China's Communist Party has sharply criticised a global democracy summit being hosted by US President Joe Biden next week and extolled the virtues of its own governing system.
Chinese party officials questioned how a polarised country that botched its response to COVID-19 could lecture others, and said that efforts to force others to copy the Western democratic model are "doomed to fail."
Tian Peiyan, the deputy director of the CCP's Policy Research Office, said the pandemic had exposed defects in the US system. He blamed the high COVID-19 death toll in the US on political disputes and a divided government from the highest to the lowest levels.
"Such democracy brings not happiness but disaster to voters," he said at a news conference to release a government report on what the Communist Party calls its form of democracy, which is firmly under party control.
Neither China nor Russia are among about 110 governments that have been invited to Biden's two-day virtual "Summit for Democracy," which starts on Thursday. The participation of Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that China says should be under its rule, has further angered Beijing.
US-China relations remain strained despite a virtual summit between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping last month. The US president has repeatedly framed differences with China in his broader call for the US and its allies to demonstrate that democracies can offer humanity a better path toward progress than autocracies.
The Communist Party has ruled China single-handedly since 1949. It says that various views are reflected through consultative bodies and residence committees, but silences most public criticism with censorship and sometimes arrest.
The party argues that strong central leadership is needed to maintain stability in a sprawling country that has been riven by division and war over the centuries.
"In such a large country with 56 ethnic groups and more than 1.4 billion people, if there is no party leadership, ... and we uphold the so-called democracy of the West, it will be easy to mess things up and democracy will work the opposite way," Tian said.
The recent difficulties faced by some Western democracies have given Communist Party leaders more confidence in their system as they try to build China into a global power. State media often cite the chaos of the insurrection at the US Capitol after the last presidential election. The report issued on Saturday said "today's world is facing challenges of excessive democracy."
Chinese officials frequently accuse the US and others of using democracy as a cover to try to suppress China's rise, a charge echoed at the news conference by Xu Lin, the vice minister of the party's publicity department.
"The US calls itself a 'leader of democracy' and organises and manipulates the so-called Summit for Democracy," he said. "In fact, it cracks down and hampers countries with different social systems and development models in the name of democracy."
"Is this the democracy they advertised?" Xu said.
Australian Associated Press