After the talks between President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden, via video link, on Nov 16, The New York Times and other Western media summed up the achievements of the meeting, with one media outlet saying: "The US and Chinese leaders spoke about human rights, Taiwan and trade."
It is true that during their meeting Xi and Biden talked about "human rights" and "democracy". But are human rights more important than the other issues the two leaders discussed, prompting the Western media to accord more importance to "human rights" than the Taiwan question and the other important issues?
First, such reporting shows the Western mainstream media's real concern is not the Taiwan question, as the separatists on the island expected. Western politicians and media also use the Taiwan question as a tool to provoke Beijing.
Second, the Western media still believe, wrongly though, that the Western countries have a far better human rights and democracy record compared with China. But democracy and human rights are no longer the exclusive preserve of the West, and the West is no longer the only one entitled to speak on those issues. After China eradicated absolute poverty and built a moderately prosperous society in all respects in 2020, more and more Chinese people are talking about democracy and human rights with confidence, even in international arenas.
Third, China follows "whole-process people's democracy", which is based on a deeper understanding of democracy. China's socialist whole-process people's democracy can be understood as "from the people, to the people, with the people, for the people". Whole-process people's democracy covers the whole process of election, decision-making, management and supervision, in order to meet people's needs and solve people's real problems. Only such a democracy can be real democracy.
Different from Western-style democracy, China practices real democracy, because it believes the "people are the masters of the country". In the West, people with little or no political experience can become national leaders by winning an election. In contrast, Chinese leaders at all levels must have the experience of working at the grassroots level to be eligible for selection through many elections before becoming high-level officials.
Also, policymaking as a process starts with field investigations, scientific research, consultations on a wide range of issues before being finalized in China. Only then will the decision-makers choose experienced officials to implement those policies.
Democratic management means the management process should be based on the principles of "democracy, fairness, and openness".
Without supervision, absolute power leads to absolute corruption. For example, in China, many high-ranking officials have been removed from their posts because of their poor performance in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. But in the US not one high-ranking official has been fired despite the country having the highest numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
The Communist Party of China has led the socialist construction in China for the past more than seven decades. Compared with the election-centric democracy in the West, "whole-process people's democracy"－its policy formulation process with people's participation, its implementation process which involves as many people as possible, and its results to meet the people's needs－is more suited to China.
Democracy in different countries has its different characteristics, and every country has its own style of democracy. Despite the Western media's obsession with human rights and democracy－without any effort to understand what human rights actually mean－the Chinese people have opted to focus on economic development, because without development and poverty alleviation, no country can build democracy or guarantee its people human rights.
No wonder while the Western media have been trying to smear China, the Chinese government has been reiterating that the right to subsistence and the right to development are the most basic of human rights.
The eradication of absolute poverty last year shows China has a much better human rights record than the West, especially in the United States where African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans are still fighting for their rights. Take the COVID-19 pandemic as another example. While millions of people have been infected and tens of thousands have died in the pandemic in the US, China has saved millions of lives by largely containing the pandemic. So which country has a poor human rights record in this field?
Institutional competition is an important aspect of comprehensive national strength. Although only time will tell who is the winner in this competition, China's whole-process people's democracy has demonstrated its vitality and persistence, which can be seen in the Chinese people enjoying the benefits of the country's development.
(Xu Wenhong, deputy secretary-general of the One Belt One Road Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.The views don't necessarily reflect those of this platform.)