Books by and about Chinese President Xi Jinping fill an exhibition at the Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing on November 11, 2021.
Noel Celis | AFP | Getty Images
BEIJING – A senior Chinese official voiced rare criticism of democracy in the US and the West during a high profile political press conference Friday.
The night before, Chinese President Xi Jinping joined the ranks of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping and became the country’s third leader to support the adoption of a “historic resolution” at the end of a high-profile meeting of the Chinese Communist Party, the sixth supervised plenary session of the party’s central committee.
Mao led China for decades after the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party a century ago. Deng led extensive economic reforms four decades ago that reduced the role of the state in the economy and gave foreign companies access to China.
Chinese officials at the press conference on Friday emphasized how the country will now follow Xi and his vision of a strong CCP-dominated system.
And for over five minutes, Jiang Jinqua, director of the Political Research Bureau of the Party’s Central Committee, criticized the United States and Western countries for trying to impose their idea of democracy on China.
“Democracy is not an exclusive patent of Western countries, and even less should it be defined or dictated by Western countries,” Jiang said, according to an official translation in Mandarin.
“The electoral democracy of Western countries is actually a capital-ruled democracy, and it is a game of the rich, not a real democracy,” he said.
While China’s foreign diplomats and propaganda weapons have voiced similar criticism in the past, Jiang’s remarks caught the eye because of the high-profile political context of the press event and its specific mention of the US
The US plan to hold a “democracy summit” in December is “an attempt to revive Western democracy,” Jiang said. “To convene such a summit against [a] Background of many problems in Western democracy … the intention is nothing more than to beat up other countries and to divide the world. “
He also pointed to public opinion polls showing widespread concerns in the US about American democracy, compared to the overwhelming confidence the Chinese have in their own government.
A study by Pew Research published Nov. 1 found that 72% of Americans say US democracy used to be a good example to others but has not been lately. A study led by Professor Cary Wu of York University found local satisfaction with the Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Chinese are constantly attacking democracies because they are not really representative of the people, but rather a camouflage for the elites to keep in control,” said Scott Kennedy, senior advisor and trustee chair in Chinese Business and Economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Surely there are many Americans who are disappointed with our political system,” said Kennedy, without referring to a specific poll. “The irony is that Americans are free to criticize their government. In China, expressing such an opinion could turn you into a dissident and imprison you.”
Xi’s new plan for economic development
While criticizing Western political systems, Chinese officials on Friday promoted their country’s own agenda, emphasizing new models under Xi.
“Xi uses the past to serve the present and claim the future by constructing a historical narrative that justifies his personal leadership and political preferences as he seeks an abnormal third term as leader at the 20th Congress of the next fall. ”Neil Thomas, China and Northeast Asia analyst for Eurasia Group, wrote on a note.
Since rising to the top of the central government in 2012, Xi has promoted his own state-centered political ideology, commonly known as “Xi Thought”.
This week’s official report on the “historic resolution” cemented Xi’s political leadership by calling him the “main founder of Xi Jinping’s thinking on socialism with Chinese features for a new era.”
Economic development is a priority for the CCP, said Han Wenxiu, deputy minister in the finance and economic bureau of the party’s central committee. He was referring to a meeting in 1978 when Deng began allowing foreign companies to enter China.
“As socialism with Chinese characteristics enters a new era, the development has taken on new meanings,” Han said.
“We should put the old development path aside,” he said, noting that quality development is now more important – like recognizing that “green and lush mountains are priceless”. Han claimed Beijing still wanted to “open up” and remain part of the global economy.
China’s plan for business
Many overseas investors and companies have been surprised by Beijing crackdown on Internet technology companies, after-school tutoring companies and real estate developers this year.
Tech giants have then tried to show that they are in line with Beijing’s concern for “shared prosperity” and focus on moderate prosperity for all, not just a few. That means addressing social issues such as the high cost of living and the threat of labor shortages due to a rapidly aging population.
Xi believes “ideological challenges are threats to national security,” the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a statement. This will “indicate greater efforts to shape ‘ideological education’ across the country in a way that may take on an anti-Western tone. However, little mention has been made of economic reforms, suggesting that the current trend is towards [regulatory] The intervention will continue. “
Chinese officials did not respond directly to questions on Friday about how the slowdown in economic growth could affect policy goals.
Han of the Economic Bureau said, “Entrepreneurs have several ways and means to contribute to common prosperity, the most basic of which is to act lawfully and honestly.” Han said it would run counter to the original notion of shared prosperity to steal from the rich in order to coerce donations into a “robinhood” approach to help the poor.
He also said that the “right way to contribute to common prosperity” is to pay taxes, exercise “social responsibility” and treat employees and customers well.