What China Means by “Democracy”
The Economist’s Gady Epstein responds to misguided celebration of China’s “commitment to democracy” by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week:
Chinese official language is full of political terms that, to the Western liberal ear, sound progressive. The Chinese government has long said it protects “human rights”. It has a Western-sounding constitution that says the country enjoys the “freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly” and so on. In October, the Communist Party’s Central Committee held a plenary session on “rule of law”, in which it fully endorsed the constitution. But China prefers a narrow economic definition of “human rights”, and none of these declared freedoms, nor the authority of the constitution itself, goes so far as to protect anyone who challenges the Communist Party’s rule. That is why Ilham Tohti, a university professor, was sentenced to life imprisonment in September for criticising the party’s ethnic policies.
[…] In leading the communists to power Mao incorporated the word “democracy” into party-speak to gain popular support. But what Mao actually meant in 1949 became clear when he declared that China would be ruled by a “people’s democratic dictatorship”. [Source]
Xi Jinping has recently extolled a Chinese model of “consultative democracy” in which government is not chosen by the people, but pledges to take their views into account. “Western-style” democracy, meanwhile, has repeatedly been labeled a foreign “trap” in official media. Read more about Chinese democracy and socialist rule of law via CDT.