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The third International Forum on Democracy kicks off in Beijing


 , Updated 10:49, 21-Mar-2024

The third International Forum on Democracy: The Shared Human Values kicked off in Beijing on Wednesday. Nearly 300 officials and experts from 70 countries and regions discussed how to realize democracy in the modern and digital age.

The speeches look to inspire discussions at sub-forums, exploring four areas of democracy: modernized governance, legal governance in the digital era, an AI-innovated future and global governance in a multipolar world.

Li Shulei, minister of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, delivered a keynote speech at the opening ceremony. He noted that China's democracy always serves Chinese modernization. It takes solving the urgent and challenging issues of the people as its starting point and ultimate goal, and actively responding to and meeting the diverse needs and expectations of the people.

He added that in China, from major national policies to social governance, from basic needs to education, employment, medical care and elderly care, people have a place to express their wishes and appeals, and they also receive actual benefits.

"These efforts help realize democratic values aligned with democratic efficacy," Li said.

Gao Xiang, president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said at the forum that China's democratic system is rooted in the excellent traditional culture and it continues to innovate and develop in the practice of ensuring that the people are the masters of the country.

The CPC proposes and develops whole-process people's democracy, and continuously transforms the value and concept into scientific and effective institutional arrangements and concrete and realistic democratic practices, Gao said.

Shen Haixiong, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee and the president and editor-in-chief of China Media Group, urged to break the erosion of "discourse hegemony" and "colored glasses" on the global democratic ecology at the forum.

He said, "Democracy is neither a 'patented product' nor a 'single-choice question.' It is undemocratic to look at this colorful political civilization from a monotonous and rigid perspective."

Other foreign leaders and officials echoed Shen's views, saying democracy should not be a singular choice, which doesn't fit the needs of developing the global south.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, former prime minister of Thailand, highlighted some of the deficiencies of global governance that he thinks require urgent fixing, saying there are many emerging countries and economies that are now very influential and more relevant to global affairs, but they're underrepresented in the current organizations. He urged to correct the imbalance, because "it is only fair and more democratic."

"[For the] last three decades we have also been unable to reform the international organizations that make up the system of global governance. We don't have an effective or democratic system of global governance," said Vejjajiva.

Stephen Perry, chairman of the 48 Group Club, applauded China's democracy. He said hearing the voice of the people is simpler in China than it is in the West. He said that Chinese leaders did enormous research into what the people were thinking, feeling, experiencing and wanting, so they could make "the greatest transformation of society" that ever occurred in the world since 1978.

"If it wasn't meeting the needs of the Chinese people, it would not succeed," said Perry, adding, "I think China is on its way to a good form of democracy. It hears its people. It tends to do what its people want."

Former Prime Minister of Italy Massimo D'Alema said each country should decide on its political system and apply the principles of sovereignty and non-interference. He expressed his opposition to the Cold War mindset and ideological confrontation, saying it ends up resulting in a rigidity that is not conducive to the affirmation of human rights and democratic principles.

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