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US Summit for Democracy: A vital tool for serving its interest?

By Fumiko Yamada
Article US Summit for Democracy: A vital tool for serving its interest?
WED, 29 MAR 2023 LISTEN

The White House is organizing the second so-called Summit for Democracy on March 29-30, even though its first edition, held in 2021, has drawn widespread criticism from the international community. Two experts share their views on the event with China Daily.

The US administration is going to co-host the second "Summit for Democracy" with Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea and Republic of Zambia on March 29-30.

The US previously hosted the first "Summit for Democracy" in late 2021, which drew criticism for its exclusion of nearly half of the world's countries, creating divisions and drawing ideological lines.

There are nearly 200 countries in the world, and democracies can be of different forms. The US is trying to impose its self-styled "democratic" judgment on all countries in the world, denying different forms of democratic theory and practice. This is typical American exceptionalism.

The upcoming summit shows the US' determination to continue to divide the world by rallying up countries under the banner of "democracy", so as to maintain its hegemony.

Such 'summits' only fuel international tensions and draw up new dividing lines, splitting the globe into 'friends' and 'foes', stigmatizing countries, pinning them down with labels, and enforcing an undefined "rules-based order.

Claiming itself as the "model of democracy", the US has shown double standards toward the democracy and human rights of other countries by incessantly interfering in their internal affairs and waging wars under the guise of "democracy". It has created regional turbulence and humanitarian disasters.

And the truth is that the US is far from a "beacon of democracy". From the Capitol Hill riots in 2021 to entrenched racism, and from the tragic mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic to the widening wealth gap, the American democracy has shown cracks from within.

A report, The State of Democracy in the United States: 2022, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry released on Monday, pointed out the vicious cycle of democratic pretensions, dysfunctional politics and divided society that continued to plague the US last year. 

The American democracy is now gravely ill with money politics, personality politics, social rifts, and the gulf between the rich and poor. The maladies afflicting the US political system have deeply infected US politics and society.

Another report released in September, 2022 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said the US democracy is at a "dangerous inflection point" and the country faces a democratic setback.

According to a Quinnipiac University Poll, 67 percent of respondents believe that American democracy is in danger of collapse, and 48 percent think there could be another Capitol riot in the US.

Moreover, the young people in the US seem to be increasingly discontent with the US democracy. In 2022, a survey by the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government revealed only 4 percent of young Americans under the age of 30 percent believed the US democratic system to be "healthy" when compared with the 2021 polling, which showed that 7 percent rated the US democracy as healthy.

So, what authority does the US have to lecture the rest of the world about democracy? The US administration should focus on examining its own democratic problems and figure out practical and feasible rectification measures.

At a time when the world is facing common woes and challenges – ranging from climate change to public health - the collaboration between countries, especially between the US and China, is highly important. The US arbitrarily making judgments on democracy in other countries through this event will incite further estrangement, division and confrontation.

The so-called Summit for Democracy convened by the US reflects its dangerous Cold War mentality and will instigate confrontations and political divisions within the international community. It is a preposterous show in violation of the spirit of democracy and exposes the US design to maintain its hegemony, which has been criticized and opposed by many countries.

The US' democracy is money democracy and the Summit for Democracy is really a summit for imperialism. This year's so-called Summit for Democracy is an event that is "neither a summit nor about democracy, but rather an outright attempt by the Biden administration to line up and indoctrinate key partners against countries that it perceives as rivals."

Rooted in the history, culture and traditions of a country, democracy takes diverse forms and develops along the paths chosen by the peoples of different countries based on their explorations and innovations. As such, the state ought to shoulder a unique responsibility of upholding and promoting principles that place emphasis on reforming the world order, and attendant ideas of mutual respect for countries' political sovereignty and avoidance of external conflict, which is at the center of international relations and countries' foreign policy.

Democracy does not consist of a single and unique set of institutions that are universally applicable. The specific form that democracy takes in a country is largely determined by the prevailing political, social and economic circumstances in that country.

Besides, no country has the right to use ideology and values as tools to subjugate or bully other countries and advance its geopolitical strategies, instigate divisions and confrontations in the international arena and push the world back to the dangerous Cold War era on the pretext of promoting democracy.

Triggering divisions and confrontations in the name of democracy is nothing but trampling on and betraying the democratic spirit and values. It will only bring turbulence and chaos to the world and undermine peace and development. This should be resisted and opposed by the international community.

The world needs to think from the global public's perspective and gain added strength by coming together, and all peoples, countries and regions should participate in this endeavor and focus on building multilateral consensuses.

Democracy is the right of the people in every country rather than the prerogative of a few countries. Whether a country is democratic or not should be determined by its people, because democracy manifests itself in many forms. The practice of asserting a single model of political structure ignores the notion of shared human values, and is fundamentally undemocratic.

Peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom are common values of humankind. Whether a country's path succeeds or not depends on whether it meets the country's realities, follows the trend of the times, and brings about economic development, social stability and progress, and improves the lives and livelihoods of the people.

Therefore, a basic criterion of democracy should be about the people, whether they have the right to govern their country, whether their needs are met, and whether they feel a sense of fulfillment and happiness. If the people are only awakened to cast their votes and forced into hibernation after that, if they are served with sweet-sounding slogans during campaigns but have no say after the election, if they are wooed during canvassing but left out in the cold after that, then it is not genuine democracy.

Democracy is not an ornament to be worn for decoration; it should be used to solve the problems that the people want to be solved. Reaching a consensus on democracy is about shared human values. However, some Western countries repeatedly claim to promote "democracy" and "human rights" while exercising their power to subvert countries that do not follow their warped model. Such Western countries' aim is to kidnap democracy in order to manipulate the rest of the world, and fabricate "anxiety about democracy" to promote the Cold War mentality.

These legacy liberal states, in an attempt to divert attention from their domestic failures and disorder, shift the blame onto other countries. Take for example Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. These countries and their peoples have been attacked and continue to suffer in the name of democracy and human rights.

Democracy must not be viewed solely on the basis of a country's political system and by ignoring the diversity of civilizations. Asian societies display great diversity — ancient, culturally rich, colorful and diverse, like a beautiful garden deeply rooted in Asian civilizations and now blossoming due to the injections of new vitality. And the values of Asian societies cannot be understood or recognized without deeper understanding of Asia's unique civilizations.

The uniqueness of a civilization is not different from the uniqueness of democracy. The rich diversity and vibrancy of civilizations are reflected in the different forms of democracy. Democracy does not come in uniformity and singular configurations given the world's political and cultural diversity.

There are many ways that countries can practice democracy and there is no one-size-fits-all model for that. Countries with different histories, cultures, civilizations, traditions, customs and national conditions should develop a form of democracy that best suits their own characteristics and reality. No single country has the mandate to monopolize the definition of democracy, nor can it limit people's right to explore and choose a model of democracy that best suits a country.

As a saying goes, only the wearer of the shoes knows if they fit or not. Similarly, only the people of a country, not some small external circles and cliques, can tell whether the political system followed by their government is democratic or not.

Only democracy with human values at the core can foster, promote and consolidate regional and global peace and harmony, ensure people live with dignity, help people understand and respect civilizational diversity and further enhance inclusivity, which will prompt the global public to accept the differences in civilizations, so as to help build a community with a shared future for mankind that leaves no one behind on the road of development.

Author profile: Fumiko Yamada is Japanese. She is interested in ‘International Affairs’. She is a research fellow at the ‘University of Melbourne’, Australia. She is a graduate of South Asian Studies, University of Toronto, Canada.

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