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Why China is closer to reality on democracy and human rights than the West

July 3, 2021 GMT

The West defines democracy in the following terms: one person, one vote, in a multiparty election. If a government follows the procedures of such an election, the result is democratic ” a very “procedural-oriented” outcome.

China defines a democratic government as one that delivers the most good to the largest majority of the people. It’s a very “result-oriented” outcome. A government that does not meet the needs of the largest majority cannot be a democracy, regardless of the process. These are two very different definitions.

I believe China’s definition is closer to reality. In the West, an election can easily be hijacked by big money and big media, and becomes a competition of deception, trickery, manipulation, disinformation and even outright lies. Is this democratic?

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So comparing “procedural-oriented” vs “result-oriented”, I’ll take the latter any time. We, the people, need results, not empty talk.

As for freedoms, the West emphasises freedom of speech and freedom to hold elections. China emphasises freedom from violence.

On human rights, the West emphasises the right to liberty, freedom from slavery, freedom from torture, freedom of opinion and expression.

In China, people view the government as having the main responsibility to provide human rights in areas of peace, dignity and equality. And the Chinese government loosely translates these “rights” into practical policy enablers such as education, housing, health care, poverty elimination and public transport.

On education, Chinese policy leads to better social and political awareness in aligning government policies to the needs of the majority of the people.

On housing and health care, the results are pretty obvious.

On poverty elimination, human dignity is upheld.

On public transport, ensuring that people can travel cheaply to anywhere in pursuit of opportunities helps to reduce poverty.

The emphasis on the definition of abstract concepts like democracy, freedom and human rights leads to a lot of misunderstanding. The West believes it is the sole arbiter of the ultimate truth, making the conversation between the two camps very difficult.

We all have limited knowledge and intelligence ” how dare we be so arrogant as to dictate the ultimate answer for others? Our understanding of democracy, freedom and human rights is ” at best ” one interpretation in the pursuit of these abstract ideals of our common humanity. These definitions change as our species evolves.

Michael Yeung, Toronto, Canada

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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