By Herman Tiu Laurel
As I start this article, the feverish preparation in China for the Communist Party of China (CPC) must be settling down as the opening of the congress itself slated for Oct. 16 is imminent in less than 24 hours.
The world is in suspenseful anticipation after a whole year of speculation, especially by Western think tanks and media, of the much analyzed probably the third term for President Xi Jinping and the new leadership line up for China.
The quinquennial CPC National People’s Congress is the highest organ of state power and the national legislature of the People’s Republic of China, with 2,288 elected to attend this congress and at least 33.6 percent drawn from party frontline and production workers and more delegates from women and ethnic minorities.
The CPC always strives for balanced representation and minority affirmative action. It is so unlike the Western and our models where millionaires and oligarchs dominate.
The West constantly questions China’s qualifications to merit calling itself a “people’s democracy” because it is said to have no elections to choose its leadership, but Chinese intellectuals have explained that China does have elections at certain levels of government and it also impose a “meritocracy” (quotation marks for emphasis) but selecting the most meritorious for the ascending ladder of leadership, a characteristic that has made China’s democracy the best in the world.
China’s robust democracy
The West, ever insistent on the virtues of its electoral democracies based on elections as a minimum standard do all sorts of surveys every year to prove their democracies’ worth over other claimed democratic systems.
One of these surveys is conducted by the Copenhagen-based non-profit Alliance of Democracies Foundation (ADF) survey conducted in 53 countries on how those societies appreciate democracy and rate their country’s system as a democracy.
The ADF conducts the survey through Latana, a Berlin-based consumer research group polling 53,000 people in 53 countries, and since it is done by Western organizations there should be no doubt about the impartiality for the Western audiences when its conclusions contradict Western perceptions.
I have been following this Democracy Perception Index for at least the past five years and I am not surprised at its final conclusion, but others may still be shocked at its findings.
The survey’s questionnaire raises many items but two main points are the most revealing. First, how important is democracy and, second how democratic is your country. Two countries are also compared side by side, China and the supposedly World’s biggest democracy India. The conclusion from Sandipan Deb, reporter of “moneycontrol” website I draw some insights to this article which said, “The biggest surprise is that the country which perceives itself as the most democratically contented in the world is—China!
Chinese, India, US democracy
How important is democracy to you, the question was asked to Chinese and Indian respondents. Sadipan Deb reports, “Ninety-one percent of Chinese believe democracy is important and... The corresponding India figures are 82 percent...” While on the question whether they feel their country is democratic or not, 83 percent of the Chinese feel their country is democratic while only 70 percent of Indians feel their country is democratic. This latter figure is termed the sense of “democratic deficit” of which China’s is the lowest.
While satisfaction in the level of democracy is highest in China and Asia as a whole, dissatisfaction with the level of democracy is highest in Latin American countries and sentiment has also increased most in European countries such as Greece, France, Austria, and the Netherlands since the previous survey in 2021. In Turkey, where President Erdogan has been in power since 2014, the figure stands at almost 75 percent.
America, supposedly the cradle of democracy, is perceived by 32 percent of its citizens as not having free speech, 42 percent don’t believe they enjoy equal rights and 31 percent believe their elections are not fair, while 63 percent of its people believe their government does not act in favor of the majority of the people which is up from 52 percent in 2020. The light from the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor seems to be darkening ever more in this 21st Century.
Philippine democracy perception
According to the survey, 75 percent of Filipinos perceive their country as democratic, higher than India’s 70 percent but lower than Chinese perception of democracy in their country at 83 percent. 18 percent of Filipinos feel they do not have enough democracy, 48 percent believe it just the right amount of democracy while 25 percent believe the Philippines has too much democracy. So only a plurality sees Philippine democracy as just right while 52 percent total believe either it’s not enough or too there’s much of it.
On the very crucial question of whether government serves the minority or majority interest the results are: 27 percent believe their government just serves the minority that is “a small group in my country”. On the question of “Political leaders in my country are elected in free and honest elections” only 9 percent disagree. On the threats to democracy 78 percent agreed to “Economic Inequality” as a major threat. 56 percent agree that free speech is limited, unfair and fraudulent elections 71 percent agree, corruption 76 percent agree.
There is an apparent contradiction between the 9 percent disagreement with the belief that the country has the right amount of democracy while having 71 percent agree with the statement that unfair and fraudulent elections exist, but then public perception of election fraud, vote buying and even election violence is a mixed bag of acceptance, toleration and even acquiescence such as accepting vote-buying which is a nationwide practice.
Democracy in Peril
The results of the Democracy Perception Index have been consistent the past years confirming vast popular and growing support of Chinese democracy from its people while increasing pessimism in most Western electoral democracies. I should hurry to add here that Vietnam also enjoys the same trends as China, a similarly election-selection meritocratic democratic system. Singapore, likewise, is a system more akin to China and Vietnam in all actuality, or behind the façade of its elections.
The Philippines has a lot to learn about genuine and real democracy that serves the majority of its people and not only a miniscule minority that have acquired control of the political-security-economic institutions of society to imprison the minds and hostage the economic survival of the people in its stockade to feed its – the oligarchy – profit and power mania.
Elections cannot change and has never changed that; they have only aggravated the conditions for the people’s welfare to wilt and die.
We need only cite the power industry and the EPIRA law which has perpetuated the spiraling high prices of electricity killing foreign and domestic investment, dried up not tax revenues of government, extracted every last ounce of sustenance from the masses, and bans government from providing cheap electricity to kick off development. The oligarchy’s media spin machine befuddles the hungry, desperate nation into the stupor of poverty. Instead of an oligarchy that is evolving into a new aristocracy as rulers, the Filipino must study and consider new alternatives, a democracy with Filipino characteristics that absorbs the values of meritocracy, a public service elite and vanguard that will serve permanently with a continuing, internally self-renewing leadership as can be witnessed in the progressing countries that have used such meritocratic-selective leadership mechanism.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Office of the Press Secretary.
About the Columnist
Herman Tiu Laurel is a veteran journalist and founder of think tank PHILIPPINE-BRICS Strategic Studies.