Global experts reject weaponizing democracy; no single pattern fits all countries
Published: Mar 23, 2023 08:59 PM
The Second International Forum on Democracy: shared human values is held in Beijing on March 23. Photo: Liu Xin/GT

The Second International Forum on Democracy: shared human values is held in Beijing on March 23. Photo: Liu Xin/GT

"Is there one democracy pattern that fits all countries?" "Does any country have the right to interfere with another country's choice of democracy?" Attendees at an international forum answered "No" as they gathered in Beijing on Thursday to share their understanding of democracy, expressing support to each country in exploring their own path to democracy and also opposition to a certain country's weaponizing of democracy for geopolitical purposes. 

More than 200 former senior governmental officials, diplomats, experts and scholars from over 100 countries and regions attended the "The Second International Forum on Democracy: Shared human values" forum in Beijing on Thursday, which was jointly held by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and think tanks from Cambodia, Chile, Nigeria, Spain and Tonga.

The event was held a few days before the so-called second Summit for Democracy to be held in the US. Analysts said the Beijing event's openness and inclusiveness sits in stark contrast to the US touting the "democracy versus authoritarianism" narrative. The US will co-host the second Summit for Democracy on March 29 and 30. 

More than one flavor of ice cream

Democracy is diverse and there is no single way of achieving it. No two political systems in the world are identical, nor is there a form of democracy that fits all countries, Li Shulei, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee said when delivering a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Thursday event. 

Each country should choose its own path for democracy in accordance with its national conditions. Whether a country is democratic or not should be judged by the people of the country instead of a handful of other countries. Imposing its form of democracy on other countries or inciting confrontation under the guise of "democracy versus authoritarianism" is harmful and actually tramples on the idea of democracy itself, Li said.

Echoing Li's view, attendees also stressed that each country's efforts to explore democracy and development paths should be respected. 

Kugiza Crispin Kaheru, commissioner of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, told the Global Times that "in the richly diverse world, democracy comes and can come in many forms and flavors, like ice-cream… each society ought to craft the democracy that resonates with its past, present and future it wants." 

Kaheru stressed that democracy should be given a chance to respectfully evolve as societies and the world change. People aren't searching for something ideal, but more down-to-earth: a problem-solving system of governance from within.

Also on Thursday, a report titled "Democratic Practices and Modernization in China Global Survey 2022" was released at the forum, which showed that over 9,600 respondents from 23 countries generally agree with the statement that "each country has different national conditions and is at its own development stage, and, therefore, should choose democracy and modernization models that suit its own conditions," with an average approval rate of 94.3 percent.

The approval rate in developing countries and among respondents aged 18-35 worldwide are higher, at 94.6 percent and 94.9 percent respectively. India, Brazil, Mexico and the United Kingdom all have approval ratings of over 97 percent.

The report, conducted by the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies in collaboration with a survey company, from May to October last year, surveyed respondents from 23 countries in Asia, Europe, America, Africa and Oceania. 

The survey also finds that the average recognition of the common values of "peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom" reached 95.7 percent, and developing countries have a higher rating than developed ones.

When talking about different countries' path to democracy, many scholars spoke highly of China's whole-process people's democracy, as it has evolved along with the changes of realities and has yielded fruitful outcomes. 

Yury Tavrovsky, deputy chairman of the Russian-Chinese Friendship Society and head of the expert council at the Russian-Chinese Committee for Friendship, Peace and Development, told the Global Times that the impressive achievements of the Chinese economy have been realized precisely because the country eventually found the development model that corresponds to its traditions, present conditions and future goals. 

The unique Chinese political system is firmly based on traditions and current realities, and suits the Chinese political landscape like a beautiful pagoda, said Tavrovsky. To challenge it with a rather shaky and dilapidated skyscraper is not wise, and even dangerous, he added.

Western civilization, which achieved dominance about 300 years ago, did not care about other political systems that existed on the planet. "More and more countries are becoming frustrated with the stumbling and unreliable leader of the Free World. They also observe the steady decline of American democracy," said Tavrovsky.

Discontent over US hegemonic democracy

Aside from Tavrovsky, many scholars also expressed dissatisfaction with and opposition to a certain major power's hegemonic democracy, referring to the US and the imposition of its democracy. The chaos within the US and the havoc it has brought around the world were frequently mentioned in different sessions on Thursday. 

"Nobody any longer believes that the American form of democracy benefits the people, not even its own people," George Galloway, a six-term British parliamentarian, told the Global Times at the sideline of the Thursday event.

He went on to say that the US as a country is divided from top to bottom. "The US talking about democracy is rather like a hooker talking about modesty. It is a contradiction in terms. And that's why their conference on democracy will be a complete failure… The US purpose of democracy is hegemony," said the former British politician.

Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman of the Pakistan Senate Defense Committee, also pointed out at the Thursday event that today we have seen two contrasting views on globalization on how to get humanity forward. One, represented by China, talks about cooperation and connectivity among different civilizations, and the other comes from the West, especially the US, and stresses conflicts, clash of civilizations and confrontation.

Sayed said the upcoming second Summit for Democracy is not about democracy, but about weaponizing democracy and weaponizing human rights in the emerging World War against China and also against Russia.

Some countries are looking at the world with a zero-sum game mindset or cold-war mentality, an idea that will be rejected by countries from the Global South and most of the Global North, said Sayed.

Amid growing criticism, the US is seeking to host the Second Summit for Democracy together with a number of other countries. Events like this have been used by the US as a chance to check how various countries have performed in meeting US standards for democracy and to pull together an "interests camp." 

Zambia's Socialist Party President Fred Mmembe said that countries in the Global South are starting to resent and detest US hegemonic democracy or the US' dictation of democracy.

"Now, enough is enough. Nobody can live under subjugation forever and be dictated to forever. If you have no respect for the dignity of others, if you have no respect for the sovereignty of other countries, you cannot claim to be a champion of democracy," Mmembe told the Global Times.

Many scholars said at the Thursday event that instead of pseudo-democracy or a summit for democracy that hypes up confrontation and conflict, what the world really needs today is a conference of solidarity that focuses on taking real actions to solve prominent global challenges.

Mmembe also called on the US to cooperate with other countries, as the world is at a crossroads. "We are traveling on the same vessel called planet. And if we don't communicate, the vessel is bound for the iceberg," he said.