> Features > Special Coverage > Others

On the common sense of democracy

WANG LINGGUI | 2021-12-30 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Wang Linggui addresses the Closing Ceremony of the International Forum on Democracy: The Shared Human Values in Beijing on Dec. 15. Photo: Zhu Gaolei/CSST

Renowned American political theorist Robert Dahl suggested that political equality is a compilation: including intrinsic equality, civic competence, and actual democracy, which constitute democracy, the basic framework for political civilization. In his works, Dahl also put forward the open view that democracy is an unfinished journey. American academic, media, and political circles generally believe that anyone who wants to understand democracy, anywhere in the world, should read Dahl’s research.

What is democracy?
I am here today to share with you the views of Dahl, in that I want to discuss with you the seemingly simple issue of the “common sense of democracy.” One can easily become lost in dazzling election language and election promises that are not necessarily fulfilled. It is also easy to become lost when the rich manipulate public opinions and public sentiments. As of 9:00 this morning, the COVID-19 outbreak has infected about 50 million people in the United States (specifically, 50,418,345 people) and about 800,000 people have died (813,891 people). I don’t think it is truly democratic to blame the people’s unwillingness to wear masks and get vaccinated for the failure of the battle against COVID-19. Today, the United States will hold a “Summit for Democracy.” We don’t want to see an empty democracy which lectures recklessly, regardless of the safety of the people. This is inhumane, a false democracy, and completely contrary to democratic ethics.
Democracy should never be hypocritical. The United States, which has long had problems in freedom of speech, the electoral system, corruption, and human rights, advertises itself as a “beacon of democracy,” which itself is a joke. 
Democracy should not be solely enjoyed by interest groups. Long-standing lobbyists in the United States are one of the symbols of its distorted democracy. While exporting democracy, beautifying its image with democracy, and labeling other countries, the United States should reflect on the limitations of its democratic model and the reality of losing touch with the people, and first solve its own problems.
Democracy is by no means violent. Under the guise of promoting democracy around the world, and under the banner of so-called justice, aggressive and massive use of force is actually wanton deprivation of, and trampling upon, global democracy. From 1991 to 2021, the United States gathered its allies to carry out more than 10 military interventions, regime subversions, and bloody wars in many countries, which seriously violated the basic norms of international law and democratic ideas, resulting in great chaos, destruction, and tragedy: tens of millions of people were displaced, millions of families were broken, and more than one million people lost their lives.
Defending the interests of their inner circles with violence further demonstrates duplicity on democratic issues and cruel behavior of treating people’s lives as insignificant.
True democracy
Political civilization is mankind’s precious treasure. We cannot agree with the behavior of bullying and hegemony in the name of democracy. China, once oppressed in history, abides by the Charter of the United Nations, respects each country’s cultural characteristics and the uniqueness of their political systems, respects each nation’s right to determine its own path, and each country’s exploration of their own path towards democracy. China will not force any country to accept its ideas, nor will it impose its own development model on other nations. China will not interfere in others’ internal agenda, and is willing to enrich and develop common values of mankind with people all over the world. 
China defends the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and the non-use of force or threat of use of force. It is committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes and developing friendly relations with people all over the world on the basis of equality, security, fairness, and justice. At present, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world. We call on every country to focus on solidarity and fight against the pandemic, not to make use of democracy, disrupting the international community with pseudo-democracy, and stigmatizing and oppressing other countries in the name of democracy. Please remember that COVID-19 knows no borders, and it will not be cured by the panacea of democracy. Therefore, we should seek to understand the common sense of democracy. Only in this way can we stop making basic mistakes and not get lost in the distractions and confusion caused by those with ulterior motives.
First, there are standards for democracy. The best way to evaluate whether a country’s political system is democratic and efficient is to observe whether the succession of its leading body is orderly and in line with the law, whether all people can manage state affairs and social, economic and cultural affairs in conformity with legal provisions, whether the public can express their requirements without hindrance, whether all sectors can efficiently participate in the country’s political affairs, whether national decisions can be made in a rational, democratic way, whether professionals in all fields can be part of the team of the national leadership and administrative systems through fair competition, whether the ruling party can serve as a leader in state affairs in accordance with the Constitution and laws, and whether the exercise of power can be kept under effective restraint and supervision. 
Second, democracy is concrete. Democracy is not an illusory or lofty concept, but is associated with people’s production and daily life. Designing and developing the national political system, we must ensure the unity of history and reality, theory and practice, and form and content. We must take into account the realities and the prevailing conditions in China, focusing on current issues to respond to actual demands rather than copying from other models. We must keep to the long-established track of historical heritage, cherishing the path of past development, accumulated political experience, and established political principles rather than breaking with history.
Third, democracy is not an ornament to be used for decoration; it is to be used to solve the problems that the people want to solve. Whether a country is a democracy or not depends on whether its people are really the masters of the country. In addition to voting rights, it is important to see whether people have the rights to extensive participation. It is important to see what promises are made in an election campaign and, more importantly, how many of those promises are honored afterwards. It is important to see what political procedures and rules are instituted by a country’s systems and laws and, more importantly, whether these systems and laws are truly executed. It is important to see whether the rules and procedures governing the exercise of power are democratic and, more importantly, whether power is truly put under the oversight and checks of the people.
Whole-process people’s democracy
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has summarized the 100-year endeavors of the CPC to live up to their initial aspirations, more than seven decades of governing experience, and more than four decades of reform and opening up experience. Constantly deepening the understanding of democratic politics, Xi put forward the whole-process people’s democracy, so as to ensure that the people are the masters of the country. The whole-process people’s democracy has a full set of institutional procedures; more importantly, it has full participation of the people. It can realize the unification of process and results-based democracy, procedural democracy and substantive democracy, direct democracy and indirect democracy, as well as people’s democracy and state will. It is the most extensive, real, and effective democracy. 
Once proposed, this major concept was widely praised by the Chinese people and the international community. In practice, the principle of the people being masters of the country is manifested in the Party’s governance policies and measures, in all aspects of the work of state organs at all levels, and in the efforts to meet the people’s aspirations to live a better life and the commitment to the people-centered development philosophy. The whole-process people’s democracy is committed to safeguarding social fairness and justice, and resolving the imbalances and inadequacies in development and the most pressing difficulties and problems that are of great concern to the people. In doing so, we will make more notable and substantive progress toward achieving well-rounded human development and common prosperity for all. 
President Xi Jinping pointed out that “to guarantee the fundamental position of the people as masters of the country and to reach the goal of enhancing the vitality of the Party and country and keeping the people fully motivated,” we should “promote socialist political progress.” This is the political civilization initiative extended by the political leader of a major country. I believe everyone will have a strong resonance in the discussions and exchanges.
The convening of the so-called “Summit for Democracy” by the United States reflects their hypocrisy; they are strong outside and weak in the interior. As a representative of Western democracy, American democracy, after more than 200 years of overdraft consumption, cannot provide driving force to solve the most prominent problems in the United States, and has almost become an empty shell. Because the society is seriously torn apart, it is not politically cost-effective to commit to solving problems. Pretending to solve problems, then pushing issues that cannot be solved on to political opponents and cheating voters’ trust, have become a smarter political move.
In contrast, in today’s China, the people-centered development philosophy has become the basic tenet of governance and the basic principle for policy-making. It is precisely for this reason that today’s China is full of political confidence in democracy, advocates for the true meaning of democracy, and is more committed to practicing democracy. It is a democracy which shines like the rising sun, full of vitality, which benefits the people. Those stagnant, outdated, and involutional “beacon of democracy” will become residual candles in the wind, the setting sun, and withered flowers of yesterday. It is really not worth boasting about.
The development of democracy flows like a mighty river. Inevitably the U.S. “Summit for Democracy” will stir some ripples, but it will never change the direction of the river. As we sail on the route towards the bright future of democracy, I believe everyone can have their own judgment and choice of whether to go forward or backward against the currents. 
Edited by ZHAO YUAN