Many in the world have been led to believe that China and democracy are mutually contradictory. This comes as no surprise, because with help of the media and sometimes academia, this narrative has been pushed beyond facts and verifiable truth－and because democracy appears to be vested exclusively with Western criteria and traits.
As a set of values shared by humankind to help improve people's well-being, democracy has been, and still is, the aspiration and political objective of almost all nations. It is on that basis that democracy should be defined: a set of values in a given society, not a political system per se.
In China, the State enjoys more legitimacy, more authority and more approval than in any other major country, because it carries a very special meaning as the representative, embodiment and the protector of the nation
In China, people have the right to participate in politics but in an institutional arrangement different from those in many countries. In his speech at the General Debate of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly, President Xi Jinping explained what democracy means to China:"Democracy is not a special right reserved to an individual country, but a right for the people of all countries to enjoy. We need to advocate peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, which are the common values of humanity…"
These common human values are the centripetal force that drives the Chinese policymakers. Democracy should be judged by how much people's wishes are being fulfilled by the government. Democracy should serve the end goal, rather than just be a fixed format to which assumptions and practices can be applied.
A white paper issued by China's State Council Information Office titled "China's Political Party System: Cooperation and Consultation" noted that the most appropriate system for a country is determined by its history, traditions and realities. While highlighting that the Communist Party of China upholds values such as equality, democratic consultation and sincere cooperation to build State power at all levels, the white paper points out that China's political system embodies the essence of Chinese traditions, reflects the intrinsic requirements of socialism, and conforms to China's realities and its governance needs.
To many countries, especially those in the West where the public is used to a highly confrontational political discourse, socialist consultative democracy might appear as an aberration. But in China, such dogmatic narratives are almost unheard of, not only in the political sphere but also on the social front. There are no public accusations and counter-accusations, no put-on shows to serve self-interests.
In China, words have enormous weight, and when something is said, the words carry the importance of the position of the speaker or institution that utters them. When words take the shape of an official document or form the speech of a political leader, they convey a message from the nation.
The relationship between the State and society in China is different from that in the West. In China, the State enjoys more legitimacy, more authority and more approval than in any other major country, because it carries a very special meaning as the representative, embodiment and the protector of the nation.
Trying to understand China by simply using preconceived Western notions of democracy would be wrong, the same way as trying to project one's values, opinions and subjective ideas on others would be simplistic and deceitful.
The notion of democracy in the era of neo-liberalism has been distorted. An analysis of the data from post-colonial democracies, some Eastern European countries and some Balkan states shows that what was promised as democracy is a never-ending transitional stage where only "turbo-capitalism" prevails. These countries are being eroded by injustice, their institutions are being replaced by shadow organizations serving only a few, and their social fabric has been torn apart. It is this type of democracy－driven by power, greed and corruption－that is being projected on the world stage as the right path to follow.
In China, the State ensures that everyone lives with dignity, which is what, among other things, a democracy should deliver to the people.
For the skeptics, they are advised to get information from the source if they want to know the truth. So anybody interested in knowing about China should visit and stay in the country for some time, learn about the history that has made the Chinese people so proud of their past and their culture, talk with the local people and hear their personal stories, spend time on a Chinese university campus and be challenged by the myriad of ideas and perspectives, and ask the Chinese people why they feel so optimistic about their future and where their nation is heading.
China's democracy embraces the people-centric philosophy under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. And socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics is being constantly enriched, improved and developed.
The author is executive director of the Albanian Institute for Globalization Studies.
The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.