The projection of China as a world power is not only economic and geopolitical.
It is also beginning to be so in the political and ideological dimension, in terms of what is called “soft power” and the battles for cultural hegemony: as ideas, images and symbologies that influence the political development of countries and national debates.
The pandemic also brings another factor to this global struggle: the question of the most effective or “successful” “models” for overcoming the health crisis affecting humanity.
This was demonstrated by the recent Summit of the Communist Party of China and Political Parties of the World, a virtual mega-event held as part of the celebrations for the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party, attended by leaders from more than 160 countries, led by the President of the People’s Republic of China and General Secretary of the Party Central Committee, Xi Jinping.
There was a bit of everything. Among them, many Latin American leaders and leaders: Argentine President Alberto Fernández, who is also currently leader of the Justicialista Party and leader of the government coalition, the Frente de Todos; the President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, Secretary General of the Cuban Communist Party; Evo Morales, former president of Bolivia, accompanied by a delegation from the MAS (Movement for Socialism), currently in power in his country; representatives of communist parties from various countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and representatives of European movements of the alternative left.
Also present were the President of South Africa and leader of the ruling party, the African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa, and the former Russian president and deputy minister of the country’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, as well as leaders with democratic credentials. doubtful like Nursultan Nazarbayev, former head of state of Kazakhstan, from 1990 to 2019, and Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines who reigns with martial law and summary executions. There were hardly any women among the participants.
What is new is that at this stage of its “peaceful rise”, the People’s Republic of China, while upholding the principle of non-interference on the international scene, becomes more active in welcoming, encouraging and promoting political forces disenchanted, critical or openly opposed to liberal democracy as it is conceived, established and carried out in the Western world and spread across the world over the past century.
After the third wave of democratization, as defined by Samuel Huntington, which accompanied the end of the Cold War (1974-1990), and the fourth wave of democratization, which energized many other mobilizations and advances in the achievement of In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, indicators have long been observed which show the entry into a cycle of inversion, recession or regression of democracy, affecting both the central countries with mature democracies and the world emerging, to more recent democracies.
This is a clear challenge to the decline of US leadership in this area, which can be read in two ways: as a repeat of East / West bipolarity, with Beijing taking over from Moscow during the Cold War, or as encouragement of multipolarity and multilateralism – the two tendencies can be competing or divergent and conflicting.
At the summit, host Xi Jinping stressed that “the judgment of whether a country is democratic or not should be made by its own people, and not by a handful of others.”
Xi also stressed the role of “political parties as an important force in the progress of mankind” and went on to say that they “must chart the right course and shoulder the historic responsibility of ensuring the well-being of the human race. people”.
This is the substantial difference: there are those who believe that “the right path” has already been written and trodden in the past and that only this fixed path can be taken, repressing or despising those who deviate from it, and there are those who I believe that such a path is defined as ensuring that people can express themselves freely, choose and decide their destiny.
We therefore welcome this recognition by the People’s Republic of China of the importance of “political parties”, in the plural. Although in China there is only a part of it, of course, this could be evidence of a greater approximation and understanding on the part of the Chinese rulers of the historical experience of Western modernity, of which part of Latin America, with its peculiarities.
Since the first struggles for emancipation in the 19th century, the Latin American peoples have formed political parties to achieve self-determination, have waged bloody civil wars, suffered dictatorships and found in pluralist democracy the least bad system. policy to resolve their conflicts and live together in peace. .
Therefore, those who praise the “Chinese model” or seek to reproduce “one-party democracy” as a supposed alternative to pluralist democracy are missing the point.
They do not believe that a true democracy should guarantee free and competitive elections. They are not overly concerned with the fundamental importance of free speech and the right to criticize and protest, regardless of government or the content of its policies.
They do not believe that the alternation of power between different political forces is beneficial for societies. They justify the admissibility of censoring, banning, persecuting or suppressing those who question the ability of a government to control all the levers in the life of a country.
They must recognize that what they really demand is some form of dictatorship, whatever the reasons and the justifications. They don’t do it because they can’t credibly support the supposed benefits of dictatorship. It is then easier to preach on the shortcomings of democracies.
China, for its part, is watching impatiently. And he projects his vision of the world on a planetary scale.
This text is an enlarged version of a text originally published in Clarin, Argentina.
Translation from Spanish by Dâmaris Burity.