Recently I talked with an open-minded European friend and told him about the development of China I observed. China has developed a very successful socialist democracy, which was designed to overcome the inefficiency of other forms of democracy. In my opinion, this is a progressive, representative and responsible government. This form of democracy is called whole-process people's democracy. It is a form of democracy with Chinese characteristics that focuses on the people.
It has always been obvious to me that China could not, would not and should not copy foreign systems of government not designed to meet the needs of its people. The whole-process people's democracy in China has pragmatically combined and successfully implemented three things, which in my opinion, has never happened before. The first is the idealism of "socialism," the second is the idealism of "democracy," and the third is China's tradition of meritocratically selected government administrators, which is a tradition of thousands of years in order to achieve China's 1.4 billion people's shared national goals of achieving economic development and social progress.
The practice of socialism with Chinese characteristics has demonstrated that it has achieved economic development and social progress at a speed, scale and size of global impact that is unprecedented in history. A World Bank study confirms that China's economic growth is driving global economic growth and leading to global poverty alleviation.
In the past 40 years, 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty in China. And China has contributed close to three-quarters of the global reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty. China is currently the world's second-largest economy. It is estimated that it will become the world's largest between 2028 and 2033.
Aerial view of a relocation residential community for poverty alleviation in Kaili, southwest China's Guizhou Province, January 30, 2022. /Xinhua
I think China's whole-process people's democracy is a successful implementation of the ideals of a "government of the people, by the people, for the people" that does benefit all of China's people. The words originally defining "democracy" in ancient Greek are "people" and "power." There is not an American and European monopoly on defining what "democracy" is.
My European friend and I talked about the originality of China's democracy. China's socialist democracy addresses deficiencies in other forms of democracy. For example, America's "liberal democracy" was designed for a capitalist society and is controlled by and mainly benefiting a minority of extremely wealthy and therefore powerful Americans. China's socialist whole-process people's democracy has different goals and results.
A recent Princeton study revealed that U.S. politics is dominated by elites and interest groups. Its public policy outcomes are controlled by the large political campaign donors' preferences, and whoever donates the most during campaigns is the most powerful.
A Harvard study points out that America has a "limited process democracy" with elections in which citizens have the right to vote. But billions of dollars are required to fund election campaigns resulting in less than 1 percent of Americans controlling U.S. politics, which serves the wealthy and large corporations often at the expense of working- and middle-class Americans.
If we want to understand the success of China's democracy, we must understand its practice at the grassroots level. The whole-process people's democracy proposed by President Xi Jinping has actually become a successful socialist alternative to "democratic" governments in the U.S. and Europe and other "non-democratic" systems. The astonishing economic development and social progress that socialism with Chinese characteristics has provided for 18 percent of the world's population in China are important 21st-century realities.
As a political philosopher who studies human history, I think what's happened in China is a demonstration of the success of socialism with Chinese characteristics in creating economic and social development that is changing the modernization of developing nations.
(John Milligan-Whyte is chairman of the America-China Partnership Foundation.)
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