China co-opting and promoting (its version of) democracy


As U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to host more than 100 participants in the initial Summit for Democracy, China – which was not invited – has increasingly talked up the advantages of its own “whole-process democracy”, Reuters reports:

Chinese state media and diplomats in recent weeks have ramped up criticism of democracy in the United States, touting what they describe as preferable outcomes in its system of “socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics” on measures ranging from COVID-19 management to social mobility. ….  China, which will release a white paper on democracy on Saturday, defines its version as consultative, with voting permitted at the very local level and public feedback collected before any law is implemented. The definition does not include an independent judiciary, free media, or universal suffrage for national office.

“Xi has long used the claim that party’s governance is superior to that of the West in order to legitimize the party’s monopoly of power,” Charles Parton, a former British diplomat and a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told Reuters.

It is not new for autocrats to co-opt benign-sounding labels. During the cold war a quick route to a labor camp was to express dissent in a country with “democratic” in its official name, from North Korea to East Germany. If hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, rigged elections are a dictator’s homage to real democracy: an admission that popular mandates offer moral authority, The Economist’s David Rennie (below) observes.

Russia, China and their surrogates have launched a fierce PR offensive against the summit, with Beijing accusing the US of fomenting global color revolutions, while the head of a Moscow think-tank claimed the event is designed to launch an ‘ideological crusade.’

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