By Herman Tiu Laurel
My apologies for viscerally upsetting some readers who may find “vomit” too revolting a metaphor. I wanted to make a deep impression on the hypocrisy and presumptuousness of American President Joe Biden’s call for a “Summit for Democracy” said to “galvanize commitments and initiatives across three principal themes, namely: defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.”
The truth is: the U.S. and its brand of democracy it is being vomited out by many of its own allies in the West and generally by nations the world over.
For three years now, I have been following the Democracy Perception Index (DPI) global survey conducted by the E.U.-based Alliance of Democracies Foundation founded in 2017 by former NATO Secretary General and former Denmark PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen. This year’s survey is conducted by Latana, the market research group.
The Democracy Perception Index survey is conducted with 50,000 subjects in 53 countries, representative of over 75% of the World. A key question in 2021 is the “perceived threat to democracy” where 44% saw “US’s influence” as the “biggest perceived threat to democracy” to only 38% of China’s. In the 2020 DPI survey, 36% of Americans believe “there is not enough democracy in their country” compared to only 11% in China say the same thing about democracy in their country.
The DPI survey is commissioned by a personality and institution, Anders Fogg Rasmussen and NATO, that are staunchest allies of U.S. yet, for three consecutive years it has found that Chinese and Asian perception of its democracy is better than Americans of their U.S. government and their responses to the Covid-19 crisis. In the 2021 DPI survey 75% of Asians were satisfied with their country’s response while in Europe only 45% were satisfied.
Biggest Threat – Economic Inequality
Key findings on threats to democracy: Limits on Free Speech, 53%; Unfair or Fraudulent Elections, 49%; Power of Big Tech, 48%; Foreign Election Interference, 42%; and Russia’s Influence, 28%. The poll found that the number one threat to democracy is Economic Inequality, which was chosen by 64% of all 50,000 respondents in the 53 countries. This fact confirms what China and many others have been saying over the decades – Economic Democracy trumps Political Democracy.
Nowhere is evidence of the correlation between economic equality to democracy clearer than in homeownership ratios between the U.S. and China. In 2020, those who owned their homes in China consisted of 90% of all households (87% in urban and 96% in rural China). In contrast, homeownership in the US dropped to 65.4% from 2017 to this day (US Census Bureau, Nov. 2 2021); this has brought about the emergence of “generation rent” and the 600,000 (and growing) homeless Americans today.
The US failure on this front should chastise the America from pontificating and lecturing the world on “Democracy” while teaching itself the correct concepts, that is, economic democracy is first and political democracy flows from that. This has been highlighted in China’s recent disciplining of its oligarchs and financial markets, tamping down profits for profits sake and ensuring economic distribution of wealth.
ASEAN, Asian and most societies are of the same mind as China – economic growth and prosperity first and sharing them with the people. Hence, vote buying and money-power of oligarchs and politicians can be minimized in elections Thus, Human Economic Rights is paramount – food, healthcare, education and shelter. These are all necessities that China provides better than the US has ever done though the latter has plunked down $ 8-trillion for its 20-year war since 2001.
U.S.: Heal thyself
Americans are themselves the worse critics of Biden’s “Summit for Democracy”. NYT diplomatic correspondent Michael Crowley wrote “In the weeks since Mr. Biden’s election, however, American’s own democracy has been staggering… a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capital…” in what is now known as the January 6 coup attempt, while recent court rulings on the Rittenhouse and Strickland cases focus on US inequality before the law.
Having just narrowly escaped a authoritarian and irrational state under Trump America still quakes in its boots from the prospect of a 2021 Trump return. Meanwhile, the US electoral system has placed its democracy under the money power of the oligarchy through the 2010 “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited funds on elections and current election reforms that are aimed at voter suppression, especially of the black communities.
As more and more Americans admit, the US two-party system is increasingly seen as a monumental failure as it incentivizes divisive politics and polarization of the nation, Even the founding fathers had deep misgivings about it, including John Adams who worried that “a division of the republic into two great parties… is to be dread(ed) as the great political evil.” Third party candidates, like Ralph Nader and Ross Perot, have tried to break the political duopoly to no avail.
In the past month, a jury acquitted 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse who killed 2 with an AR-15 carried across state lines “to defend” properties not his against Black Lives Matter marchers protesting the Jacob Blake, shot 7 times in the back by a White policeman who wasn’t charged. In the same week, black Kevin Strickland was freed from imprisonment convicted by an all-white jury for a crime his didn’t do 42-years. These are just two of countless cases of injustice in so-called American democracy.
Confused summit guest list
The Biden summit is designed and calculated to boost the image of the U.S. as a democracy and put down others, such as China and Russia, who have both been immensely more successful in fulfilling economic and political expectations their own populations and of the world. Wang Wenbin, China’s MFA spokesman cited the poll of the Alliance of Democracies that found that 44% of the world’s population see US influence as a greater threat to democracy than China or Russia.
China and Russia rejected Biden’s summit as “Cold War Mentality” that is polarizing instead of harmonizing the world. China’s Wang Wenbin questioned. “… does the US have the moral authority or legitimacy to host the ‘Summit for Democracy’?” Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s elected PM Abiy Ahmed accused the US of supporting Tigray rebels, while Solomon Island’s elected PM Sogavare indicted “foreign powers” (read: US) of stoking violent protests due to its recognition of PROC over Taiwan.
Latin America’s uninvited: Bolivia, booted out US-backed coup d’état president Jeanine Añez and elected indigenous leader Morales’ party candidate Luis Arce in 2020; Venezuela, Maduro won against US-puppet Juan Guaido; in Nicaragua, socialist Ortega won in 2021; in the Honduras, Xiomara Castro (wife of Manuel Zelaya who was ousted in a US-backed coup in 2009) won against US-backed National Party candidate. All of these popular governments were democratically elected but uninvited.
The ASEAN snubbed: Thailand, had elections in 2019; Vietnam, has the highest growth rate; the one-party states of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and surprise of surprises Biden also snubs Singapore for having a dominant party that never loses elections. Equally shocking is the unexpected invitation to the Philippines’ President Duterte despite sanctions and insults on him of so-called human rights violations (seems VFA needs overpowers democratic values!).
Biden’s big shows
Biden’s big show for American democracy and global leadership flops even before the curtain rises. Despite this, the U.S. insists on staging parades in the midst of U.S. domestic troubles, schisms and economic-financial crises. In January 2022, Biden will be staging another show, a meeting with ASEAN leaders in Washington. I wonder how many will show up after half of them have already been insulted in this Summit for Democracy.
Biden wants to host the meet with ASEAN “to help them deal with the continuing coronavirus outbreak and other challenges”; this is as if the US Covid-19 death rate would inspire ASEAN confidence.
But Biden needs morale boosting shows after the outstanding successes of the recent China-ASEAN Summit where ties were upgraded to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” and China’s hosting of the “World Political Parties summit” in July 2021 with 160 countries and 500 delegates in attendance.
The continuing peaceful rise of China and its dazzling success on all fronts has been hitting the U.S. in the gut; and the result is what we see from Biden -the barfs scattering all around.
As French geopolitical intellectual Thierry Meyssan has opined that the U.S. is now priming the destruction of Africa. As he wrote last November, “After Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, the chaos is spreading to Ethiopia and soon to Eritrea” to demolish the beautiful work of China’s BRI with Africans.
2021 Key Finding | Threats to Democracy