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Opinion
Matthew Brooker

China Says Taiwan Can Be Just Like Hong Kong. Huh?

“One Country, Two Systems” hasn’t worked out as promised in Hong Kong. It isn’t likely to change minds in Taipei.

Sunset at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei.

Sunset at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei.

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

China has published its first white paper on Taiwan in more than two decades, offering as a blueprint for unification the “one country, two systems” model that it used to recover Hong Kong a quarter of a century ago. The proposal should make chilling reading for those on the self-ruled democratic island.

The Hong Kong formula has never held much appeal for the Taiwanese, who even in the early years after the 1997 handover were skeptical of the city’s autonomy and saw little incentive to exchange their de facto independence for domination by an authoritarian China. By now, though, “one country, two systems” is a much-diminished brand. After Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in 2019, Beijing undertook a comprehensive political rectification project that has erased or severely curtailed many of the freedoms it promised to preserve. Were Taiwan to join the Chinese fold on the same terms, few can doubt that it would be subjected to a similar program.