China, not India, is the world’s biggest democracy, an op-ed in Chinese state media claims

Not so fast, Modi.
Not so fast, Modi.
Image: Reuters/Kenzaburo Fukuhara
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For many years, India has been dubbed the world’s biggest democracy, based on the country’s over 1 billion people. But that’s just not true, argues an op-ed in the Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid. In fact, that title belongs to China, says Han Zhen, head of Beijing Foreign Studies University—one the nation’s top schools for learning languages—in an Aug. 27 column (link in Chinese).

Western media outlets depict India as the “world’s biggest democracy” and describe Obama and Modi as leaders from ”the world’s two biggest democracies,” Han writes. By doing this, he argues, they nudge people towards an incorrect conclusion: that China is not a democracy.

“We need to not only criticize the fabricated Western democracy, but also clarify our own country’s democracy,” he argues, adding that China has the right to talk about and define its own democratic values. Han is also the director of a government-backed research center that exports Chinese culture.

Image for article titled China, not India, is the world’s biggest democracy, an op-ed in Chinese state media claims
Image: The Global Times

China’s Communist Party took power in 1947, and has since then ruled the country without a break, and without calling for a populist vote. Citizens who oppose or criticize the party and its leaders are regularly detained by the government, and state-backed censors closely monitor and control the information that’s available in the country, as well as individual speech on line.

So why is China a democracy? Han’s argument goes as follows:

  • The essence of the Western democracy is to keep capitalism running. Western democracy even differs in different Western countries. Why does China need to adhere to Western standards used to judge democracy?
  • Western democracy is not suitable to every country. He notes the Arab Spring, and Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution. A country first needs orders and rules before it can enjoy democracy.
  • The National People’s Congress system is modern China’s democracy. Under it, each ethnic group and social class can take part in policy-making and choose their leadership, Han says. In some countries, by contrast, only a few powerful political families can be the leaders, as their democracy is controlled by capitalists and interest groups.
  • China’s democracy is not only about a right to vote. It’s also about democratic consultations on the economy, politics, culture, and various aspects of society.

China’s government system is clearly the most suitable one for China, he adds, considering the nation’s incredible development in the past decades. ”We should speak with great confidence that China is the world’s biggest democracy. If we don’t, it means we have admitted we are a non-democracy.”