Why China’s ‘Whole-Process Democracy’ Didn’t Qualify for the US-led Democracy Summit

December 17, 2021 Updated: December 17, 2021


Beijing’s “whole-process democracy” is a Marxist euphemism that masks a communist dictatorship.

China has a burr under its saddle because it was left out of the Summit for Democracy convened by the Biden administration this past week. There has been a daily barrage from Beijing about the alleged divisiveness of the summit and the supposed shortcomings of the United States, including the following messaging from state-run media China Daily and People’s Daily:

  • The “sorry state” of U.S. democracy: “Just a week ago, the US was added to the annual list of ‘backsliding’ democracies for the first time by the Sweden-based International IDEA think tank.”
  • The Summit is selling a lie: “Far from spreading ‘peace’ around the world, the ‘Summit for Democracy’ will create monstrous new ideological divisions. It will be used as a stepping stone to divide the world even more catastrophically than the Cold War did.”
  • Democracy is “not the prerogative” of America: “Democracy is a universal right of all peoples, ‘not a prerogative of a certain country or a group of countries,’ and that democracy ‘can be realized in multiple ways’ and ‘no model can fit all countries.’”
  • The “summit for democracy” is anything but democratic: “Such a summit instigates hatred and divisions at a time when unity is the need of the hour, as the world is reeling under a raging pandemic, rising protectionism, and the mounting threat of climate change.”
  • Chinese think tank’s report reveals truths about American democracy: “All believe that the U.S. should face its democracy issues, listen to the real voices of other countries, correct its wrongdoings both at home and abroad, and actually start to seek benefits for people in the U.S. and the entire world.”
  • What is “true democracy”?: “History and reality have fully proved that China’s democratic model conforms to its own national conditions and is supported by the people. It is true and successful democracy that works.”

The deluge of articles and commentary about the democracy summit in the Chinese media over the past couple of weeks has simply been incredible! The above list is just a sampling. Apparently, Beijing left uninvited stirred up a hornet’s nest.

While it is quite understandable that Chinese communists do not understand what a real democracy consists of in terms of generally accepted principles around the world, there are at least two specific political reasons for the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) flood of crocodile tears:

  1. Xi Jinping, Chinese diplomats, and Chinese state-run media have spent considerable time and resources propagandizing over the past several years that Chinese “whole-process democracy” puts China automatically on the list of democratic nations of the world. This is part of the CCP’s political and psychological warfare campaign against its main adversary, the United States. And its absence at a summit attended by the world’s democratic nations completely undercuts its propaganda investment on the subject.
  2. Xi’s absence from the summit also undercuts another major CCP propaganda theme—that the United States is in decline, and world leadership should be ceded to China’s “New World Order” (with “Chinese characteristics,” of course). Xi has been boldly and unilaterally asserting Chinese leadership in many nooks and crannies of human endeavors in recent years: quantum technology research, space exploration, military uses of space (hypersonic glide vehicles), artificial intelligence, social credit systems, total response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and variants, digital currency, and much more. Not being able to pontificate in another international forum must have pricked his pride; hence, the flurry of negative articles about the summit in CCP-controlled media.

Let us dispense with the notion that Chinese “whole-process democracy” is any kind of democracy whatsoever. Xi frequently touts its supposed benefits, with this statement being typical: “People’s democracy is whole-process democracy. Whether people enjoy democratic rights or not depends on whether they have the right to cast votes, as well as whether they have the right to constantly participate in everyday political activities. Besides having the right to democratic elections, it also depends on whether they have right to democratic decision-making, democratic management, and democratic oversight.”

Xi obfuscates the truth, as all communists learn to do throughout their careers. In this instance, the key word in his statement is “people.” The people to which he refers are the members of the CCP who are the “first among equals” at all levels of Chinese government—including national, provincial, prefecture, and county—all the way down to towns and villages. The so-called “party secretaries” outrank the government officials at every level of government.

What kind of democracy permits unelected members of the predominant political party in a nation to make and overrule all the key decisions at every level of government? How on Earth can Xi imply that non-CCP members can somehow “have the right to democratic decision-making”—and other similar nonsense—when only the CCP can pull the strings? What good does it do for the average citizen to “cast a vote” under these circumstances? And it is patently absurd to believe that the opinions of average Chinese citizens have any impact on Xi’s decision-making process whatsoever—unlike in almost all truly democratic nations—as he is not accountable to the will of the people at the ballot box. That is certainly not democracy as the rest of the world understands it!

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese leader Xi Jinping (right) arrives with Premier Li Keqiang (left) and members of the Politburo Standing Committee for a reception at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on the eve of China’s National Day on Sept. 30, 2021. (Greg Baker/AFP)

Furthermore, none of the major governing bodies at the national level in communist China are elected by the Chinese people.

  • The rough equivalent to the U.S. Executive Branch includes the CCP’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee that runs the country; the 25 members of the full Politburo that supersedes the Standing Committee when in session; the five departments and seven commissions of the CCP Central Committee bureaucracy; the state president (the head of state); the cabinet-level equivalent of the State Council; the Central Military Commission that controls the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and adjunct military services; and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and National Supervisory Commission that are charged with “enforcing party discipline.” All of the members are non-elected CCP cadres.
  • The National People’s Congress (NPC)—China’s rubber-stamp legislature— approximates the U.S. Congress. NPC is made up of nearly 3,000 members who are “elected” by provincial-level people’s congresses from among a list of names provided by the CCP. So much for the “democratic elections of national level representatives” in China! The NPC has the responsibility to maintain and change the Chinese constitution, which was dissected and determined to be non-democratic in operation in this commentary.
  • The Chinese judicial system consists of a multi-layered court system that includes the national-level People’s Supreme Court; Higher People’s Courts for every province, directly administered city, and autonomous region; Intermediate People’s Courts (similar to U.S. municipal courts); and Basic People’s Courts located in rural counties or municipal districts. The average Chinese citizen has no democratic means to influence the judicial system. All judges are CCP members who are elected/appointed by the NPC and not accountable to Chinese citizens. No known judgments have ever been rendered against the collective (and arbitrary) interests of the CCP.

Are the above institutions the product of Xi’s “whole process-democracy”? Just where is the “democracy” hiding in the byzantine Chinese government anyway? Are the governing institutions of the People’s Republic of China even legitimate because the system was certainly not set up through peaceful democratic action and the will of the average Chinese, but rather under the bayonets of Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army at the express direction of the CCP? Without the omnipresent coercion and threats from the CCP, would the Chinese people consider the CCP-run government to be legitimate as Xi and others assert?

“Whole-process democracy” is communist gobbledygook, and “democracy with Chinese characteristics” seems a whole lot like communist dictatorship to most people around the world. No wonder Beijing was not invited to the democracy summit!

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Stu Cvrk
Stu Cvrk retired as a captain after serving 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Through education and experience as an oceanographer and systems analyst, Cvrk is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education that serves as the key foundation for his political commentary.