BEIJING — China’s Communist Party on Saturday held American democracy to account by sharply criticizing a global democracy summit hosted this week by President Joe Biden and praising the virtues of its government system.
Party officials questioned how a polarized country that botched its response to Covid-19 could lecture others, saying attempts to force others to copy the Western democratic model “are doomed to failure”.
The harsh rhetoric reflects a growing clash of values that has been spotlighted as China emerges as a global power. The question is whether the United States and other leading democracies can coexist peacefully with a powerful authoritarian state whose actions run counter to the Western model that emerged victorious at the end of the Cold War.
The pandemic is exposing flaws in the US system, said Tian Peiyan, the deputy director of the Communist Party’s Policy Research Office. He blames the high Covid-19 death toll in the US on political disputes and a divided government from the highest to the lowest levels.
“Such democracy brings the voters not happiness but disaster,” he said at a news conference to release a government report on what the Communist Party calls its form of democracy, which is firmly under party control.
Neither China nor Russia are among the 110 or so governments invited to Biden’s two-day virtual “Summit for Democracy,” which begins Thursday and will focus on strengthening democracy, defending against authoritarianism, corruption and human rights.
The participation of Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that China says should be under its rule, has further infuriated Beijing.
Relations between the US and China remain tense despite a virtual summit between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping last month. The US president has repeatedly framed the disagreements with China in his wider appeal to the US and its allies to demonstrate that democracies can offer humanity a better path to progress than autocracies.
The Communist Party has ruled China single-handedly since 1949. She says differing views are reflected in consultative bodies and elected village and residents committees, but silences most public criticism with censorship and sometimes arrest.
The party argues that strong central leadership is needed to maintain stability in a vast country torn by division and war over the centuries.
“In such a large country of 56 ethnic groups and more than 1.4 billion people, if there is no party leader… and we uphold the so-called democracy of the West, it will be easy to screw things up and democracy will work the other way,” Tian said.
China has been accused of mass incarceration, torture and other human rights abuses for enforcing control over ethnic communities in the remote western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. The party rejects the charges and says it will stamp out extremism and separatist movements.
The recent difficulties facing some Western democracies have given communist party leaders more confidence in their system as they attempt to build China into a global power. State media often cite the chaos of the US Capitol uprising following the last presidential election. The report released on Saturday said that “today’s world faces challenges of excessive democracy.”
Chinese officials often accuse the US and others of using democracy as a cover to suppress China’s rise, an accusation echoed during the press conference by Xu Lin, the deputy minister of the party’s publicity department.
“The US calls itself a ‘leader of democracy’ and organizes and manipulates the so-called Summit for Democracy,” he said. “In fact, it is cracking and hindering countries with different social systems and development models in the name of democracy.”
Xu called it undemocratic for others to demand their form of democracy, because they themselves have a mixed track record.
“Their domestic governance is confused, but they are pointing the finger at and criticizing other democracies,” he said. “Is this the democracy they were promoting?”
The information for this article was contributed by Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press.