Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy: “One Country, Two Systems”

Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy: “One Country, Two Systems”

Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy: “One Country, Two Systems”

On June 24, Chairman Xi Jinping hosted the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing. Therein, Xi upheld the significance of equating domestic and international policies of the CCP in achieving China’s “great rejuvenation,” promoting world peace, and advancing common development. Accordingly, participating figures and State organs seized the opportunity to laud Xi’s views on diplomacy as an essential overarching guideline in safeguarding national sovereignty, in advancing peaceful development, in implementing major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, and in realising the “Chinese Dream” (中國夢). The consolidation of “Xi Jinping Thought” (XJT, 習近平思想) within China’s diplomacy illustrates a growing degree of assertiveness in China’s foreign policy and represents an intensified threat to the endurance and stability of the “One Country, Two System” (OCTS) model as a framework for cross-Strait peace and security.

The conference marked a watershed moment in enshrining XJT within China’s foreign policy, and the total consolidation of Xi’s authority over all aspects of the government and CCP. Its origins and effect upon China’s policies can be traced to the ostensible selection of the Politburo Standing Committee during the 19th CCP Congress in October 2017, stretching to the formal removal of presidential term limits from the PRC Constitution on March 11.  

A deconstruction of the 14-points of XJT evidences an increasingly assertive containment strategy within cross-Strait relations, one which redefines the fundamental precepts of OCTS and establishes a coherent strategy predicated towards achieving the unification of Taiwan by 2049 in accordance with XJT Point 12. OCTS was first applied as the framework for achieving the harmonious integration of Hong Kong post-1997 and remains the Chinese leadership’s only avenue for unification with Taiwan. Core elements of the OCTS are ostensibly defined by the preservation of a high degree of autonomy within a unified territory, and encompass the maintenance of distinguishing systems of law, the division of sovereign responsibilities, and preservation of cultural identity.

Where the OCTS existed as one of Deng’s key policies it was colored by his grand strategy for China’s foreign policy over the following decades, premised upon his 24-Character Strategy of 1990 to “hide our capabilities and bide our time.” However, Xi’s transformation as China’s new Paramount leader has upended the precedent strategy established under Deng, coloring all facets of China’s policy with Xi’s grand strategy of “striving for achievement;” commensurate with China’s emergence as a global superpower.

One Country, Two Systems Redux

Where XJT now exists as a guiding principle for China’s diplomacy, the scope of XJT Point 12 represents a redefining moment for OCTS, and its assertive application within cross-Strait relations.

The evolving nature of OCTS, as it applied to Hong Kong over the past two-decades, has evoked concerns over its continued viability within cross-Strait relations as a solution for unification. Under OCTS, Hong Kong has experienced a notable erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms, coupled with an increasing degree of interference by the central government beyond the scope of the Basic Law; developments which have been keenly observed in Taiwan.  

Indeed, President Tsai Ing-wen’s deliberate omission of references to the “1992 Consensus” within her inaugural speech in May 2016 revealed both an independent conception of “One China,” and her doubts concerning the OCTS as advanced by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This view was reinforced by Tsai’s Mainland Affairs Council, which interpreted China’s attempts to promote OCTS and “One China Principle” (OCP) as forceful and a barrier to common ground, the foundations of which require mutual respect and understanding.

However, the evolving nature of OCTS has only accelerated further following Xi’s consolidation of power. In March, the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of the State Council derided Tsai’s, stating that Taiwan’s problems “will become more complex”, and that only acceptance of the “One China Principle” will allow Taiwan to widen its “maneuvering space” on the international stage. Presently, the iteration of OCTS and OCP advanced by China under XJT evidences the unequivocal aim of hostile integration through economic, diplomatic, and cultural assimilation.

Mindful of the 2049 timeline and promises of a “Chinese Dream,” and frustrated by the political power wielded by the incumbent Tsai and the pan-Green coalition, Xi is enacting the forceful imposition of OCTS upon Taiwan; moving beyond the notion of unification by consensus and posing an exponential threat to the self-determination of the Taiwanese people.

The basis of this forceful and assertive imposition is derived from Xi’s comments during a meeting with the head of the TAO on July 13, during which Xi cited “Four Reasons” for his confidence in cross-Strait ties moving forward: describing how the promotion of cross-Strait ties is a trend of the times and a collective interest, how the changing political climate will not erode the sentiment of shared nationality, and that the establishment of closer relations is a unanimous and unstoppable trend. Within such language emerges Xi’s determined and insatiable intent to impose OCTS and OCP without consent, disregarding the perspectives of any sitting Taiwanese government and its citizens.

In enforcing his conception of OCTS, Xi has adopted a mix of military hard-power and diplomatic posture. This has been established through a mixture of sharp power initiatives aimed at intensifying efforts to undermine Taiwan’s democratic institutions, corrode national identity, foster social instability, further isolate Taiwan internationally, and decimate its economy by encouraging a brain drain.

Eroding National Identity through Legal Incorporation

Under the application of XJT within China’s diplomacy, Beijing is attempting to erode Taiwan’s national identity through the incorporating of Taiwan into the PRC’s domestic legal frameworks.

This has involved the uniform provision of legal privileges and enforcement frameworks upon Taiwanese nationals, equal to those afforded to and imposed upon mainland citizens. Such was evident within the decision of the State Council to ease work visa requirements for Taiwanese citizens residing on the mainland, simplifying the changing of jobs and movement across mainland cities, by abolishing the work permit requirement for Taiwanese citizens.

The Ministry of Public Security’s announced several weeks after that Taiwanese citizens residing in the PRC would be eligible for social and public services through registration for permanent residency under the “state” ID card system; identical to those provided to PRC citizens. This measure was interpreted by the Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council as part of a “united front through equal treatment” strategy, to lure Taiwanese citizens to subjecting themselves to comprehensive surveillance and monitoring under the mainland’s automated facial recognition technology and social credit system.

Consequently, treatment equating Taiwanese citizens on an equal footing with PRC citizens also comes with equal duties and obligations. This has resulted in the gradual implementation of compulsory mandatory training for Hong Kong and Macau students at mainland tertiary institutions. The training seeks to enhance students’ sense of national defence and national security awareness, imparted through three-weeks of military activities and political indoctrination. While at present military training remains an option for Taiwanese students, its eventual forced institution upon Taiwanese citizens attending mainland tertiary education institutions does not exist beyond reasonable doubt.

The attempted repeated imposition of the 2005 Anti-Secession Law [1] upon Taiwan has also been elevated to a new level. This was revealed through its proposed use against Taiwanese Premier William Lai by mainland state-run media Global Times, which called for his prosecution under both China’s criminal code and the Anti-Secession Law. This raised the possibility of the law being used in a targeted manner against Taiwanese citizens, being used to target Taiwanese politicians, and revealed plans to further cultivate an opinio juris under international law by establishing a precedent for the application of PRC law upon Taiwan.

Already, in November 2017 the PRC government convicted the first Taiwanese national –  human rights activist Lee Ming-che – under the 2015 National Security Law [2] for attempting to “subvert national authority and overthrow the socialist system,” in a move calculated to project the extraterritorial reach of its domestic laws upon all Chinese people wherever they reside.

Over time Beijing perhaps anticipates that the assimilation of Taiwanese citizens under PRC’s legal and social frameworks will contribute to the erosion of a Taiwanese identity and pave the route towards forceful unilateral reunification without consent under OCTS.


The application of XJT within China’s foreign policy indicates a determined and elevated campaign by the PRC to enforce both the OCP and OCTS upon Taiwan through non-military force. Where Taiwanese citizens and business stand to benefit from the privileges and benefits provided by Beijing, Taiwan must continue to stand firm and act to ensure that such “gifts” do not contribute toward the gradual and calculated sacrifice of Taiwan’s self-determination as a sovereign nation.

The main point: The consolidation of “Xi Jinping Thought” in China’s diplomacy signals a growing degree of assertiveness in China’s foreign policy and represents an intensified threat to the endurance and stability of the “One Country, Two System” model as a framework for cross-Strait peace and security.

[1] (中華人民共和國反分裂國家法) “China: Law No. 34 of 2005, Anti-Secession Law” People’s Republic of China, President of the People’s Republic of China, Order No.34, 14 March 2005.

[2] (中華人民共和國國家安全法) “National Security Law of the People’s Republic of China” People’s Republic of China, President of the People’s Republic of China, Order No 29, 1 July 2015.