'Summit for Democracy' is incomplete without whole-process democracy
Updated 12:39, 10-Dec-2021
Jia Wenshan
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives on the steps to the House chambers during a vote in Washington, D.C., U.S., October 28, 2021. /Getty

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives on the steps to the House chambers during a vote in Washington, D.C., U.S., October 28, 2021. /Getty

Editor's note: Jia Wenshan is a professor at the School of Communication in Chapman University in California and an adjunct professor at Shandong University in China. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Although U.S. President Joe Biden's "Summit for Democracy" will officially convene online with representatives from 109 countries plus China's Taiwan region on December 9, the release of the white paper "China: Democracy that Works" by China's State Council Information Office on December 4 can be viewed as an event which may exert as much international influence as the U.S.-fabricated summit itself.

China is presenting an alternative model of democracy which it thinks "works" in contrast to Western democracy, which does not work well according to various research reports, such as the study "Testing Theories of American Politics" conducted in 2014 by Princeton University professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page and "Global Satisfaction with Democracy 2020" released by the new Center for the Future of Democracy at Cambridge University in January 2020. Thus, it would seem American democracy needs a booster by means of this summit for its "renewal and resilience," to use President Biden's own words.

China is shunned and excluded from attending this summit as the it reportedly purports to brand China as the enemy of democracy based on the Western terms. As more than one-third of the countries on this planet have been excluded from the Summit for Democracy, it is not a global summit as it was originally conceptualized and thus comes off as an arbitrary, undemocratic and unwholesome endeavor to divide the world further on ideological terms from the Chinese perspective. The exclusion is said to be largely driven by both cultural and ideological biases held against China and other countries by the Biden administration, which seems to be much more committed to regaining U.S. global leadership than to addressing its domestic woes including the pandemic, deep divisions, high crimes, high inflation, and so on.

While such divisiveness is heart-aching, it could be ameliorated by tuning into the Western pop music genre of love songs. British love song "Whole Again" by a girl band called Atomic Kitten boils my blood every time I listen to it because it reminds me of the cruelty of separation, division and exclusion that individuals, groups, institutions, nation-states and civilizations do to one another unnecessarily and foolishly at the cost of suppressing the deep need for connection, conversing and cooperation between and among all the stakeholders.

China no longer suppresses its desire for open dialogue with the "Summit for Democracy." China's release of the white paper has, in a sense, redefined and expanded the summit as an external actor by initiating a global dialogue on democracy even before the summit officially begins its smear campaign against China as an "authoritarian" and "undemocratic" country to be tamed and contained.

In the next few weeks during and after the summit, the world community is, in most likelihood, going to witness and hear the exchanges between China, the host country and some participants, reminiscent of watching a long and engaging folk song duet – a popular dueling singing contest between lovers – a tradition of the Zhuang ethnic community in southwest China's Yunnan Province.

The need to learn from whole-process democracy

Talking about the concept of whole-process democracy, I am reminded of several related English terms such as "hole," "loophole," "whole," "organic," "integral," "wholesome," and the like. Running through these terms seems to be a logical deduction: "whole" refers to the absence of holes/leaks, oversights/mishaps or incompleteness, leaving no stone unturned and something "in an unbroken or undamaged state" or "that is complete in itself." As a result, such democracy would function in a "wholesome" or healthy manner. Otherwise, incomplete democracy or democracy inherent with loopholes would result in malfunction and malfeasance.

There are vast conceptual differences between democracies in China and the West, which deserve deeper dialogues for mutual understanding and mutual benefits. From the perspective of Western democracy, the whole-process democracy may sound micromanaging and intrusive, leaving little personal freedom. However, from the Chinese perspective, whole-process democracy is consistent with the age-old Chinese tradition of citizens treating their officials and government as parental type of figures, who are expected to regularly provide safety, justice and security for their livelihood and happiness.

People of the Hong Yao ethnic group are queuing to vote at Yaokou Village, Rongshui Miao Autonomous County, Liuzhou City, southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, July 22, 2021. /VCG

People of the Hong Yao ethnic group are queuing to vote at Yaokou Village, Rongshui Miao Autonomous County, Liuzhou City, southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, July 22, 2021. /VCG

Thus, from the Chinese perspective of whole-process democracy, Western democracy is full of loopholes. For example, unfulfilled campaign promises, lobbying and the revolving door – typical in the Western democracies but receiving zero tolerance in today's China – undermine the credibility of the democratic institutions and create loopholes for bribery and corruption which benefit the officials, the businesses and special interest groups at the sacrifice of the interests of the general public. Furthermore, certain tax laws result in forming varying tiers of school districts and zip codes which lead to different levels of educational quality and varying qualities of community patrol and eventually the formation of hardened social strata, not to mention racial discrimination and the breakdown of local communities.

Furthermore, from the Chinese perspective, the legal protection and aggressive assertion of personal or individual rights and freedom are the very cause for most of the 800,000 coronavirus deaths and rampant gun violence in the U.S. The rhetoric of personal freedom could be a way for the rich to justify the concept of "lean and mean" management of the "small government," leaving people with little means struggling on their own in the social Darwinist manner. However, unfortunately, to address such structural loopholes and flaws which may be the root cause for the deterioration of Western democracy does not seem to be placed on top of the priority list at the "Summit for Democracy." Instead, China and Russia will be treated as the biggest threats to Western democracy at the summit.

Let us all become whole again

China is being made whole again with the practice of the whole-process people's democracy. Western democracy has many loopholes in its institutional design. It needs to be updated both theoretically and institutionally. I believe that through learning whole-process democracy, the U.S. can make its democracy whole and wholesome again. On the other hand, in implementing and fine-tuning whole-process democracy, China still remains open to genuine advice for improvement from friends around the world, including friends from the Western democracies.

Furthermore, the West cannot be whole without China, and China cannot be whole without the West. Desmond Tutu said it well: "My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." This quote certainly resonates with the central tenet of the ancient Chinese sage Confucius in which he mentions "ren," or co-humanity. Building upon such ancient ideas and modern interpretations, China has been championing to co-construct the community of mankind with a shared future. The whole-process democracy, a contemporary theoretical innovation and possibly an advancement of political civilization incorporating both Chinese wisdom of good governance such as Mencius' idea of "renben," or "people are the basis," and Western ideas such as the ancient Greek concept of democracy, will only play a bigger and bigger role in this endeavor if a theoretical and practical model of good governance in the future decades comes into force. Therefore, to carry on the dialogue between Western democracy and Chinese democracy would be crucial not only for coexistence but also constructive competition, smart collaborations and common prosperity.

To conclude, I hope that President Biden will decide to extend his invitation as soon as possible to all countries around the world – including China and Russia – on the eve of this "Summit for Democracy." 

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at

Search Trends