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John Ross: Democracy and policies in China far greater than the west | Updated: 2021-12-09 10:28
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Editor's note: In a dialogue on democracy in Beijing last Thursday, diplomats, scholars and experts discussed various democracy models in many countries, as well as the changes and functions of democracy in today's world. Below are excerpts from John Ross' speech. Ross is a senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of the Renmin University of China.

Thank you for this invitation to speak.

The word democracy in European languages, derives from two Greek words “demos (people)” and “kratos (rule)”. So, “democracy” means literally “the people rule”.

Democracy is presented as integrally linked to human rights, that is “people’s rights”. This is correct and will be used here. Analysing this real situation shows that China’s framework and delivery on human rights and democracy is far superior to the “West’s”.

But, contrary to this fundamental concept of “rule by the people” an attempt is made in the West, more accurately by liberal capitalist countries, to claim that democracy is instead defined purely in terms of certain formal and official structures which they possess – for example Parliament, so called “division of powers” etc. This is false. The issue of democracy is about how much in reality “rule by the people” exists.

This concentration on certain specific official procedures rather than outcomes can easily be shown to be completely false. What is important for real human beings, and what best demonstrates whether “rule by the people” exists, is the outcome in the conditions of life for real human beings.

To illustrate the real issues involved let us start with a gigantic practical example affecting almost one fifth of humanity – the position of women in China and India. What are the facts on this?

An Indian woman’s life expectancy is 71, in China it is 79.2 – a Chinese woman lives 8 years longer than an Indian woman.

In China female literacy is 95%, in India it is 65%.

The risk of a woman dying in childbirth is 8 times higher in India than in China.

In the real world, for the thinking of any normal human being, the real human rights of a Chinese woman are therefore obviously far superior to those of an Indian woman – very unfortunately for Indian women.

Yet according to the US concept of “democracy” the nonsensical claim is made that the rights of an Indian woman are superior to those of a Chinese woman – because an Indian woman lives in a “Parliamentary Republic”.

Or take Covid. Less than 5,000 people in Mainland China have died from Covid. In the US 778,000 people have died from Covid. But China’s population is more than four times that of the US. If the same number of people per capita had died in China as in US there would be 3,390,000 Chinese people dead instead of less than 5,000. But the US claims human rights and democracy are better in the US than China! What type of absurd reasoning can try to justify such a conclusion which in violation of all the facts on literal matters of life and death – the most fundamental of all human rights?

In summary, in the theory of liberal democracy everything is “standing on it head”. The least important, a formal and in reality non-existent equality, is declared to be the most important while the reality of life is declared to be less important – precisely as the difference in real life conditions between a Chinese woman and an Indian woman.

Socialism, and China, puts everything the right way up. It says that it is the most fundamental that a Chinese women should live 8 years longer, that she should be literate, that she should have a hugely lower risk of dying in childbirth. And then China and socialism starts from what system actually delivers this improvement in the real life of human beings. That is its conception of “rule by the people” and “human rights” is strictly practical.

China extends the same principle as applies to Chinese women to all aspects of society.

China has lifted 850 million people out of internationally defined poverty – that is more than 70% of all those who have been lifted out of poverty in the world.

China has raised itself from almost the world’s poorest country in 1949 to “moderate prosperity” by its national standards and to within two to three years of being a “high income” economy by World Bank standards.

Specific political forms, which is entirely secondary to the real outcomes outlined above, is determined by each country’s history. As Xi Jinping put it, the person wearing the shoe knows whether it fits or not. For example, China’s present political system based on the leading role of the CPC, with other political parties in alliance with the CPC, is specific to China. China does not propose other countries to adopt it. But it notes in the outcomes this shoe has fitted with China’s foot.

But what China has defined as decisive is the real improvement of the real conditions of humanity. That is the real improvement of the “rule by the people”. That is what has been demonstrated by China’s history and real social and political development. These outcomes are what has to be concentrated on in any real discussion of democracy for the life of real human beings.

Thank you very much.

Source: Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

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