Once again USA has played host to a Democracy Summit. Last year they held this Summit in Taiwan, which was something of a surprise; although Taiwan is perhaps the most recent of all places to embrace democracy, it has, during most of our lifetimes’, been a staunch autocracy with extended penalties, mass incarcerations and extra-judicial murders. Taiwan residents still have the horrors of the recent White Terror Period in their memories, real democracies would not only decry, but atone for and convict the people responsible, the “international Community”, seems to give Taiwan a pass on this.
The island of Taiwan was declared, by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit, to be Asia’s top democracy overtaking both Japan and Korea but there seems to be a contradiction here; China has always said it doesn’t interfere in Taiwan’s elections but the US narrative is full of China’s “intimidation and coercion”. One of them must be wrong – either China interferes or, as the Economist suggests, Taiwan has free and fair elections, they can’t both be right.
However, what the Economist sees as top-quality democracy seems to go over the heads almost all international media which, just 13 months before, carried headlines such as: Taiwan politicians exchange punches and throw pig guts in parliament debate over US pork” and that wasn’t the first time, punches were thrown in 2017, again in 2020 and again in 2021.
So, if we’re looking for fine examples of democracy, Taiwan is indeed a strange choice. Which is perhaps why this 2023 event was held mostly online and, to give more US friends a fair crack at the whip, was co-hosted by five countries; the USA, Costa Rica, Netherlands, Republic of Korea and Zambia.
President Biden made an appearance to reaffirm something we all know to be true: we are at a “turning point for our world…” He went on to say: “toward greater freedom, greater dignity and greater democracy”. But the “turning point” raises questions.
Even their own surveys acknowledge that US democracy is failing 85% of respondents to this survey felt the US is in need of reform or major changes.
The election of a speaker lasted four full days and went through 15 rounds of voting before a governance-weakening compromise was reached. That was four days of no US governance. Given these issues, the US leading changes towards a turning point in democracy is something we should be more worried, than reassured about.
Most people have never heard of the V-Dem Report, V-Dem is a Swedish based think tank which creates an annual report on the state of democracy, their 2022 report agrees with Biden, the world is turning. Turning away from Liberal Democracies into Autocracies but what their findings demonstrate is that one of the leading countries in that trend is the USA itself which V-Dem describes as having decreased substantively and at a statistically significant level.
What country would consciously emulate a nation that freely admits its greatest threat is not from external enemies but from Domestic Violent Extremists, this is the new definition of home-grown terrorists. Surely, the only reason anyone would become a terrorist in their own country is because their system of governance has failed them.
What country would follow the democratic path of a nation that elects a leader who promises to Build Back Better (BBB) and then finds one member of his party prevents the entire program. Meaning their chosen leader was elected on a promise he couldn’t fulfil.
That same country led its “democratic partners” in a global call to Build Back a Better World (B3W). Not to make the world a better place but, as a White House briefing paper, states, to strategically compete with China. That’s the same China which many developing nations say, is already making their world a better place. Unfortunately, almost 3 years later B3W has gone the way of BBB. If it has any achievements, they are yet to be announced.
What kind of communities would enlist in cooperation with a country that has unilateral sanctions on over 20 countries and individual sanctions on over 20,000 individuals. Remembering that one of these sets of sanctions has been in place against Cuba for a generation and has been voted against by almost the entire UN community, not once, but for 29 consecutive years. Democratic? it appears not!
It’s fair to say that the world is at a turning point, but one in which the meaning of democracy needs redefining: it doesn’t just mean elections where people vote; it means collaboration between government and people so they don’t need to resort to violence; it means people having some say in what their government does and the directions it takes so people see results; it means government constantly improve the lives of its people; and, importantly, it means government accountability to the people, not to corporations which can afford to buy democracy.
If what Joe Biden meant is that more countries should pursue US style democracy, then their annual summits are going to be seen for what they are: time-wasting, virtue-signaling, talk-fests