On December 9 and 10, US President Joe Biden held a virtual Summit for Democracy with representatives from 108 selected countries. The summit was intended to forge a common agenda to strengthen democratic institutions, but unfortunately it became paradoxical.
Democracy in the US is mainly a political tool to satisfy its own political goals and interests, but not the interests of the majority of people, which should be the core meaning of democracy. The US has always claimed to be the role model and best teacher of democracy, but ironically it may be one of the most authoritarian countries in the world, when looked at from a global perspective.
History speaks for itself. The US and its allies have been responsible for military operations in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America. The US does not hesitate to use brutal practices, including invasions, against other countries in the name of democracy and human rights, but in reality for the sake of Washington’s own political and economic interests.
The US has consistently applied double standards on democracy and human-rights issues.
The military interventions carried out either directly by the US government or outsourced to private contractors have created chaos, poverty, and injustice in the recipient countries. In fact, these activities have been counterproductive to the fundamental principle of democracy.
Moreover, the US version of democracy only focuses on procedural aspects, while ignoring the substance of democracy, namely the substantial involvement of the people. Procedural democracy is prone to becoming a manipulative political process because it reduces people to only “voters” whose are only required participate in general elections every few years.
According to the US definition of democracy, people are not positioned as the basis and goal of democracy. Democracy should not be interpreted narrowly as a political process that only relies on people’s participation, which is carried out through a general election mechanism, but it should be implemented as an economic and social process that delivers real social welfare for the whole nation.
There is a profound contradiction in US-style democracy itself. Democracy should be the aspiration for the majority to achieve their hope of glory as human beings. Therefore, the substance of democracy must be in the form of economic prosperity, social justice, security, and a decent life. History has proved that the representative democracy advocated by the US produces politicians who speak merely for their own interests.
The US has been manipulating the international community in the discourse of democracy. In the name of democracy, the US government has been interfering in other countries’ internal affairs in undemocratic and uncivil manners. The US is no longer the beacon of democracy, and it should try to prevent its own political decay before educating other countries.
Sun Xi, a China-born alumnus of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, is an independent commentary writer based in Singapore. He is also founder and CEO of ESGuru, a Singapore-based consultancy firm specializing in environmental, social and governance issues.