The State of Democracy in the United States: 2022
March 20, 2023 05:24 PM
In 2022, the vicious cycle of democratic pretensions, dysfunctional politics and a divided society continued in the United States. Problems such as money politics, identity politics, social rifts, and the gulf between the rich and poor worsened. The maladies afflicting American democracy deeply infected the cells of US politics and society, and further revealed US governance failure and institutional defects.
Despite mounting problems at home, the US continued to behave with a sense of superiority, point fingers at others, usurp the role of a “lecturer of democracy”, and concoct and play up the false narrative of “democracy versus authoritarianism”. To serve the interests of none other than itself, the US acted to split the world into two camps of what it defined as “democracies and non-democracies”, and organized another edition of the so-called “Summit for Democracy” to check how various countries had performed on meeting US standards for democracy and to issue new orders. Be it high-sounding rhetoric or maneuvers driven by hidden agenda, none can hide the real designs of the US — to maintain its hegemony by playing bloc politics and using democracy as a tool for political ends.
This report collects a multitude of facts, media comments and expert opinions to present a complete and real picture of American democracy over the year. What they reveal is an American democracy in chaos at home and a trail of havoc and disasters left behind as the US peddled and imposed its democracy around the globe. It helps remove the facade of American democracy for more people worldwide.
II. American democracy in chronic ills
The US refuses to acknowledge the many problems and institutional crises confronting its democracy at home and stubbornly claims to be the template and beacon of democracy for the world. Such imperiousness perpetuates the ills of its democracy and causes dire consequences for other countries.
1. American democracy in further decline
The functioning of American democratic institutions may look as lively as a circus, with politicians of all stripes showing off themselves one after another. But however boisterous the show is, it cannot hide the lethargy in addressing the long-standing, grave problems. Le Monde points out that 2022 is a year of doubt for US democracy. A silent civil war has taken root in the US, and repairing damaged democracy requires a sense of nation and public interest, both of which are currently lacking. This is sad for a country that has long held itself up as a model. In 2022, the Swedish think tank International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance added the US to its “list of regressive democracies”.
Two years after the Capitol riots on 6 January 2021, the US system of democracy still has difficulty in learning the lessons, as political violence continued to grow and deteriorate. The Washington Post and The New Yorker observe that American democracy is in a worse state than ever before, with the congressional riots fully exposing social rifts, political divisions and rampant misinformation. The two parties, although not unaware of the age-old ills of American democracy, have neither the resolve nor the courage to pursue changes, given the increasingly polarized political atmosphere, as well as their focus on party interests.
In 2022, the US Congress was brought into another paralysis, not by riots, but by partisan fights. The farce of failing to elect the 118th House speaker lasted four days and a decision was only reached after 15 rounds of voting. In the last round, divisions were such that Republicans and Democrats voted strictly along party lines. The New York Times warned that Congress could see repeated chaos like this over the next two years. Brad Bannon, president of a US political consultancy, put it bluntly, “The impasse in the US House of Representatives over the election of the Speaker is another demonstration of the decline in our political institutions.”
This has aroused concerns among the general public. The Brookings Institution concludes in a 2022 report that the once proud American democracy is facing a systemic crisis and is accelerating its decline. The impact is spreading to all fronts in domestic politics, the economy and society, posing a mortal threat to the legitimacy and health of capitalism. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace warns in a report that American democracy is at a dangerous inflection point, declining faster as the inherent ills of American capitalism worsen. Multiple challenges such as voting restrictions, election fraud, and loss of trust in government are accelerating the disintegration of American democracy. Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, writes that America’s dysfunctional politics raises fears that the 2024 presidential election would again provoke deadly violence in the country. A large number of hot button issues continued to provoke public anger and questions on the legitimacy of the US political establishment. Many worried about how long American democracy could continue to function.
2. Political polarization intensified by partisan fights
With radical factions rising in both the Democratic and Republican Parties, the two were increasingly at odds in many aspects, such as voter base, ideology and identity. As a result, the traditional inter-party balance based on policy compromise became more difficult to sustain. The two parties saw each other not only as political opponents, but also as a threat to the country. The New York Review of Books points out that America is already “a binational state” with the Republicans and Democrats leading two sharply opposed national communities that effectively operate as confederations under a single federal government. The United States of America has become the disunited states. The discord between “the two Americas” was deepening day by day, and political polarization reached an unprecedented level.
Amid the escalating political battles, politicians put the interests of their political parties and factions above those of the country and acted in an unbridled way to attack and pin blames on each other. On 8 August 2022, law enforcement raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, and Trump accused the Justice Department of playing politics to stop his second presidential bid and of political persecution. The Republicans, on their part, were relentless on the discovery of classified documents in President Joe Biden’s residence, launched investigations into the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and demanded accountability. US state apparatus was reduced to a tool for political parties’ self-interest.
Party politics increasingly followed race and identity lines. According to the Financial Times, Republicans are white, small town and rural while Democrats are now almost entirely urban and multi-ethnic. More than a third of Republicans and Democrats today believe violence is justified to achieve their political ends. When one party loses, its voters feel as though their America is being occupied by a foreign power. Political scientist Barbara Walter considers the US “a factionalized anocracy” — the halfway state between autocracy and democracy.
Political polarization was more of an obstacle to policy decision-making. GovTrack, an online non-governmental source of legislative information and statistics, reveals a steady fall in the number of laws successive US Congresses could enact — from 4,247 by the 93rd to 98th Congresses down to 2,081 by the 111th to 116th. The drop was even more pronounced when one considers how many bills could become laws, from 6% in the 106th Congress to 1% in the 116th, a slide of 5 percentage points over two decades.
The tactics used in partisan fights were more scandalous. Professor Larry Diamond of Political Science and Sociology at Stanford University believes the norms of democracy, such as self-restraint in the exercise of power and rejection of violence, which should have been observed by the participating parties in elections, have begun disintegrating in the US. A growing number of politicians and elected officials in the US have been willing to bend or abandon democratic norms in the quest to achieve or retain power. And as common political ground vanishes, rising proportions of Americans in both camps express attitudes and perceptions that are blinking red for democratic peril. Democracy in the US is at serious risk of breaking down.
3. Money politics surged
“Make money your god, and it will plague you like the devil,” so admonished British playwright Henry Fielding. In the US, money is the breast milk of politics and elections increasingly morph into monologues of the wealthy, while the public call for democracy is made only “a jarring note”. With the devil of money lurking in every corner of American politics, fairness and justice is naturally strained.
The latest illustration is the 2022 midterm elections. The whole exercise has a price tag of more than US$16.7 billion — breaking the 2018 record of US$14 billion — as found by Reveal, an online platform tracking the flow of political donations in the country. This amount dwarfs the 2021 GNPs of more than 70 countries. Federal Senate races in some states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Ohio sucked in more than US$100 million on average. Over 90% of those elected as lawmakers won by splurging funds. It was impossible to identify how much “dark money”, or funds from undisclosed sources, was involved.
American politics has increasingly revealed its nature as the “game of the rich”. US think tank the Brennan Center for Justice finds that the top 21 families making political donations contributed at least US$15 million each, totaling US$783 million, far more than the US$3.7 million of small donations. Billionaires provided 15.4% of federal election funds, and most of it went to super PACs that can accept unlimited donations.
The enormous bills did not bring effective national governance in return. They only stimulated pork barrel politics. An article on Lianhe Zaobao observes that the past few decades has witnessed a decay in Western democracy. Wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, making the poor poorer and the rich richer. Politics is controlled by the rich and politicians to serve their own interests. Despite a right to vote, the public does not have real sway over politics. This sense of powerlessness and loss of confidence in political parties and government has given rise to populism, and the problem remains unresolved.
4. “Freedom of speech” in name only
The United States has always prided itself on free speech. In reality, however, freedom of speech in the United States is upheld according to self-centered “US standards”. Partisan interest and money politics have become the “two big mountains” that weigh on free speech. Any speech that is detrimental to the interests of the US government or capital is subject to strict restrictions.
The US government has all-encompassing regulations on media and technology companies to intervene in public opinion. In December 2022, Twitter CEO Elon Musk and journalist Matt Taibbi posted back-to-back tweets that exposed “Twitter files”, revealing that the US government is heavily scrutinizing all social media companies. Sometimes it directly intervenes in big media companies’ reporting, like frequently having Google remove certain links. Twitter censored sensitive information about presidential candidates ahead of the 2020 election, creating “blacklists” to limit the exposure of unpopular accounts and even hot topics, and working with the FBI to monitor social media content, all the while giving the US military the green light to spread disinformation online. All this has undoubtedly torn off the fig leaf of free speech in the United States.
Capital and interest groups basically can get anything they want when it comes to public opinion. In the face of capital and interest groups, American media’s “freedom of speech” smacks of hypocrisy. Most American media firms are privately owned and serve the powerful and the rich. Whether it’s the owner of the media or the investment and advertisement income that the media depends on, all of them are related to capital and interest groups. In his book The Hypocritical Superpower, Micheal Lueders, a well-known German writer and media professional, elaborated in detail how the “filtering mechanism” of American media, under the influence of interest groups, chooses and distorts facts. In January 2023, Project Veritas, an American right-wing group, published a video about Pfizer that went viral. It recorded Jordon Trishton Walker, a senior executive at Pfizer, saying that Pfizer was exploring plans to “mutate” the coronavirus, that the coronavirus vaccine business was a “cash cow”, and that US regulators had vested interests in drug companies. To deal with the PR crisis, in addition to issuing a statement, Pfizer even had YouTube remove the video immediately on ground of “violating community guidelines”.
The US uses social media to manipulate international public opinion. In December 2022, the independent investigation website “The Intercept” revealed that agencies affiliated to the US Department of Defense had long interfered in public opinion in Middle Eastern countries by manipulating topics and waging deceptive propaganda on social media such as Twitter. In July 2017, US Central Command official Nathaniel Kahler sent to the Twitter public policy team a form containing 52 Arabic-language accounts, asking for priority services for six of them. Following Kahler’s request, Twitter put these Arabic accounts on a “white list” to amplify messages favorable to the United States. Eric Sperling, executive director of Just Foreign Policy, an anti-war organization, commented on this incident that Congress and social media companies should investigate and take action to ensure that, at the very least, the citizens are fully informed when their tax money is being spent on putting a positive spin on the endless wars.
In September 2022, the explosion of the “Nord Stream” natural gas pipeline shocked the world, and the international community was eager to know the identity and motive of the perpetrator. On 8 February 2023, Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published an article exposing the US government as the culprit of the incident. However, American and European mainstream media, known for their sensitivity to such scoops, stayed eerily quiet on this piece of explosive news. As observed by Canadian website Western Standard and German television channel ZDF, Hersh’s report was one of the biggest stories of the decade, but few media in North America wanted to talk about it because the West does not want anyone to find out about the truth and the surveillance technologies it has deployed in the Baltic Sea. Western media even try to bypass the crux of the issue by questioning the authenticity of Hersh’s report. On 15 February, Hersh wrote another article, accusing the US government and mainstream media of covering up the truth of the “Nord Stream” pipeline explosion. Analysts pointed out that given Western media’s obedience to the US, their blocking of Hersh’s revelations is not surprising.
5. The judicial system blind to public opinion
As an institution undergirding the country’s Constitution, the US Supreme Court, like the American society, has become deeply divided. Judicial power is hijacked by public opinion, and partisan struggle has spread to the judicial system. Increasingly, Supreme Court decisions reflect the huge chasm between “two Americas”—the conservatives and liberals, and have been reduced to a tool of political warfare. The “separation of powers” is constantly being eroded. Partisanship has abandoned tradition and crossed the line.
Both parties pursue their agenda by changing the political orientation of the Supreme Court. The presidential election has in some ways become a partisan battle for the right to appoint judges. The passing away of Supreme Court justices gave Trump the opportunity to appoint during his term three justices who took a conservative stance, giving conservative justices an overwhelming advantage over liberal ones. After Trump, radical white evangelical fundamentalists have taken the reins of the Supreme Court, according to an article on the South African website Daily Maverick. It’s hardly surprising that the Supreme Court almost always makes decisions in favor of Christian evangelicals, big corporations and the Republican Party.
The US Supreme Court’s decision on abortion rights fully demonstrates the consequences of being involved in partisan warfare and out of touch with society. On 24 June 2022, the Supreme Court flagrantly endorsed religious conservatism by overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and removing constitutional protections for women’s abortion rights. The decision triggered protests across the United States. Polls show that more than half of Americans believe that stripping away abortion rights is a setback for the country. Israeli media “Haaretz” commented that on the issue of abortion rights, the Supreme Court has undermined democracy in the name of defending it, which is a typical case of “tyranny of the minority”. Here is an unrepresentative Supreme Court, with its justices appointed by an unrepresentative president and confirmed by an obviously unrepresentative Senate; but it has made a decision that will affect the United States till 2030, 2040, and even 2050.
The Supreme Court also struck down a New York state law that had been in place since 1913 restricting people from carrying concealed firearms. As the nation reflects on gun violence, such a reckless reversal of New York’s gun control law is intolerable, noted the governor of New York. American political commentator Matthew Dowd pointed out that the problems facing the United States today are rooted in the fragmentation of democracy. What American citizens want are a fair ruling in Roe v. Wade, a real gun reform, higher minimum wages, steeper taxes on the super-rich, better health care for all, and other reforms that heed popular calls.
6. Americans increasingly disillusioned with American democracy
Americans’ pride in their democracy has dropped sharply, from 90% in 2002 to 54% in 2022, according to a joint Washington Post-University of Maryland survey. A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that Californian voters have widespread concern that American democracy is going off track, with 62% saying the country is headed in the wrong direction, 46% pessimistic about the prospect of Americans with different political views working together to resolve differences, and 52% dissatisfied with the current way American democracy works. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 67% of respondents believe that American democracy is in danger of collapse, and 48% think there could be another Capitol riot in the United States. According to a Pew Center poll, 65% of Americans believe that the American democratic system needs major reforms, while 57% of respondents believe the United States is no longer a model of democracy. A UCLA study shows that the US government has been losing its ability to govern and its sense of democratic responsibility in recent years, and lacks effective measures to push forward large-scale reforms or address issues such as electoral justice and media fraud.
III. The United States’ imposition of “democracy” has caused chaos around the world
In spite of all the problems facing its own democracy, the United States refuses to reflect on itself, but instead continues to export American democratic values to other countries, and use the pretext of democracy to oppress other countries and serve its own agenda. What the US has done is exacerbating division in the international community and bloc-based confrontation.
1. Foreign policy held hostage by political polarization
“Politics stops at the water’s edge” is a popular proverb in American political circles, which means that partisan struggle should be confined to domestic politics and that a united front should be formed when dealing with foreign affairs. However, with the intensification of political polarization, Democrats and Republicans are increasingly divided on major foreign affairs issues, and America’s foreign policy has become more and more “extreme”. “Politics crossing the water’s edge” has become the norm. It is not only harmful to many developing countries, but also poses a threat to America’s own allies.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Trump administration and some extreme politicians have concocted all kinds of lies and rumors against China on coronavirus origins-tracing. The most typical is in 2021, when the US intelligence agency issued the so-called origins-tracing report, which, in total disregard of science, fabricated the “lab leak” story and claimed that China lacked transparency and obstructed international investigations. Tracing the origins of the coronavirus is a matter of science, but the true purpose of the US’ doing is to obscure the views of the public and manipulate the issue to shift the blame onto China and suppress and contain China. This fully exposes the hypocrisy of American democracy and the ill effects of political polarization.
Under the Biden administration, the US ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan with a hasty withdrawal of troops. It just walked away, after shattering a whole country and destroying the future of several generations. Although its troops have left, the US government continued to sanction Afghanistan, and illegally froze the assets of the Afghan central bank, making life even worse for the local people. A UN-backed report published in May 2022 showed that nearly 20 million people in Afghanistan were facing acute hunger. Even after the devastating earthquake in Afghanistan in June 2022, the US still refused to lift the sanctions.
Political polarization in the US is spilling over. According to a report released by the University of Ottawa, there is open support from conservative media, including Fox News, and conservative politicians in the US for the far-right extremists in Canada. It represents a greater threat to Canadian democracy than the actions of any other state, and the implications of democratic backsliding in the US for Canada must be reflected upon. Professor Gordon Laxer at the University of Alberta believes the forces moving the US toward autocracy already exist. It is ingrained among Canadians that the US is their greatest friend and will always champion democracy. That can no longer be taken for granted.
2. Inciting confrontation and conflict in the name of democracy
Democracy is a common value of humanity and must not be used as a tool to advance geopolitical agenda or counter human development and progress. However, in order to maintain its hegemony, the US has long been monopolizing the definition of “democracy”, instigating division and confrontation in the name of democracy, and undermining the UN-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law.
Since its outbreak in early 2022, the Ukraine crisis has hit the country’s economy and the livelihood of its people hard. In October 2022, the World Bank released a report suggesting that Ukraine would need at least US$349 billion, or 1.5 times the country’s total economic output for the whole year of 2021, to rebuild after the war. The US saw the Ukraine crisis as a lucrative opportunity. Instead of taking any measures conducive to ending hostilities, the US kept fueling the flames and made a huge fortune from the war business including the arms industry and the energy sector. It described its arms supply to Ukraine as a move to support “democracy versus authoritarianism”. A July 2022 report by Serbia’s Center for Strategic Prognosis pointed out that the US saw Russia’s 1999 attack on Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, as a crime, but called a similar American operation in Fallujah, an Iraqi city about the size of Grozny, liberation. America’s so-called democracy has long been hijacked by interest groups and capital, and brought instability and chaos to the world.
In August 2022, then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a provocative visit to China’s Taiwan region in disregard of China’s firm opposition and serious representations. It was a major political provocation that upgraded official contact between the US and Taiwan, and aggravated tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Yet, Pelosi argued that the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy”. The crux of Pelosi’s provocative visit is not about democracy, but China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The US action was by no means defending or preserving democracy, but challenging and violating China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Pelosi’s fallacy was unbearable even to some US politicians. Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Greene challenged Pelosi, saying that “Americans have had enough with a woman obsessed with her own power she’s held for decades while our entire country crumbles ... Enough of this fake ‘courage’ defending democracy.”
The international community is seeing the US approach more and more clearly. Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, wrote that the US, as a self-proclaimed “high priest”, has wreaked havoc around the world under the disguise of “true democracy”, and used money, allies and high-end weapons to crudely impose its will. An article published on Ahram Online, an Egyptian news website, argued that “liberalism” and “democracy” had been turned into a weaponized ideology that the US uses to destabilize other countries, delegitimize their governments, and intervene with forms of sociopolitical engineering that often backfires in drastic ways. None of it has to do with the liberalism, democracy and freedom the US claims to promote. Chairman of the Indonesian People’s Wave Party Anis Matta pointed out that American cleverness is making other countries a battlefield. Anti-China sentiment and polarization in Indonesia are also America’s work. Muslims must understand that.
3. Doubling down on unilateral sanctions
Under the pretext of human rights and democracy, the US has long been using unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdiction” against other countries based on its domestic laws and its own values. In the past decades, the US imposed unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction on Cuba, Belarus, Syria, Zimbabwe and other countries, placed maximum pressure on countries including the DPRK, Iran and Venezuela, and unilaterally froze US$130 million in military aid to Egypt under the excuse of the country’s lack of progress in human rights. Such actions have seriously damaged the economic development and people’s livelihood in the countries concerned, and jeopardized the right to life, the right to self-determination and the right to development, constituting a continual, systematic and massive violation of human rights in other countries. In recent years, US unilateral sanctions have been increasing and its “long arm” has been extending further. In order to preserve its hegemony, the US has wilfully harmed the interests of other countries, especially the legitimate and lawful interests of developing countries, in disregard of international law and the basic norms of international relations.
An article published by the Turkish Anadolu News Agency in March 2022 argued that in the name of promoting democracy, the US invaded Iraq on unsubstantiated grounds and brought immense sufferings to the local population. First, the abuse of sanctions aggravated livelihood challenges. Between 1990 and 2003, the severe economic sanctions by the US took a heavy toll on the local economy and the well-being of the Iraqi people. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the hunger rate in Iraq reached a very high level as a result of the US sanctions and embargo. Between 1990 and 1995 alone, 500,000 Iraqi children died of hunger and poor living conditions. Second, the incessant war caused enormous civilian casualties. According to the Iraqi Ministry of Health, about 120,000 Iraqi civilians were killed between 2003, when the US started the Iraq War, and 2011, when the US announced its withdrawal. Third, the imposed political model failed to adapt. The US forced the American-style democracy upon Iraq in disregard of the latter’s national conditions, only to aggravate the political fight between different factions in the country.
The unilateral sanctions imposed by the US fully demonstrate its arrogance and indifference toward humanitarianism. On 11 February 2022, President Biden signed an executive order to split in half the US$7 billion in Afghan central bank assets frozen in the US. Half of the assets were to fund financial compensations for 9/11 victims, and the other half were transferred to an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Such blatant stealing from the Afghan people has been widely condemned by the international community. SINDOnews.com, a news website of Indonesia, reported in March 2022 that people of Afghan descent rallied at the US Embassy in Jakarta to protest the US government’s looting of assets from the Afghan government. The indignant protesters argued that the assets of the former Afghan government belonged to the Afghan people and should be used to aid the Afghan people who were experiencing an economic crisis.
4. Undermining democracy in international relations
International affairs bear on the common interests of mankind, and should be conducted through consultation by all countries. Yet, the US has never truly observed the principle of democracy in international relations. Under the pretext of “multilateralism” and “international rules”, and clinging to the Cold War mentality, the US has exercised fake multilateralism and bloc politics, instigated division and antagonism, created bloc confrontation, and practiced unilateralism in the name of multilateralism. Its hegemonic, domineering and bullying acts seriously impede the development of true multilateralism.
The US places its domestic law above international law, and adopts a selective approach to international rules, applying and discarding such rules as it sees fit. Since the 1980s, the US has withdrawn from 17 important international organizations or agreements, including the UN Human Rights Council, WHO, UNESCO, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the JCPOA, the Arms Trade Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Treaty on Open Skies.
The US flagrantly violates the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations, waging wars and creating division and conflict across the world. Throughout its history of 240-plus years, the US has been at peace for only 16 years — it is indeed the most belligerent country in world history. Since the end of World War II, the US has waged or participated in many wars overseas, including the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War, which caused immense civilian casualties and property losses as well as humanitarian catastrophes. Since 2001, the wars and military operations that the US launched in the name of fighting terrorism have killed more than 900,000 people, including some 335,000 civilians, injured millions and displaced tens of millions.
Paying no heed to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and principles of international law, or to the democratic rights of Asia-Pacific countries and Pacific island countries in regional and international affairs, the US has emboldened Japan by expressly supporting its decision to discharge the nuclear waste water from Fukushima, even though the government of Japan has not yet fully consulted stakeholders and relevant international agencies on the disposal, not yet provided sufficient scientific and factual grounds for its behavior, and not yet addressed the legitimate concerns of the international community. On the other hand, the US administration, citing “radionuclide contamination”, banned the import of Japanese food and agricultural products from areas around Fukushima, exposing the hypocrisy of typical US-style double standards.
Advancing the Cold War mentality in the South Pacific region, the US has ganged up with the UK and Australia to put together AUKUS, a racist clique, and pledged to help Australia build at least eight nuclear submarines together with the UK. The move constitutes a serious violation of the principles of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, treading a reckless line on the brink of nuclear proliferation and creating tremendous risks. It has also opened the Pandora’s box of regional arms race, casting a shadow over regional peace, security and stability.
Prior to the ninth Summit of the Americas in June 2022, Julio Yao, a Panamanian expert on international issues, wrote in local media that today’s US is an absolute renegade of international law, and the most genuinely authentic personification of the use of brute force in international relations. The US is the only country that has not signed or ratified any human rights treaty, and is not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is the only country that does not ban secret biological weapons, with more than 200 laboratories outside its borders. The only thing that the US intends to do with the Summit of the Americas is to involve Latin America and the Caribbean in the war in Ukraine and to divide and weaken them.
In August 2022, a South China Morning Post article noted that the so-called “democracies” of the US and the West have been relentlessly chipping away at the foundations of international rules and exploiting them when it’s convenient. While the US and the West denounce Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, they forget their serial interventions, subversions and interference across the globe. What the US did has smashed up the world economy, thereby exposing more middle-income countries to debt crises. When the big powers are selective in following the rules they wrote, the whole system loses credibility.
5. Foisting a trumped-up narrative of “democracy versus authoritarianism”
Harboring the Cold War mentality, a hegemonic logic and a preference for bloc politics, the US administration has framed a narrative of “democracy versus authoritarianism”, and labeled countries as “autocracies”, with a view to using ideology and values as a tool to suppress other countries and advance its own geostrategy under the disguise of democracy.
In 2021, the US held the first “Summit for Democracy”, attempting to divide the international community into so-called “democratic and undemocratic camps” by openly drawing an ideological line. The move drew questions extensively, including from within the US. Both Foreign Affairs and The Diplomat carried articles criticizing the summit as chasing the wrong goal, not only failing to achieve unity among democratic countries, but also drawing criticism for the representation issue. The US has long lacked a set goal in its promotion of democracy around the world, and has been slow in following up its rhetoric. When democracy in the US is in such a mess, holding a democracy summit cannot boost democracy around the world, but more likely create a greater geopolitical crisis. Hitoshi Tanaka, Chairman of the Institute for International Strategy of Japan, pointed out that the US has been imposing “democracy” on other countries, advancing the “democracy versus authoritarianism” campaign, and expanding global division. Japan should not blindly follow suit.
To brand oneself as democracy while others as autocracies is in itself an act contrary to democracy. The so-called “democracy versus authoritarianism” narrative does not reflect the realities of today’s world, nor is it in line with the trend of the times. “Belarus 1”, a state television station of Belarus, commented that the list of participants to the summit was clearly based on the US standard of “freedom”, but the question was how could the US believe that it could monopolize the definition and interpretation of democracy, and tell others what democracy should look like. Singapore’s Straits Times carried a column that said the US must realize that American democracy has lost its former luster, and is no longer the gold standard. There is no fixed model of democracy, and the US no longer has an absolute say over what democracy means. That is the truth. The US should pragmatically reassess its diplomatic methods and focus on cooperation instead of confrontation.
Despite unprecedentedly low ratings of US democracy at home and abroad, the country’s hysteria to export US-style democracy and values continues unabated. The US has not only cobbled together values-based alliances such as AUKUS, the Quad and the Five Eyes, but also attempted to disrupt and undermine normal international cooperation in economy, trade, science, technology, culture and people-to-people exchanges by drawing ideological lines and trumpeting the Cold War mentality. Al Jazeera observed that the US insistence on holding a democracy summit and acting as a global democratic leader even when trust in its own democratic system is declining has raised widespread suspicion. James Goldgeier, professor of international relations at American University, said the US has lost its credibility, and that its administration should hold a domestic democracy summit to focus on injustice and inequality, including issues such as voting rights and disinformation. Emma Ashford, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, questioned how can the US spread democracy or act as an example for others if it barely has a functioning democracy at home. The South China Morning Post pointed out that the summit reflected two myths about US democracy: First, global advance of democracy since the end of the Cold War is backsliding and it needs the US to reverse it; second, the US is the most important democracy in the world and its global leadership is paramount for other countries. These two myths completely ignore the democratic backsliding in the US, the rejection of the overwhelming majority of countries to being kidnapped by the hypocritical “concept of democracy” of the US, and the strong desire of developing countries to grow their economies and raise living standards.
Democracy is humanity’s common value; however, there is no single model of political system that is applicable to all countries in the world. Human civilization, if compared to a garden, should be a diverse place in which democracy in different countries blooms like a hundred flowers. The US has American-style democracy, China has Chinese-style democracy, and other countries have their own unique models of democracy that suit their respective national conditions. It should be up to the people of a country to judge whether the country is democratic or not and how to better promote democracy in their country. The few self-righteous countries have no right to point fingers.
Those who have many flaws themselves have little credibility to lecture others. Attempts to undermine others for one’s own profit and destabilize the world must be unanimously opposed. A black-and-white division of countries as democratic or authoritarian is both anachronistic and arbitrary. What our world needs today is not to stoke division in the name of democracy and pursue de facto supremacy-oriented unilateralism, but to strengthen solidarity and cooperation and uphold true multilateralism on the basis of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. What our world needs today is not to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs under the guise of democracy, but to advocate genuine democracy, reject pseudo-democracy and jointly promote greater democracy in international relations. What our world needs today is not a “Summit for Democracy” that hypes up confrontation and contributes nothing to the collective response to global challenges, but a conference of solidarity that focuses on taking real actions to solve prominent global challenges.
Freedom, democracy and human rights are the common pursuit of humanity, and values that the Communist Party of China (CPC) always pursues. China commits to and advances whole-process people’s democracy, and puts into action the principle of people running the country in the CPC’s exercise of national governance in specific and concrete ways. China stands ready to strengthen exchanges and mutual learning with other countries on the issue of democracy, advocate humanity’s common values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, promote greater democracy in international relations, and make new and greater contributions to human progress.