As China attacks Western democracy, are non-democratic options emerging?


China’s official Xinhua news agency attacked Western democracy as divisive and confrontational on Tuesday, praising on the eve of a key Communist Party Congress the harmony and cooperative nature of the Chinese system……. Xinhua took aim at the “crises and chaos swamp(ing) Western liberal democracy,” Reuters reports:

China’s system leads to social unity not the divisions which are an unavoidable consequence of the adversarial nature of Western democracy, Xinhua said. “Endless political backbiting, bickering and policy reversals, which make the hallmarks of liberal democracy, have retarded economic and social progress and ignored the interests of most citizens.”

“Unlike competitive, confrontational Western politics, the CPC and non-Communist parties cooperate with each other, working together for the advancement of socialism and striving to improve the people’s standard of living,” it said. “The relationship maintains political stability and social harmony and ensures efficient policy making and implementation.”

The Xinhua broadside is the latest manifestation of Chinese President Xi Jinpeng’s pursuit of ideological legitimacy for the Communist Party’s authoritarian rule.

Sen. John McCain defended the U.S. commitment to advancing democracy and warned against “spurious nationalism” during a speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Monday night.

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history, ” McCain said.

“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.  We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world,” he told the audience. “That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t.”

“We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to,” said McCain, chairman of the International Republican Institute, a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy.

His defense of democracy coincides with the publication of a 38-nation Pew Research Center survey which concludes that “there are reasons for calm as well as concern when it comes to democracy’s future.”

“More than half in each of the nations polled consider representative democracy a very or somewhat good way to govern their country,” the survey said. “Yet, in all countries, pro-democracy attitudes coexist, to varying degrees, with openness to nondemocratic forms of governance, including rule by experts, a strong leader or the military.”

Democracy confronts a formidable set of domestic and external challenges, including an ominous authoritarian resurgence, Stanford University’s Larry Diamond, writes for The American Interest.

“The post-Cold War era is now truly over. We have entered a new era in which two great-power adversaries are, with formidable subtlety, resourcefulness, and technical sophistication, threatening our democratic way of life,” he observes.

Non-democratic options?

“There could come a day when, even in wealthy Western nations, liberal democracy ceases to be the only game in town,” notes Sasha Polakow-Suransky, author of Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy. “And when that day comes, those who once embraced democracy could begin to entertain other options,” he writes for The New York Review of Books:

Even Ronald Inglehart, the celebrated eighty-three-year-old political scientist who developed his theory of democratic consolidation more than four decades ago, has conceded that falling incomes, rising inequality, and the abject dysfunction of many governments—especially America’s—have led to declining support for democracy. If such trends continue, he wrote in response to [Roberto] Foa and [Yascha] Mounk [writing in the NED’s Journal of Democracy], “then the long-run outlook for democracy is indeed bleak.”

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