In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section One Country, Two Systems

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works and Collections of Source Materials
  • Historical Background
  • The Sino-British Negotiations
  • The Transition
  • Post-Handover Governance
  • The Basic Law and Legal Issues
  • China–Hong Kong Relations

Chinese Studies One Country, Two Systems
Joseph Cheng
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0009


Deng Xiaoping (b. 1903–d. 1997) secured power and launched a policy program of economic reforms and an opening to the external world at the end of 1978. He also initiated a peace offensive toward Taiwan, and had to face a new challenge in China’s Hong Kong policy. In January 1979, the Chinese authorities announced a nine-point proposal for solving the Taiwan issue and guaranteed that after reunification, the existing economic and social systems, as well as the way of life, would remain unchanged. Subsequently, the new Constitution of the People’s Republic of China promulgated in December 1982 contains a new provision; Article 31 states, “The state may establish special administrative regions (SAR) when necessary” (available online). In March 1979, Sir Murray MacLehose (b. 1917–d. 2000), then Governor of Hong Kong, visited Beijing. He met Deng Xiaoping and formally raised “the New Territories lease” question. Chinese leaders gradually began to understand that the Hong Kong future issue could no longer be delayed. The view of recovery gained a distinct edge; Liao Chengzhi (b. 1908–d. 1983), head of the newly established Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, was given the responsibility of planning for the recovery of the territory. In April 1981, he proposed the “one country, two systems” model policy, which demonstrated the Chinese leadership’s liberation in thinking at that time. The leadership was eager to show the world that China could govern Hong Kong better than the British colonial administration; it wanted the Hong Kong model to have a significant demonstration effect on Taiwan. The policy played a key role in maintaining the confidence of Hong Kong people, and facilitated Chinese leaders’ success in the Sino-British negotiations on the territory’s future. In the decade and a half since Hong Kong’s return to China, the “one country, two systems” model has been working quite well. Stability and prosperity have been maintained; the rule of law and the freedoms enjoyed by the people have been largely intact. Hong Kong’s relative international economic competitiveness has been in slow decline, and the economy has become increasingly dependent on that of Mainland China.

General Overviews

The works in the following subsections are intended to offer an overview of the Political Development of Hong Kong, the history of the “One Country, Two Systems” Model, and related issues.

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