China’s state-run Global Times on Monday took the occasion of the International Day of Democracy to scoff at the image of the United States as a “beacon of democracy” and argue the American concept of democracy is an “outdated fantasy” idolized only by misguided souls such as the “rioters” in Hong Kong.
The Global Times’ goat was gotten by the Hong Kong protest movement’s embrace of American songs and symbols, and by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement for the International Day of Democracy, which fell on Sunday.
The Chinese Communist paper derisively quoted Pompeo’s vow of continued American leadership in the worldwide quest for freedom, but the part where he mourned the “global trend of shrinking civic space” is probably what made them angry. According to the Global Times:
While the United States commends governments that have undertaken reforms to allow civil society to thrive, we remain deeply concerned by the global trend of shrinking civic space. Concerning trends include a proliferation of laws and policies that impose undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly, expression, and religion or belief.
The American people and many of our allies have enjoyed the fruits of democracy. We thrive because we use our fundamental freedoms to create opportunities for economic, cultural, educational, and societal progress. Nations are more secure, peaceful, and prosperous when civil society engages freely and participates in democratic processes without intimidation. The United States will continue to be a leader in protecting civic space to bolster the foundations of democracy.
“But has the US been a qualified ‘leader’ to protect democracy? Looking at the turbulence in the world, you will find the US triggered quite a few of them in the name of promoting democracy,” the Global Times sneered in response.
By “them” it meant wars such as the ones in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen plus ugly revolutions such as the Arab Spring or the “violent protests” in Hong Kong, which are supported by “many U.S. politicians.”
“The flames of democracy have brought nothing but disorder,” the Global Times declared. Later it was gracious enough to allow that American democracy is “by no means poisonous,” even though the rest of the editorial rather strongly implies that it is.
After fulminating against the U.S. for rashly believing it could “intimidate China” with measures such as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, which could rescind Hong Kong’s unique trade status with the United States if mainland China compromises its autonomy, the Global Times recommended authoritarian welfare states and globalism as superior alternatives to democratic freedom. The Global Times said:
Being a leader of democracy does not mean screaming democracy in other country’s faces. When the US makes such a commitment, it might as well think about more pragmatic measures, including promoting the global development of the basic human rights, such as social welfare, the right to decent work and affordable housing, and offering more global public goods, rather than upholding trade protectionism and the ‘America First’ policy.
The Chinese Communist Party should have reserved some of its venom for Pompeo’s spokeswoman at the State Department, Heather Nauert, because her statement on the International Day of Democracy was even more aggressive, and more obviously meant to burn in the ears of Beijing.
“Democratic ideals are at the core of our foreign policy. Established democracies are our closest allies and our strongest partners in meeting global challenges. We do not stand idly by when governments curtail the rights of their citizens and work to undermine public faith in democratic processes and institutions,” Nauert wrote.
“As history demonstrates, those who imperil the rights of their own people are prone to endanger the lives of other people,” she warned. “That is why we stand with people everywhere who call upon their governments to respect individual rights and freedoms, strengthen the rule of law, prevent and combat corruption, and honor the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box.”