Towards the Federal Republic of China

Yan Jiaqi outlines his proposals for a Third Republic

The changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union indicate the possibility of China's splitting up and changing itself into a non communist state during the post-Deng era. Some suggest that following the breakdown of the autocracy of the Communist Party, the Chinese government would no longer be able to impose its measure to exercise control over society, and that this would result in a drastic increase in population, uncontrolled population movement, breakdown of the legal system, and the intensification of independence movements in Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. China would face a future determined either by splitting up, or by continuing the autocracy of the Communist Party or military figures.

In my opinion, there exists a third possibility: that is, as China moved towards a non

A federal system in the future China would be different from those in contemporary Europe and America. It would be a federation with the characteristics of a confederation. Federal China would consist of two kinds of republics: 'loose republics' such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang: and 'close republics' consisting the rest of China.

Taiwan: 'loose republic'

In the future federal China, 'loose republics' would bear the characteristics of a confederation in terms of their relationship with the federation. They would differ from the existing federal countries in their defence, taxation and legal systems. when the unification of Taiwan and the mainland became a reality, Taiwan would enjoy not only its financial independence, the issuing of its own currency and retention of its own legal system, but could also have its own army. The federal government would set up a federal defence commission to coordinate the armies against invaders.

As for Hong Kong, the existing Basic Law has obviously been affected by the June 4th incident (eg. the 18th and 23rd Articles concerning 'unrest' and 'subversion') and changes would be made to it based on the Joint Communiqué of the British and Chinese governments.

Tibet, with its religious and cultural features distinctive from the rest of China, would have its own constitution based on its own situation. The Dalai Lama once said, 'The Tibetan government ought to be established on the basis of its own constitution, stating clearly that Tibet ought to have a democratic government responsible for economic protection. This implies that the Tibetan government should have the authority to decide all matters concerning Tibet and the Tibetan people.' This proposition could be put into practice within a federation.

Owing to the fast growth of a market economy on the mainland, the disparity in economic development among the various regions would become increasingly obvious. To compare China with other nations, the population of one province is often well over tens of millions, and some are over 100 million. The traditional 'centralized system', which has been in effect for several thousand years, seriously suppressed the enthusiasm, spontaneity and creativity of the regions. The federal system would unfasten the shackles imposed on the regions by centralization, giving them an opportunity to set free their imaginations. Each region could devise its own plans and measures according to local circumstances, and solve problems with those methods which would be most suitable according to cultural and other conditions. So doing, an important step toward creating a China with varied regional development would be made.

Multicultural Federation

The federal China would no longer be a historically old country. The basic concept of China would change from a 'grand unified domain' to a 'multiculture'. In addition to the flag designated by the 'Constitutional Congress' every republic could have its own flag. The 'snow mountain and lion flag' would fly again in Tibet. In federal China every republic could have its own constitution; governors elected would not be over-ruled by the federal central government, nor could they be replaced or dismissed by the latter. Member republics, including Hong Kong would not be submitted to an organization such as the National People's Congress for approval provided that it was in line with the federal constitution.

China's political system has had two principal shortcomings for several thousand years, one being despotism, the other centralization. The establishment of a federation could only put right the second shortcoming. Putting right the first is reliant upon party politics, free elections and freedom of press. The federal system itself would not bring democracy to China. However, it could promote a democratic process.

Toward reforms

The concept of a federal system still needs to be debated to reach maturity. Proposals with differing approaches are particularly needed, and such ideas would have to be criticized, discussed, corrected and amended. At present, there is one point that we are sure of: China has reached the time for great change and various choices are required to be put forward. I strongly believe in something which is shared by all established politicians, namely that every great change in history is initiated by the people. Without such initiation, changes cannot take place. An idea for reform may often meet tough resistance. However, as long as there is need for reform there will exist in the depths of the people's hearts a proposal acceptable to the majority. The prosperity and modernization of China has been the strongest desire and aspiration in the depths of the hearts of the Chinese for over one and a half centuries. Having tried and failed many times, this desire and aspiration remain. Today, at this time when the 20th and 21st centuries meet, the Chinese people will establish a federal, democratic free third republic through peaceful means on the basis of the founding of the First Republic in 1911 and Second Republic in 1949. I strongly believe that only a federal Third Republic can make the dream come true for the Chinese to build a free, democratic, unified and prosperous country.

Yin Jiaqi is currently a leader of the Federation for a Democratic China and resides in Paris. Before he left China in 1989, he was head of the Institute of Political Science of the Academy of Social Sciences. His book Lianbang Zhongguo Gouxiang

[Outline Thoughts for a Federal China was published by Ming Pao in 1922. The above article is reprinted from China Now, No. 143.

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Last updated: 23-Oct-96