Test of democracy is how it is sustaining the people: former UK MP
Published: Mar 24, 2023 05:33 PM
Crumbling US democracy. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Crumbling US democracy. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

"There is no single model for democracy" is the consensus reached by the more than 200 officials, scholars and experts in various fields from over 100 countries and regions who participated in the second International Forum on Democracy: the Shared Human Values, held in Beijing. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If democracy is, therefore, the rule of the people, the test of the pudding is how it is sustaining the people," George Galloway (Galloway), a six-term British parliamentarian, said in an interview with Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen on the sidelines of the forum.

GT: You attended the second International Forum for Democracy in Beijing. The US will hold its second Summit for Democracy on March 29 and 30. In your opinion, what are the two different in nature?

Galloway: It all depends on what you mean by democracy. The US supports a form of democracy, but its content is entirely different. Democracy is not a monument or shibboleth or a god. The purpose of democracy is to benefit the people

Nobody any longer believes that the American form of democracy benefits the people, not even its own people. The US as a country is divided from top to bottom, increasingly behaving like a banana republic without the bananas, arresting their former presidents; As of 2022, nearly 30 million Americans have no health insurance. Scores of millions are unemployed. Half of the people are in poverty. There is racial injustice and strife. "If that's democracy, you can keep it" would be the attitude of most people in the world. 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 China-held conference, on the other hand, has attracted people from all over the world, talking seriously about the application and content of democracy. I think of the recent words of President Xi Jinping that no country is superior to others, no model of governance is universal, and no single country should dictate the international order. The process and direction that they take are the important ones.

GT: Why do you think the US democracy has degraded to such an extent as what we are seeing now? 

Galloway: I believe it's implicit within the system that they operate the US as a country built on the genocide of the original inhabitants of their country, built on a mountain of slaves, stolen from Africa and institutionalized racism throughout most of their history.

Their model of an oligarchy of super wealth contrasted with desperate poverty. It is a failed model, and most people can see that. We need a democracy that can provide common prosperity, not that every man and woman will be economically equal. But if we all advance in a single file, the man at the back must be able to see the man at the front and the man at the front must be able to see the man at the back. In the US, I'm afraid that is a ludicrous idea. We have literally trillionaires becoming richer by the day. And the vast majority of the people either remain exactly where they were, or half of them fall into poverty.

China is lifting 800 million people out of poverty. The US has driven, in the same period, an uncountable number of people, including their own people, into poverty.

GT: China promotes a whole-process people's democracy. What's your understanding of this democracy? And why do you think China emphasizes so much on people?

Galloway: We have a saying in English, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." A pudding can look nice and taste bad. The pudding that is being made here in China is feeding the people. What is the point of democracy when it is not for the people? Democracy is comprised of two words: "demo" - the people and "cracy" - rules. And if democracy is, therefore, the rule of the people, the test of the pudding is how it is sustaining the people. The Chinese system is sustaining its people.

China will soon officially become a high-income economy. When I was a kid, if you are not finishing your dinner, my mother used to say, "Eat up; they are starving in China." She did. It was a measure of how poor China was. I'm talking about 60 years ago. China was perceived in countries like ours as being the benchmark of poverty. Indeed, at the triumph of the revolution, China was almost the poorest country in the whole world, and look at it now. I'm afraid those roles are entirely reversed. That's democracy.

GT: Why is the trajectory of US democracy contrary to human development and human civilization?

Galloway: Because their purpose is hegemony. It is the rule of 5 percent. If you want to translate the issue of democracy on global terms, they want a country's 5 percent of the people to rule and make the rules for the other 95 percent. That's not sustainable.

As Chairman Mao said in 1949, the Chinese people have stood up. Everyone, in the end, will stand up. Although the US is 5 percent of the world, the majority of people in the US itself have benefited scarcely at all from the hegemony enjoyed by their rulers. So that makes the model unsustainable.

GT: How does China's promotion of its own definition of democracy help expand the essence of democracy?

I think the key point in the quotation from President Xi was that no model of governance is universal. Everyone must find their own way forward according to their own traditions, context and possibilities. I'm not advocating for the British people the Chinese way of life. What I am advocating is that the British have no right to dictate to the Chinese how they should live their way of life. That's a key difference.