Symposium on Western Democracy in Africa

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Today 10th December, His Excellency Chen Huixin, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Chinese Embassy in Uganda gave a key note address during a Democracy Symposium organised by Kampala International University and Uganda Council on Foreign Relations under the theme “Dissecting Western Democracy in Africa.” Below is H.E Chen Huixin’s speech;

Protocol observed,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon! It gives me great pleasure to attend the Democracy Symposium organised by KIU and UCFR, on behalf of the H.E. Zhang Lizhong, Chinese Ambassador to Uganda. I wish to make some remarks as follows:

First, democracy could be and should be realised in multiple ways. We in China often say that “language dialects change every ten miles, and folk customs differ every 100 miles”. On the African continent, there are many different features – rich savanna in the east, broad desert in the north and dense jungle in the west and centre. Different soils produce different crops and cultures. And that is also true with the diverse world with so many countries. As the saying goes that “personality is shaped by the environment”, democracy should also be moulded by the conditions on the ground. No two leaves in the world are completely the same. Likewise, a one-size-fits-all model of democracy for the whole world does not exist, and there is no democratic system that can claim to be perfect or superior to others.

When dissecting Western democracies and interventions in Africa, it is not difficult for one to draw the conclusion that: imposed democracy does not work, and African countries should not be lectured about how to build their own democracy. In other words, for democracy to succeed in a country, it must take deep roots in that country, and make its own people happy and satisfied. If you look at the world, be it in Afghanistan, Libya or Iraq, democracy imposed through color revolutions all ended in catastrophe. And at the end of the day, it is the innocent people that bear the brunt and suffer.

Second, as for which country’s democracy is good or bad, people living in that country have a natural feeling and say. Therefore, a basic criterion of democracy should be about the people, i.e., whether the people have the right to govern their country, whether their needs are met, and whether they have a sense of fulfilment and happiness. If the people are only awakened when casting their votes and sent back to hibernation when the voting is over, if they are served with sweet-sounding slogans in campaigns but have no say after the election, if they are wooed during canvassing but left out in the cold after that, this is not a genuine democracy.

On who has the right to define democracy, I find that there are a lot of similarities between China and Uganda. For example, in his speech at the swearing-in ceremony earlier this year, H.E. President Museveni said, “It is quite comic to hear of some actors in the world, giving us lectures about democracy! We designed this system, not from air-conditioned rooms, but from the jungles of our country where we lived with the people for much of the 16 years of the Resistance (1971-1986).”

Third, democracy is a shared value of all human beings and a critical philosophy that the Communist Party of China has unswervingly upheld. The Party always stays committed to the path of socialist political advancement with Chinese characteristics, works to ensure that the Party’s leadership, the people’s position as masters of the country and law-based governance form an indivisible whole, and firmly opposed the delusion of some political thoughts in Western countries including what they call the power rotation among multiple political parties, thus embarking on a democratic path of developing whole-process people’s democracy.

China’s whole-process people’s democracy is a complete institutional chain, including electoral democracy, consultative democracy, social democracy, primary-level democracy, citizen democracy, and all other elements of democratic politics. It covers democratic elections, democratic consultation, democratic decision-making, democratic management, democratic supervision, and all other fields of the democratic process. It is not only based on a complete institutional procedure but also full participation and practice. It is a democracy in terms of process and outcome. It achieves the integration of procedural and substantive democracy, and direct and indirect democracy. It is people’s democracy and at the same time represents the will of the state. As a result, the Chinese people have strong confidence in their political system. And the fundamental reason is that China’s whole-process people’s democracy is highly democratic in terms of both quantity and quality, and is sincerely welcomed by the Chinese people. This is the true democracy of the people.

By reviewing the gains and losses of political development at home and abroad, the Party keenly realised that China’s political civilisation and political system are deeply rooted in China’s society and soil. It will not work for China, or Uganda or other countries for that matter, to copy the political systems of other countries, what’s worse, it may even ruin the country’s future.

Fourth, our world is going through a pandemic and changes unseen in a century. Humanity faces unprecedented risks and challenges. Now more than ever, the world needs to come together and respond collectively. However, a certain country is putting together the so-called Democracy Summit as self-styled leader of democracy. It divides countries into different levels of a hierarchy, labels them as democratic or undemocratic, and points fingers at other countries’ democratic systems. This actually reveals the hostile mindsets and intentions of some Western countries, namely, democracy is just a tool to repress anyone who disagrees with them and to contain the development of other countries. It is in itself, not democratic at all.

Last but far from the least, in order to safeguard fairness and justice, and promote democracy in international relations, China is willing to work with the international community, including Uganda, so that people of all countries can truly enjoy broader and more substantial rights and freedom.

Thank you!



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