Ignorance in large and powerful countries is particularly
Dangerous to the rest of the world precisely because of the
Capacity of powerful states to inflict damage on the weak1.

People in the Western world believe in liberal democracy as a universal governance system, regardless of culture and history. It provides for individual freedom and economic growth. We are daily bombarded by the media about the advantages of liberal democracy associated with a market-driven economy. When this is not enough, an arsenal of supplementary counter steps is at the disposal of the rich industrialized countries to convince poorer and authoritarian regimes about the virtues of their ideology. They include “humanitarian” warfare, such as the one conducted by the US in Iraq, and various covert operations, including color revolutions and Arab spring initiatives. Beneficiaries of these interventions aiming at the introduction of Western-style democracy are mainly small elites in Western industrialized countries and an even smaller number of handpicked individuals in so-called developing countries.

As this is being written politicians in Western countries repeatedly remind us of the threat of freedom from Russia and increasingly from China. The freedom gospel does not refer to the interconnected inequality among citizens in rich countries and the growing dissatisfaction among people in countries previously colonized by European powers.

It has been confirmed that the forces of (neo-)liberalism transform freedom "into its opposite for the vast majority of the population, as a small, privileged minority can purchase time, goods, services, and security while the vast majority increasingly are relegated to a life without protection, benefits and support"2. This is the American-defined world order, which the group of G7 countries attempts to impose on the entire world. If successful transnational companies would be able to expand their markets to the entire world.

Identifying free nations

Freedom House helps the US government to identify free countries and thus justify US foreign policy towards non-free countries. Freedom House does not compare the outcome of different political systems. It is more concerned about procedures, especially electoral ines, and less about results.

Poverty and inequality have increased not only in Western countries but in all countries existing under rules established by the market-oriented democracy over the past four decades. China is an exception. During the same period, China was able to reduce poverty for 800 million people, whereby it contributed to an overall 75% reduction in global poverty. It continues to be reported as non-free by Freedom House. Since the establishment of the group of non-aligned countries in the 1960'ies, China has been considered "one of us" by developing countries. Its economic and technological development has made it an attractive model and partner to poor, developing countries, which for decades have struggled to improve the welfare of their citizens. According to its official declarations, China does not aim to replace the US world order with a Chinese one, but rather a multilateral order under the auspices of the UN. Because of the likelihood of succeeding, China is by the West considered the most serious threat to Western interests.

Reports prepared by Freedom House seem little concerned about the real influence of the electorate on political choices made, compared to powerful lobby groups. It is assumed here that people's rights and the possibility to participate in law-making processes are a hallmark of being free.

The argument

With military bases strategically located throughout the world, the USA is still considered the world’s number one military superpower. Regardless of this position, it seems unable to halt the progress of China towards becoming equally powerful especially because of its technological development and influence upon a growing number of countries. The West categorizes all governance systems as authoritarian if they do not accept a multi-party system open to universal suffrage. China on its side, argues from the perspective of benefits accruing to people from its administrative system of centralized democracy. The concept of centrality implies the responsibility of the communist party to respond to the needs of the people through a system of vertical layers of consultations, that ensure that the voices of people at the grassroots are connected to the top of the party.

There is a consensus among philosophers, who have dealt with the concept of liberty during the last 500 years that there is no 'necessary connection between individual liberty and democratic rule'3. Freedom is contrasted with coercion and implies deliberate interference of other human beings within areas of individual aspiration. Liberty is best understood as the absence of interference. From this, it follows that freedom is very much possible in an authoritarian kind of government4.

This essay defends the proposition that a governance system that satisfies the needs of the majority of its people and has proven to be capable of bringing millions of its citizens out of poverty, while aiming at building conditions for better lives for all of its people and beyond, is considered more just than the current US-led world order which since the end of the Second World War has failed to improve the welfare of the majority of the worlds poor.

A new cold war

When new alliances are being built or existing ones are being reinforced, narratives are loaded with negative connotations about adversaries. They are labeled as undemocratic, authoritarian, and not free. Descriptions of competitor nations inform audiences that we are talking about dictatorships that threaten individual freedom, world peace, and the current free-market world order.

A Pew study of 2023 found that “A large majority of US. adults (83%) continue to have negative views of China, and the share who have very unfavorable views (44%) has increased since last year. Around four in ten Americans also now describe China as an enemy of the United States, rather than as a competitor or a partner".

Renowned Chinese scholars participating in international conferences note that criticizing China has become the norm. Western Think Tanks have well-established contacts with the media and are often the source of anti-Chinese opinions among Western populations. Media corporations responsible for most of the news available in Western countries are carefully developing an image of China as a country of which freedom-loving people should be afraid. A fearful person is much easier to mobilize against the source of his fear.

American-style democracy

When the Chinese government comments on the much-cherished principle of freedom in Western liberal democracies, it does so from a position of people's right to self-determination. Election campaigns in the West are described as shows, where citizens are made to believe that they have a free choice to elect candidates, ready to fight for their interests, when in fact they have already sold their souls to their financial backers and influential lobby groups. Official Chinese media observe little consultation between grassroots communities and elected officials, be they heads of state or members of the parliament. With particular reference to American elections, the Chinese government questions the actual freedom of electorates to choose candidates of their choice, when campaigns are dominated by the highest bidder.

The 2020 US elections (presidential and congress) had a price tag of 14 billion of US dollars, a large part of which was spent on TV commercials. 0.01% of the American population contributed more than 40% of campaign finance, thus leaving out the average American. However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry notes that election results for the presidency are decided by an electoral college system and not by the actual number of votes cast. Thus, Trump was able to gain the presidency with 62.98 million votes, while Hillary Clinton got 65.85 million votes. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China finds support for its views on American democracy in a Democracy Perception Index prepared by a German NGO from 2021 which found that 50 % of Americans are concerned that the US is an undemocratic country and 59% of US respondents think that their government acts in the interests of a small group of individuals.

Chinese-style democracy

During the last fifty years, China has practiced a virtual decentralized democracy with regular elections to village councils. Often party secretaries attempt to become candidates for the village council, thus obtaining an added degree of legitimacy for the communist party.

Close to one billion people have exerted their voting rights and have a direct influence on their daily lives and policy development by the Central Committee. Following the thinking of Confucius, governance is based on a hierarchical line of communication which assures consultation between the lowest level to the top of the hierarchy of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Policies can in principle originate from anywhere in the hierarchy since there is a free flow of information in both directions. President Xi presents himself as a Confucian ruler building a modern Chinese administration on Chinese culture.

The principle is to put people first—a Confucian principle, deeply rooted in the Chinese ’cultural gene’. This thinking is in line with the idea of centralized democracy, as promoted by Lenin. Ultimately, the principle of centralized democracy justifies the omnipresent power of the communist party, whereby internal peace and stability are assured. Any citizen can stand for local election, once approved by the Chinese Communist Party. The vertical system of communications has made China able to control the COVID pandemic and the implementation of otherwise negatively perceived policies, such as one child per family.

The consultative system of the government hierarchy ensures that state affairs build on consensus between all levels of the system. Readers of China Daily.com could in March 2023 be informed that 98 percent of Chinese people trusted their government and were satisfied with the level of political participation. This is supported by opinion polls undertaken earlier by Western opinion agencies and reported by The Economist in 2010. Such polls show that 87 % of the Chinese population find that their country is heading in the right direction, while only 31 % of English people, 26% of the French, and 30 % of Americans believe that their respective countries are on the right track. Freedom and equality are at the core of the values guiding the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policies. The people's participation in politics is regarded as the "essence" of China's centralized democracy. As written in the Constitution, "state power belongs to people."

Chinese political philosophers are well aware that the CCP needs to introduce social reforms to alleviate economic inequality, which is an obstacle to healthy democratic development. According to a Chinese political scientist close to the Central Committee, the Chinese government is seeking to maintain order and stability, rather than putting social cohesion at risk, if changes are introduced too abruptly. CCP Chairman Xi Jinping recognizes that the free market needs to be controlled by the state, lest injustices will result, similar to those observed in the West. Therefore the party has established rules and procedures that ensure fairness and help to identify corrupt administrators. In 2021, President Xi Jinping set out a timeline for realizing equal access to basic public services by 2035 and for common prosperity to be “basically achieved” by 2050, equivalent to what is known from rich countries of the West5.

Fighting extreme poverty

Western economists were dumbfounded in their conviction in a market-oriented economy as the savior of mankind when China, during the period 1970–2020, brought more than 800 million people out of extreme poverty and thus contributed to a reduction of global poverty by three-quarters. China is the only country, that has made a global impact on poverty reduction by lifting more than half of its population out of poverty6, from surviving on less than $2.15 per person per day.

The Chinese Development Research Center and the World Bank agree that the benefits for the majority of people were the results of government policies. Life expectancy grew from 66 years in 1978 to 77 years in 2019; infant and child mortality fell from 52 in 1978 to 6.8 in 2019. The share of adults that completed lower secondary education almost tripled from 22.8 percent in 1982 to 65.3 percent in 2010. The report stresses that none of this would have been possible without strong and effective governance.

By comparison, poverty in the USA is growing. In 2022, 37.9 million people lived in poverty. 12.4% of Americans now live in poverty, according to 2022 data from the U.S. Census, an increase from 7.4% in 2021. Child poverty also more than doubled to 12.4% in 2022, up from 5.2% the year before.

China in the UN

An increasing number of countries have begun to question the ideology of liberal democracy as the panacea. It is becoming evident to most observers that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not apply to the USA and its allies. Human Rights and the principles of liberal democracy serve merely as instruments to keep other nations in a subservient position to the interests of the political West. China has with Xi made it clear that it will not accept this position.

China asserts itself by gaining a central role in the international system such as the UN, IMF, and the World Bank. President Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has suggested that China should “lead the reform of the global governance system,” transforming institutions and norms in ways that also will reflect Beijing’s values and priorities.

From its position in the UN and support from non-aligned countries, China attempts to advocate for a more flexible definition of democracy and human rights to defend its unique type of governance. This is done from the foundation of five principles of peaceful coexistence: respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference in other nation's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefits, and peaceful coexistence. These principles were introduced in the early 1950s by Xhou Enlay. These principles still constitute the core of China’s foreign policies today.

Declaration on the right to development

A hitherto ignored declaration from the UN is that of the Declaration on the Right to Development, approved by the General Assembly in 1986. The Declaration stresses the role of the state in preparing an enabling environment for all of its citizens to participate freely and meaningfully in their development so that they can benefit from a fair distribution of the results obtained. The declaration emphasizes the right of a people to be the best judges to determine which political system is most fitting to obtain its goals.

The entire General Assembly of the UN voted for the approval of the declaration, except for the US and a handful of Western vassal states. The US stated that development does not occur as the result of rights, but because of economic liberties assured by infinitesimal state regulations. Non-aligned countries and China have kept the debate on the declaration open since 1986 until today. The declaration could serve as a platform for China and associated countries to advocate for multilateral order.

China gets African support

Since the 1960s, narratives created by mainstream media have divided the world into good and evil nations. But these stories are beginning to crack. It is not only China and Russia that no longer wish to accept being categorized according to Western values. These two powers are getting support from a growing number of so-called developing countries in West Africa. Three countries in West Africa have made it clear that they do not wish to continue to take orders from France. Thomas Sankara, a Marxist-inspired officer in Burkina Faso, attempted in 1983 to guide Burkina Faso towards a sovereign status. He was assassinated in 1987 with the compliance of Western powers. In 2020, the military took over in Mali, followed by Burkina Faso in 2022 and Niger in 2023. These coups took place with huge support from the population in the three countries, which cheered when the corrupt but ”democratically elected” leaders were arrested. All three countries have asked French troops to leave. Niger added the US armed forces to the list of unwanted forces on its territory.

After two years of violent turmoil Senegal has joined its three West African neighbors. When the president-elect gave his inaugural speech on April 2, 2024, he promised to aim for system-wide changes.

Future dreams

It seems increasingly obvious that the world is heading for a new world order of a multilateral kind. Such an order would lead to impede everlasting wars watched over or directly conducted by the USA, causing death and misery to innocent people, be that in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Gaza, or elsewhere, but always far from the shores of the US. Former colonies, which have subsisted in the hope for better times with assistance from China, Russia, and equal-minded nations. Resources would be used to reduce inequality rather than immoral wealth creation to a small, privileged group.

The chances for this to happen will depend on preserving the upper hand of China’s leader Xi, thus maintaining the party's authority to develop policies founded on people's trust and acceptance. Future history writers are likely to evaluate the achievements of Xi Jinping as the demanding leader who, with perceptiveness, dared to make the world a better place for all of us.


1 The age if American Unreason. Dumbing down and the future of democracy, by Susan Jocoby, 2008.
2 Against the terror of neoliberalism. Beyond the age of greed, by Henry A. Giroux, Paradigm Publishers, 2008.
3 Two Concepts of Liberty: An Inaugural Lecture delivered before the University of Oxford, October 1958, by Isaiah Berlin.
4 Liberty before Liberalism, By Q.R.D. Skinner, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
5 Where is China heading over the next 50 years?
6 Four Decades of Poverty Reduction in China. Drivers, Insights for the World, and the Way Ahead, by The World Bank, and the Development Research Center of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Washington 2022.