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Ma Ying-jeou: ‘One country, one system’

Taiwan’s president shares his views on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and China’s role in the world.

Taiwan recently held its largest live fire drill in memory in a bid to keep rival and growing superpower China at bay. While an independent democracy, Mainland China claims the island as its own. 

We cannot rely on the US to provide us with a safety umbrella like before .... We are not expecting to go to war with the Chinese Communist Party. Instead, we are hoping to minimise the possibility of war between us.

by Ma Ying-jeou, the president of Taiwan

Growing fears over an increasingly assertive China has led to a nervous Tainwanese public and historic mass protests with students and activists demanding the Tainwanese president to give them a greater say on trade and politics with the economic giant.   

Concerns over a bolder, more aggressive China are also rising throughout Asia, especially in disputes over islands in the South China Sea.

All the while China is signalling it will march to its own tune – recently defying activists and the international community saying it would not allow Hong Kong to freely choose its leader in upcoming elections.

“We are worried about the developments in Hong Kong. We are very concerned about how it will affect Hong Kong’s future as well as China’s international image …. Hong Kong has already become a global financial centre. Any political turbulence will have significant implications to its economic development,” says Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s president.

“In the early 1980’s the ‘one country, two systems’ concept was created for Taiwan, not for Hong Kong. But Taiwan has sent a clear message that we do not accept the concept. If the system is good, then we believe it should be ‘one country, one system’.”

Are fears of China justified? What is China’s role in the world? And can the growing superpower act as responsible global player? 

The President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, rarely speaks to the international media. But in an exclusive interview, he talks to Al Jazeera’s Steve Chao about where the island is going, protests against the controversial trade agreement with China, and how he thinks the rest of the world should respond to China’s rise.

Editor’s noteAn earlier version of this interview incorrectly translated President Ma Ying-jeou as saying Taiwan is the only place in China practicing democracy. In fact, he said “Taiwan is the only place in ethnic Chinese societies where we are able to practice democracy”. This version of the interview contains the correct translation.