Int’l forum advocates diversity of democracy

By LI JING, BAN XIAOYUE, and LIU YUE / 04-06-2023 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

Attendees at the opening ceremony of the Second International Forum on Democracy: The Shared Human Values Photo: CFP

At the Second International Forum on Democracy: The Shared Human Values held on March 22–23 in Beijing, attendees called for respect for diverse models of democracy around the world and collaborative efforts to tackle global challenges. 

Diversity of democracy vital

Participants of the forum strongly agreed that democracy, as a shared human value, forms the basis for the universal pursuit of modernization and for the building of a human community with a shared future. There is no one-size-fits-all model, and no country can impose its version of democracy upon other nations. The so-called “democratic transformation” of other countries is trampling on the true spirit of democracy. 

Fang Ning, a research fellow from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said that on the path toward democracy, countries and peoples around the world, for varying experiences and practices, have fostered different models and philosophies of democracy. Nonetheless, this doesn’t prevent their exploration and pursuit of democratic politics. 

Democracy is universal yet concrete, Fang said. Democratic politics results from practices of peoples around the world to pursue their own rights and social progress based on their own needs. 

Regarding Chinese democracy, Fang noted that it is primarily manifested by the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the political core that represents the overall, fundamental, and long-term interests of the Chinese people. The CPC leadership is a political model in line with and suited to the needs of contemporary China’s industrialization and modernization drives, he added. 

The real obstacle to democracy doesn’t lie in different models, but in arrogance and prejudice as well as maliciousness and hostility toward other countries’ attempts to explore their own democratic path, said Dennis Munene, executive director of the China-Africa Center at the Africa Policy Institute.

From the perspective of international law, Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, a professor from the Geneva School of Diplomacy in Switzerland, said that despite common features of democracy, there is no sole model. Democracy doesn’t belong exclusively to any country or region. 

Chinese democracy lauded

The CPC has explored and developed the model of whole-process people’s democracy based on actual conditions of China, which won wide acclaim at the forum.

Shi Hexing, deputy chief education officer of the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC (National Academy of Governance), said that there is only one truth about democracy, that is to reflect the will of the people and solve problems that the people need to solve. 

Whole-process people’s democracy overcomes conventional democracy’s formalism and phrase-mongering, and grasps the underlying logic of the relationship between the state and the people for the functioning of democracy, thus effectively coordinating interests and power relations in society and contributing to the Chinese miracles of rapid economic development and long-term social stability, Shi said. 

Whole-process people’s democracy not only represents a great attempt to inherit ancient Chinese culture, but is also a new practice of improving state governance, said Song Zhihui, deputy dean of the School of International Studies at Sichuan University. 

Different from dualistic Western civilization, Chinese civilization is community-oriented and values cooperation, obligation, and contribution, Song continued. This determines that whole-process people’s democracy, deeply rooted in Chinese civilization, differs essentially from Western democracy. It breaks through the development model and logical framework of Western democracy and contributes Chinese ideas, values, and insights to the development of democratic politics around the world. 

José Luis Centella, president of the Communist Party of Spain, stressed the difficulty in effective coordination among different political parties, ethnic groups, religions, social strata, languages, and cultures in any country. Enhancing national political stability requires the majority of the people to participate in the development of productive forces, thereby building consensus and pooling strength. 

The development of China’s model of democracy is inseparable from the course of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the people are placed at the central position of all policies, Centella said. 

The CPC is committed to developing the economy and improving the people’s lives, while continuously perfecting the people’s congress system, and the multi-party cooperation and political consultation system under the CPC leadership. Through the rule of law, the operation of power is truly supervised by the people, which is the best approach to ensuring government actions are consistent with the people’s interests and wishes, Centella said.   

Democracy is not simply about elections or freedom of speech, said Mohammed Asif Noor, director of the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies in Pakistan, adding that its more important implication is to encourage all parties to actively participate in national governance. 

China’s Two Sessions involves people from all sectors and strata extensively in political discussions, which is a process of effectuating people’s democracy, and a guarantee for exercising democratic decision-making, Noor said. It was exactly by soliciting opinions widely that China’s policymaking achieved huge success, lifting 800 million people out of poverty and creating a world economic miracle. 

Held in both online and offline formats, the forum gathered over 300 guests from more than 100 countries, regions, and international organizations, including former politicians, diplomats, scholars and experts, and representatives of think tanks and media outlets. It was hosted by the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee and the Information Office of the State Council, and organized by CASS, China Media Group, and China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration.