Why the Communist Party of China hates the D-word

Beijing shows its authoritarian colors in a backlash against US-sponsored ‘Summit for Democracy’

It has been a bad week for President Xi Jinping and his Communist Party comrades. 

Confirming that democracy is a dirty word in China, the CCP has accused the United States of setting up a “democratic” club of nations.

The Party might be unelected and unelectable, but that has not stopped it from brandishing an alternative view of “people power.” 

Yet this big brother philosophy of the meaning of democracy appeared to breach one of Xi’s redlines earlier this week. It came after Taiwan was invited by US President Joe Biden to a virtual ”Summit for Democracy” next month.

Beijing’s reaction was predictable and pugnacious.

“US actions only go to show democracy is just a cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a media briefing in Beijing earlier this week.

Democracy dodgeball:

  • China is recognized by critics as an authoritarian state.
  • Taiwan is a thriving democracy with a multi-party system.
  • It is also considered a renegade province by Beijing.
  • The CCP has vowed to reunite the island with the motherland by force if necessary.
  • Tension in the Taiwan Strait has plunged the US and China into a virtual Cold War.

China used to care about maintaining a harmonious atmosphere with the West. This needs to change.

Global Times

Power politics: “China used to care about maintaining a harmonious atmosphere with the West. This needs to change. With the rise of China as a major power and the weakened hegemony of the US, Western superiority has been shaken, creating a strong and unprecedented resistance to China … Engagement between China and the West has fundamentally changed,” Global Times said in an editorial

Delve deeper: Still, Beijing has always used the illusion of red democracy to airbrush the Party’s tight stranglehold on civil liberties and the fundamental rights of the people. “Democracy, a shared value of humanity, is a key tenet unswervingly upheld by the [Communist Party] and the Chinese people,” Xi said last month as reported by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Big picture: But then, if you despise and fear democracy, why not reinvent it for a totalitarian state? Zhu Ying, of Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing, came up with a less than compelling argument.

Water torture: “As the sunlight breaks up into different colors inside a water droplet, democracy cannot be in one single color or defined by one single country. The ‘participant list’ clearly demonstrates that the so-called Summit for Democracy is nothing but anti-democracy. It is politicizing democracy and it is all about geopolitics,” Zhu, a professor on human rights and international law, told China’s media.

Red terror: “In one year, the [China-imposed] National Security Law has put Hong Kong on a rapid path to becoming a police state and created a human rights emergency for the people living there,” Yamini Mishra, the Asia-Pacific regional director at Amnesty International, said in October, highlighting the lack of democracy under the CCP.

China Factor comment: These are dangerous times for democracies across the world. The Communist Party of China is under the mistaken belief that the West is in permanent decline, a metaphor for political openness and accountability. But Xi and his comrades have made a massive geopolitical blunder that could come back to haunt them.