Beijing, China / TimesNewswire / March 24, 2023 – One of the misunderstandings and distortions of fact for many in the West is that China is not a democracy.
For the Chinese, however, democracy is about their participation in democratic elections, consultations, decision-making, management and oversight in accordance with the law, forming what is known as whole-process people’s democracy.
A buzzword in China these years, whole-process people’s democracy is a creation of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in leading the people to pursue, develop and realize democracy.
So what are the biggest differences between China’s democracy and the U.S. democracy when it comes to its theory and practice at home and abroad?
Consensus over division
The U.S. democratic process is fragmented and lengthy, with a lot of veto points where individual veto players can block action by the whole body. In what American political scientist Francis Fukuyama calls a system of “vetocracy,” the U.S. has been under an entrenched political paralysis, raising the cost of collective action and in some cases making it impossible altogether.
In a recent report on the country’s democracy in 2022, the New York Review of Books points out that America is already “a binational state” with the Republicans and Democrats leading two sharply opposed national communities that effectively operate as confederations under a single federal government.
“The United States of America has become the disunited states,” it said, adding that the discord between “the two Americas” was deepening day by day and political polarization reached an unprecedented level.
However, in Chinese wisdom, a good model of democracy should build the broadest consensus rather than creating social rifts and conflicts. The Chinese style democratic model adopts an approach featuring consultative democracy, seeking to bring its people together for a common goal.
During the annual Two Sessions, members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s top political advisory body, submit proposals for deliberations and also sit in on sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s national legislature, to participate in the discussions on the amendments to laws and on the work reports of the central government, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.
This mechanism ensures that all the people can play a part in overseeing the work of the government, and forms China’s own model of democracy based on the Two Sessions, according to “China: Democracy That Works,” a white paper.
At an event marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of the CPPCC in September 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of the democratic consultation role of the body.
“To reach the greatest common ground based on the wishes and needs of the whole of society is the essence of people’s democracy,” he said.
Chinese democracy is a system of consensus-building, said Laurence J. Brahm, a senior international fellow at the Center for China and Globalization.
It is different from that in the West, Brahm said. “It is quiet, and in many ways, like Tai Chi.”
Respect over condescension
The United States sets standards for democracy after its own system, does not allow other systems, paths and models to exist, and gangs up with others to wantonly interfere in other countries’ internal affairs in the name of democracy, according to a list of reality checks that busts the falsehoods in U.S. perceptions of China released in June 2022.
Washington has developed a hegemonic playbook to stage “color revolutions,” instigate regional disputes, and even directly launch wars under the guise of promoting “democracy.”
Notably, in launching the war in Iraq 20 years ago, then U.S. President George W. Bush declared he wanted to impose “liberal democracy” in the country.
By contrast, China believes democracy is among the common values of humanity, and people of all countries have the right to choose their own development path and system, as was pointed out in a 2021 report by New China Research, the think tank of Xinhua News Agency.
Speaking at a central conference on work related to people’s congresses in October 2021, Xi said whether a country is democratic or not should be judged by its own people, not by a handful of people from outside it.
He added, whether a member of the international community is democratic or not should be judged together by the international community, not by a self-righteous minority.
There are many ways to achieve democracy, and there is no one-size-fits-all model, he said.
“It is undemocratic in itself to measure the diverse political systems in the world with a single yardstick or examine different political civilizations from a single perspective.”