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Summit of democracy looks back in anxiety: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2021-11-25 19:48
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US President Joe Biden delivers a speech in the White House in Washington, the US, Nov 23, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

It has been said that a good leader is a dealer in hope. That the only way to successfully lead people is to offer them a vision of a better future. Instead, the so-called Summit of Democracy the US administration will convene early next month is a gathering to recall the past. It is meant to remind the US' allies of their "victory" in the Cold War under US leadership.

The invitation of China's Taiwan as a participant betrays the nature of the gathering, which is anything but democratic. It is simply another prop in Washington's geopolitical box of tricks, and points to US President Joe Biden's untrustworthiness.

The invitation of the Chinese island as a political entity to the summit flies in the face of the promise President Biden made to President Xi Jinping during their virtual meeting in the middle of this month that the United States would abide by the one-China policy.

Not only does it call into question his trustworthiness, but it has, ipso facto, sent an encouraging message to secessionists on the island, increasing tensions across the Taiwan Straits and narrowing the space for the improvement of China-US relations.

By dividing the world into participants and nonparticipants — those willing to fall in line behind the US and those who aren't — the summit will inevitably deepen the geopolitical divisions that are impeding concerted actions to deal with what really are serious and pressing common challenges.

Washington stubbornly resists accepting that the world today is not what it was four decades ago. The US is not what it was then either. But the mentality of politicians in Washington remains pickled in the aspic of the 1980s.

A gathering aimed at drawing up ideological lines to instigate another Cold War is merely an excuse for reminiscing about the heyday of the US-led VIP club. It is of no practical value in helping to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the climate crisis or stimulating a global economic recovery.

The interdependence between different countries in terms of supply chains is so unprecedented that there is no political, cultural and material foundation for the world to have another clear-cut division on ideological lines.

Even if the US administration can somehow conjure up a vision that captures the imagination of the other participants, the US is no longer what it was. It is beyond its capabilities to make that vision a reality by force of will. It should heed the observation of one esteemed historian that when the gap between ideal and real becomes too wide, systems tend to break down.

In the latest annual report released by the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the US has been added to the annual list of "backsliding" democracies for the first time. So even in terms of democracy, the US is not qualified to hold such a summit.

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