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Published: 02:01, March 27, 2023 | Updated: 09:45, March 27, 2023
Can ‘superiority’ of Western-style democracy still be considered valid?
By Kenneth Li
Published:02:01, March 27, 2023 Updated:09:45, March 27, 2023 By Kenneth Li

For decades, the US-led West, via its strong cultural soft power and powerful media, has been extolling the “superiority” of its democracy, especially American-style democracy, over other political systems, asserting that it is the best and universally applicable to all countries.

However, the tide turns with many Western democracies’ governance deficits having surfaced over recent years in contrast to the increasing international recognition of China’s people-oriented governance.

Deteriorating racial conflicts, gun violence, riots, police brutality, economic inequality, soaring crime rates and inflation in Western societies all have cast doubt on the effectiveness of Western-style democracy.

Moreover, numerous episodes have exposed the hypocrisy of Western-style democracy, by the Western governments and politicians applying double standards at home and abroad over the years. They advocate the protection of fundamental rights and freedom of people on the one hand, but on the other hand, they provoke regional confrontations and resort to subversive means and direct military interventions in the name of democracy to overthrow foreign governments they dislike. To name a few, the NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia during the 1998-99 Kosovo War and the US’ invasion and occupation of Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021. Hong Kong experienced a narrow escape from a “color revolution” in 2019. What were the rights and freedoms of the people who did not agree with the Western-style democratic system?

The inability of Western democracies to provide their subjects with a safe living environment and quality life, plus their hypocritical actions in invading other countries, causing the death of thousands of innocent people, making millions homeless, has brought about widespread disillusionment with Western-style democracy among people of developing countries.

The picture is completely different in China. The tremendous improvement of Chinese people’s livelihoods under the governance of the Communist Party of China (CPC) over the years has greatly astonished the world, making the country the role model for many developing countries. With a proven track record of over 40 years of remarkable development, China is willing to share its successful story with the rest of the world.

In his keynote address delivered at the recent CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting via video link, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, expounded on China’s path to modernization — a path that not only benefits its own people but also boosts humanity’s development in respect of international fairness, justice, peace and stability.

“For any country to achieve modernization, it needs to not only follow the general laws governing the process, but more importantly, to consider its own national conditions and unique features,” said Xi.

China has firsthand experience of this. Looking back some 45 years ago, when the country started to reform and open up, it adamantly adhered to its own path based on national conditions instead of copying the Western mode entirely in the course of development. This has proved a great success. The data from World Bank have shown that since 1978, China’s GDP growth has averaged over 9 percent annually, with significant improvements in health, education and other public services.

In the past 10 years, China’s GDP has grown from 53.9 trillion yuan ($7.84 trillion) to 121 trillion yuan, the second-largest in the world. Real GDP per capita has increased from $6,300 to $12,741. The country’s average economic contribution to the world’s GDP growth was 38.6 percent from 2013 to 2021, while the combined average contribution of G7, the world’s seven most industrialized economies — namely, the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Japan — made up only 25.7 percent.

China has become one of the safest countries in the world with a very low crime rate. According to a global survey on people’s trust in government on various aspects published by Statista Research in January, about 89 percent of the Chinese people trusted the government to do what is right in 2022, topping the 28 surveyed countries.

In the same keynote address, President Xi stressed that modernization was not “an exclusive patent” of a small handful of countries, nor was it a single answer question, noting that modernization cannot be realized by a “cookie cutter approach” or simple “copy and paste”.

He added that China’s modernization was rooted in its national conditions, drawing on the experience of other countries, carrying the imprint of history and traditional culture and containing modern elements. “It delivers benefit to the Chinese people and also advances common development of the world”, he said.

In retrospect, the successful mixing and integration of some capitalist and socialist economic theories — such as market economy, planned economy, State and private ownership — that fit China’s realities over the decades has enabled China to come up with a pragmatic development path called “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. This unique development mode has created a powerful driving force for the Chinese people to excel in five fronts — economic, political, cultural, social and ecological. Its goal is to achieve socialist modernization and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

As humanity and harmony with nature are important elements in Chinese culture, the Chinese development must link closely with the world. “For any country to achieve modernization, it should pursue common development through solidarity and cooperation and follow the principles of joint contribution, shared benefits and win-win outcome. … As our own future is closely connected with that of other countries and peoples, we will strive to provide new opportunities for world development, add new impetus to humanity’s exploration of paths toward modernization, and make new contributions to the theory and practice of humanity’s modernization as we make new progress in Chinese modernization”, said President Xi.

He pledged that the CPC will continue to safeguard international fairness and justice and promote world peace and stability. He also proposed the Global Civilization Initiative to promote diversity of civilizations and cultural exchange. “We are ready to work together with the international community to open up a new prospect of enhanced exchanges and understanding among different peoples and better interactions and integration of diversified cultures. Together, we can make the garden of world civilizations colorful and vibrant”.

The Global Civilization Initiative is another public good and cooperation platform after the Global Development Initiative of 2021, which advocates sustainable development, and the Global Security Initiative of 2022, which upholds cooperative and sustainable security as well as the territorial integrity of all countries.

The three platforms, put forward by China, are important components of building “a community with a shared future for mankind”, indicating the country’s determination and sincerity to build a better future together with all the countries in the world.

The author, a Hong Kong-based freelance writer, is an adviser to the Hong Kong Association of Media Veterans.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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