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Democracies aren't all cut from the same cloth
2021-02-23 

A noisy narrative pushed by some US and UK media persistently projects the United States and the United Kingdom as "democracies", while labeling China and Russia as "autocratic states". Often emboldened by Western politicians, the narrative gained resonance again at Friday's Munich Security Conference.

The pompous narrative pumped repeatedly by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is blacking out one truth: All four of these countries choose state leaders through democratic elections, despite different modes of voting practices.

Such Western media have to be reminded that China also values democracy, and all Chinese leaders have been elected through a complicated democratic process in the world's most populous nation-a truth they often dismiss out of hand.

Chinese election mechanisms born out of its own history and situation have proved beneficial in China's fight against the coronavirus, natural disasters from floods to earthquakes, and economic slumps. The Chinese system has saved as many lives as possible, and lifted millions of people out of the absolute poverty that had plagued them for generations, even during unprecedented difficulties posed by the pandemic. These display how effectively China's democratic decision-making works and what good governance means to a country.

Moreover, unlike those in the US and the UK, the Chinese and Russian leaderships have won support from the majority of the people, building up their authority at least via vision, strategic guidance, strenuous effort and self-integrity.

On the contrary, the US-led "democratic" system, camouflaged with so-called shared values, has so far proved to be a failure in multiple areas.

In the US, stopping COVID-19 infections has been an impossible mission even a year on, although hope rises with vaccination. The British government's performance had been criticized throughout last year, until its vaccination program began recently.

During an unusual freeze that swept across southern and central parts of the US, the country's "democratic" system saw US Senator Ted Cruz flee to a holiday in Mexico while his electorate in Texas was left in darkness and cold, only to return after calls for his resignation.

The biggest fallacy of the "democracy versus autocracy "narrative is measuring all democratic systems with one yardstick. Thus, only the US-led system is deemed "democratic" and good even if the so-called "leader of the free world" turns out to be the worst loser to a virus, while others are inferior in spite of their performances.

To uphold one system of democracy as a universal standard is like forcing the same suit on everybody. It simply will not work for diverse situations and the needs of all countries. The difference between US and UK elections itself is proof. Don't forget, although former president Donald Trump is often attacked, he himself was the result of US elections.

The harm of such a confrontational narrative is its potential to create global division and conflicts.

By such categorization, US and British politicians tend to line up other countries as friends or foes, thus magnifying so-called threats from outside and rushing to pour taxpayers' money into manufacturing and exporting lethal weaponry, the strongest industrial advantage of their economies and the biggest pool of their election resources.

The standard of whether a democratic system is good or not should not be the rhetoric of Western media outlets with deeper pockets than others, nor the assertions of politicians who spare no opportunity to pump up the ego.

Instead, the most important criterion should be the system's effectiveness in enabling people to have a better life and advancing social progress.

Judging from this perspective, US "democracy" has performed badly. It left millions in squalor after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and after the snowstorms this week. It has failed to improve the lives of the majority of US residents, as was shown by a US survey that found the real-term average hourly income of the US middle class was lower than it was four decades ago. And about 500,000 lives were lost to the pandemic, a tragic and unbelievable mark ever in the history of a country with the most advanced technologies and greatest resources available.

Yet it is the US and UK that keep selling their political agenda in the name of "democratic values". When this is met with resistance, they resort to warplanes, bombs, violent protests and occupations fanned by their media machines to push for "regime change". Iraq, Tunisia and Libya are among struggling examples after US-led interference.

The fundamental fault line of the "democracy versus autocracy" narrative is putting the cart before the horse.

Democracy, in whatever form it takes, is a tool, a means for sound governance that enables better livelihoods and human progress-not an end in itself.

China's success in governance is rooted in its democratic process. Through wide consultation, the proposals of doctors, scientists, industrialists and social activists are streamed into policymaking institutions where decisions are made for the benefit of all.

If media outlets and US and UK politicians are to further ignore truths and propagate self-styled narratives against a successful China, they will be left to pity themselves on the wrong track of history.

The author is a current affairs commentator based in Hong Kong. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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