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Contesting democracy & human rights

After a brief lull following Joe Biden taking charge in the White House, increasingly Chinese media commentaries are returning to a harsh and combative tone when it comes to the relationship with the US. There’s tremendous contestation with regard to values. So there have been pieces on democracy and human rights. So on Monday, there was People’s Daily commentary comparing Western and Chinese democracy. It said:

“It is not difficult to find that in the democratic practice of some Western countries, people only have the right to vote but not the right to participate widely. Only when they are awakened during voting, they enter a dormant period after voting. The limitations of national governance caused by this formalist democracy are obvious and even inevitable. The crux of the problem is that we must insist on relying on and for the people in everything. Facts have proved that Chinese-style democracy not only guarantees and supports the people to be the masters of the country, but also effectively transforms the people’s wisdom and power into governance efficiency, so that the people's sense of gain, happiness, and security are more substantial, more secure, and more sustainable.”


Then on Thursday, we had another Zhong Sheng commentary about US “double standards” on human rights. It says that “the U.S. frequently discredited the human rights situation in other countries, but downplayed the human rights issues in its own country. This fully exposed the hypocritical nature of American democracy. U.S. politics has fallen into divisions, and it is difficult to introduce substantive measures to heal racial trauma and restore racial justice. Some politicians even openly embrace the ultra-right ideology and contribute to ‘white supremacy’. The international community has become increasingly aware that the racial crisis in the United States has intensified in recent years, and that political inaction is to blame.” I’d say that it would be foolhardy to dismiss this as mere propaganda for domestic purposes. It is a sign of Beijing’s confidence that it can compete and rather believes that it has a strong hand in competing on norms and values to reshape them.


This piece came as the US released its 2020 human rights report on China. It talked about “genocide and crimes against humanity” targeting Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. It also discusses practices like “arbitrary detention,” “politically-motivated killings,” “torture,” “denial of fair public trials,” “reprisals against individuals located outside the country,” privacy, freedom of expression, press and the Internet and so on. There are also specific sections on Hong Kong and Tibet. MoFA’s Hua Chunying picked on the “genocide” allegation in her response. She lashed out at the US for relying on “lies and disinformation produced by a handful of anti-China forces.” She attacked researchers like Adrian Zenz, and said that “the few so-called ‘witnesses’ are just ‘actors’ and ‘actresses’ the US has used and trained.” She ended with this: “The US has no right whatsoever to criticize China on human rights issue. Let the curtain fall on this US-staged play. It's time for US politicians to wake up from their Truman Show.”


You can read more on this in my weekly newsletter Eye on China.


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