China’s official Xinhua news agency attacked Western democracy as divisive and confrontational on Tuesday, praising on the eve of a key Communist Party Congress the harmony and cooperative nature of the Chinese system.
China’s constitution enshrines the Communist Party’s long-term “leading” role in government, though it allows the existence of various other political parties under what is calls a “multi-party cooperation system”. But all are subservient to the Communist Party. Activists who call for pluralism are regularly jailed and criticism of China’s authoritarian system silenced.
In a lengthy English-language commentary, Xinhua took aim at the “crises and chaos swamp(ing) Western liberal democracy”. “Unlike competitive, confrontational Western politics, the CPC and non-Communist parties cooperate with each other, working together for the advancement of socialism and striving to improve the people’s standard of living,” it said. “The relationship maintains political stability and social harmony and ensures efficient policy making and implementation.”
China’s system leads to social unity not the divisions which are an unavoidable consequence of the adversarial nature of today’s Western democracy, Xinhua said. “Endless political backbiting, bickering and policy reversals, which make the hallmarks of liberal democracy, have retarded economic and social progress and ignored the interests of most citizens.” Xinhua did not name any countries, but state media has previously cited the examples of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president as examples of why Western democracy is flawed.
When Xi Jinping assumed office five years ago, his ascendancy gave many Chinese hope for political reform, mainly due to his folksy style and the legacy of his father, Xi Zhongxun, a former reformist vice-premier. But Xi has overseen a sweeping crackdown on civil society, charging or detaining dozens of rights lawyers and activists who authorities say are a threat to national security and social stability. Internet controls have also been tightened.
Xi looks set to further cement his grip on power at the once-in-five-years Congress that opens on Wednesday, promoting key allies and laying out a policy framework for the years ahead. Xinhua said that under the leadership of the party, Chinese-style democracy has never been in better shape. “China has absolutely no need to import the failing party political systems of other countries.” “After several hundred years, the Western model is showing its age. It is high time for profound reflection on the ills of a doddering democracy which has precipitated so many of the world’s ills and solved so few.”