a talk with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom.)