China Insists It Is a Democracy That Is Superior to the U.S.
China was not invited to President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy, which included 100 countries. The summit, which aims “to renew democracy at home and confront autocracies abroad,” is a virtual meet of 100 of the world’s leaders of democratic countries on December 9 and 10.
Interestingly, Taiwan is invited to the Summit. Kosovo, which is not fully recognized by the United Nations, is also a participant.
In response, China attempted to prop up its own “democratic” image by hosting its own two-day International Forum on Democracy, where politicians and scholars from 120 countries will attend, according to CNN.
China Calls Itself ‘A True Democracy That Works’
Huang Kunming, the Communist Party's chief propagandist, insisted that China is a “true democracy that works,” characterized by “whole-process people's democracy” that is superior to the United States, according to CNN.
“It integrates process-oriented democracy with results-oriented democracy, procedural democracy with substantive democracy, direct democracy with indirect democracy, and people's democracy with the will of the state,” Kunming said.
And as if cementing the argument, a 13,000-word document released by China’s State Council argued:
“There is no fixed model of democracy; it manifests itself in many forms. Assessing the myriad political systems in the world against a single yardstick and examining diverse political structures in monochrome are in themselves undemocratic.”
China assailed the democracy in the U.S. in a lengthy report that quoted The Times of Israel saying “America—No longer the beacon on the hill.”
It called America's democracy “dysfunctional” and “flawed” and “fraught with deep-seated problems.”
But China Is the Opposite of Democracy, Isn’t It?
Although China holds elections, it is far from being a democratic state. A free and fair election is the litmus test of democracies, but it is just one element in a democratic state—and it does not look like China is willing to add the rest to the definition: free press, a genuine opposition, free religion, free speech, free and fair elections—in other words, having true civil and political liberties.
Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo died in prison in 2017 after he was jailed for fighting for democratic rule. He spent nine years locked up.
Why Do Authoritarian States Love to Claim They Are Democratic?
Democracy is a powerful tool for legitimacy, so powerful that dictators and despots love to claim they are running a perfectly healthy democratic government.
Phillips Shively, the author of Power and Choice (1999), succinctly puts it: “democratic government is the preeminent example of legitimacy by procedures—so preeminent that democratic procedures are often imitated thorough staged elections in dictatorships.”
For China, being seen as democratic offers some prestige points diplomatically, while being seen as oppressive results in sanctions and restrictions.
China Lands Very Near the Bottom of Democracy Index
China landed in the bottom of the annual Freedom Index released by international NGO Freedom House, which rates people’s access to political rights and civil liberties in 210 countries and territories through its annual Freedom in the World report.
According to Freedom House, individual freedoms range from the right to vote to freedom of expression and equality before the law. China was graded “not free.”
“China’s authoritarian regime has become increasingly repressive in recent years. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is tightening its control over the state bureaucracy, the media, online speech, religious groups, universities, businesses, and civil society associations, and it has undermined its own already modest rule-of-law reforms,” read the report.
“The CCP leader and state president, Xi Jinping, has consolidated personal power to a degree not seen in China for decades, but his actions have also triggered rising discontent among elites within and outside the party. The country’s human rights movements continue to seek avenues for protecting basic liberties despite a multiyear crackdown,” it added.
China scored -2 points out of 40 in political rights, and 11 points out of 60 in civil liberties.
Under political rights, China scored zero in electoral process, zero in political participation and pluralism, according to the full report.
Overall, China scored 9 points out of 100 in the index. By contrast, America, whose democracy China accused of being “dysfunctional” and “flawed” and “fraught with deep-seated problems,” had a score of 83 out of 100.
The U.S. may be a flawed society, but in no way are its democratic institutions comparable to China’s so-called democracy.