By K Raveendran
December seems to be the season for democracy. Irrespective of how democracy has been used by rulers and ruling establishments to scuttle democratic principles, there is peaking of interest in singing praise for democracy. What is more curious is that some of these come from the most unlikely sources. Even China is extolling the virtues of democracy.
US President Joe Biden’s democracy summit, held with great fanfare, has already been pronounced a hoax by some. Particularly, Biden’s list of invitees for the summit has raised eyebrows, giving rise to criticism that the choice of names is anything but democratic. While countries such as Singapore, known for a high degree of transparency and fairness in its policies, have been excluded, there a number of questionable names such as the Philippines president, whose despotic ways have elicited widespread condemnation.
The list also included Pakistan, which has been proved beyond an iota of doubt as a most infertile land for an institution like democracy, but thankfully Islamabad volunteered to stay back, probably on account of its own sense of self-guilt. Doubts have also been raised about the invitation to Narendra Modi, whose democratic credentials have been under a cloud, despite being the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. No wonder, Modi’s glorification of constitutional values and democratic principles has been taken with a pinch of salt back home.
The biggest irony of the season of democracy is, of course, China teaching democracy to the world. A parallel democratic summit held in Beijing ahead of Biden’s summit, unveiled the Chinese brand of democracy. A whitepaper issued on the occasion proclaimed there is no is no fixed model of democracy and said whether a country is democratic “should be acknowledged by the international community, not arbitrarily decided by a few self-appointed judges.”
Democracy, the white paper titled “China: Democracy That Works” said, is “an ideal” that has always been cherished by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese people.”Over the past hundred years, the Party has led the people in realizing people’s democracy in China. The Chinese people now truly hold in their hands their own future and that of society and the country,” the paper read.
China has termed its system “whole-process people’s democracy,” after President Xi Jinping proposed the concept two years ago in the city of Shanghai. That principle legitimates the people’s participation in day-to-day political activities at all levels, combining democratic elections, political consultation, decision-making and oversight.
The people’s status as masters of the country is the essence of people’s democracy, said the document released by China’s State Council Information Office. ‘China’s democracy has concrete, pragmatic practices’ and the standard practice is to hear people’s voices, act on their needs, and pool their ideas and strength,” the document said.
Explaining the Chinese system of democracy further, it pointed out that China has held 12 direct elections to people’s congresses at the township level and 11 direct elections to those at the county level, with a current participation rate of about 90 percent, since the initiation of reform and opening up.
Democratic consultation is a special feature of democracy in China. The Chinese people widely exercise their right to vote in elections and undertake extensive deliberations before major decisions are made. It further stressed how the abuse of power for personal gain is eradicated by sound and effective democratic oversight.
In a related event on human rights, China also pledged to work with all developing countries to promote the sound development of the international human rights cause. The 2021 South-South Human Rights Forum, a biennial event held this year for the third time in Beijing, was themed “putting people first and global human rights governance.” Stressing that human rights practices are diverse, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing is ready to work with other developing countries to promote the common values of mankind, in his congratulatory letter to the forum. (IPA Service)