China’s Socialist Unitary State and its Capitalist Special Administrative Regions: “One Country, Two Systems” and its Developmental Implementation

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Pui-yin Lo



The People’s Republic of China is, according to its Constitution, “a unitary multi-national state” based on the socialist system. The Constitution also allows the state to establish “special administrative regions” in light of “specific conditions.” This provision backs the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” that China applies to achieve territorial reunification, through allowing the relevant territories to continue with their capitalist system and way of life. This principle was operationalised in the cases of Hong Kong and Macau, resulting in the establishment of two Special Administrative Regions, each of which governed by a “Basic Law” prescribing the systems of the relevant region, when China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over them on 1 July 1997 and 20 December 1999 respectively. This article considers the two decades of constitutional and legal interactions between the Chinese “Central Authorities” and these sub-national Special Administrative Regions, so as to highlight the socialist mechanisms of central control that have been applied constitutionally, politically, economically and socially in Hong Kong and Macau to ensure that “One Country, Two Systems” with not be “distorted,” that national sovereignty, security and development interests are safeguarded, and that these regions will play a positive role in national economic development. It is clear from this study that the implementation of “One Country, Two Systems” in the two regions has been “developmental,” with the law serving the interests of the “Centre” under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.

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