The Chinese state newspaper Global Times made the argument Monday that Western-style multi-party democracy has no place in Asia, citing numerous examples of Asian heads of state arrested for corruption. The newspaper does not mention the tens of thousands arrested on corruption charges under Communist Party leader Xi Jinping in China.
In a column titled “Multi-Party System Misfit in Asian Nations” – illustrated with a cartoon of a large foot failing to fit into a slim, Cinderella-style glass slipper – the Global Times suggests that the multi-party democracy is inherently divisive, and that division allows corrupt politicians to come to power and bankrupt the nation.
“In some Asian countries and regions with the Western democratic models, leaders go to prison after transferring power. Is it because these countries have yet to assimilate Western multi-party democracy or the same system is dividing their politics?” the newspaper asks.
The newspaper indicates that this is a particular problem in Asia and does not go so far as to argue that democracy is incompatible with Western culture as it does with the diverse nations of Asia. Different as Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, and the Philippines may be, China appears to believe none can handle a true democracy.
“South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia have implemented the Western political model for more than half a century and it is hard to say that their politics is not adequately Westernized,” the Global Times argues. “More importantly, with the Western multi-party democracy developing in these countries for decades, their politics has been intensely polarized. Western multi-party politics introduced in these countries has its problems and with its development, political divisions will increase.”
“The initial aim of Western parties is to carve up power which leads to sectarianism,” it claims, suggesting that these divisions were not especially problematic during eras in which elites controlled governments, but cause significant strife when all citizens can vote.
The article does not offer an alternative to Western democracy, though the Global Times and other Chinese government media have repeatedly insisted that strict Communist Party authoritarianism is the only political option that ensures people are truly free, often quoting Xi himself.
“Combining the Marxist political party theory with Chinese reality, China created the ‘new type of party system’ which is mainly carried out through the CPPCC [Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference],” the Times quoted Xi as saying during a CPPCC meeting in March.
The piece quotes a leader of a marginal political party in China, which is separate from but works in tandem with the Communist Party, stating that “unlike a one-party system or Western-style competitive and confrontational multiparty politics, China’s multiparty cooperation and political consultation system allows the ruling party and the participatory parties to work jointly for the nation.”
China is home to several non-Communist parties but they are forced to vote for Communist Party laws and largely banned from expressing any diverse ideological thoughts. Dissident voices are described as “losers” and marginalized, often arrested or “disappeared.”
In addition to propping up its own system, Chinese state media regularly decries Western liberal democracies. In January, the Global Times declared, “the Western idea of human rights is now only connected with a very small number of dissidents and separatists in China, and has completely failed to appeal to Chinese people.”
“The Chinese public has a stronger aversion than officials to Western preach about human rights in China,” it concluded.
“Western style democracy used to be a recognized power in history to drive social development. But now it has reached its limits,” a People’s Daily article read shortly after President Donald Trump’s election. “Democracy is already kidnapped by the capitals and has become the weapon for capitalists to chase profits.”
“The US we are now interacting with is a ‘Divided States of America,’” the Global Times declared at the time. “Those who support Trump and those against him are deeply divided. Not only China, but other countries have also felt it is difficult to deal with the US.”
The Global Times also highlights any authoritarian voices around the world promoting a Chinese-style system. This month, for example, it featured Nigeria’s Charles Okeke for arguing that “Nigeria should adopt a one-party socialist political system, which in his mind is the key to China’s economic success.”