The unprecedented attack on Capitol Hill and the chaos, confusion and disbelief that followed provides the Mandarins in China, a rare opportunity to slam liberal democracy as an “unviable system of governance in the 21st century.”
Mob attack by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, has given Beijing a lead to amplify the narrative of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that today’s Liberal democracy is another name for anarchy. CPC ideologues and leaders, citing their country's dramatic economic surge, have been asserting that China’s single party authoritarian system, is a better alternative for promoting political stability, generating economic wealth, and even innovation.
But nothing could be further from the truth. What is happening in Washington is an aberration and not a rule.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick off the blocks, when he blamed not the system of governance, but the arsonists who had descended on the US capital to prevent the peaceful transfer of power — the life-blood of a democracy. In his timely tweet, PM Modi also pointed out that the rule of law must prevail if a democracy has to remain alive and kicking. “Distressed to see news about rioting and violence. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests,” PM Modi tweeted.<img class="wp-image-57187 size-large" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/600fcf32301ce52f0e05e8d3ec1ebd01-1024×578.jpg" alt="" width="1024" height="578" /> Distressed to see news on rioting and violence: PM Modi on US Capitol chaos
In India and elsewhere, civil society must, therefore, mobilise to defeat China’s false narrative that single party rule under the stewardship of a Communist Party is now the sine quo nan of human progress.
In fact, Chinese President Xi Jinping in his speeches has repeatedly suggested the Chinese model is a better and more promising option for rapid development, especially for countries belonging to the Global South, including Africa. The Chinese have also taken issue with the American philosopher Francis Fukuyama who described the collapse of the Soviet Union as marking the end of history, ushering an endless era of liberal democracy that would be embraced by the globe.
In the battle of ideas, India, Japan, Australia and Europe must now step up their game to counter authoritarian China to win the global argument that democracies — based in free speech, human rights and economic enterprise — provide humanity the best chance to realise its full potential.
But to win the ideological war for hearts- and- minds, the world’s democracies have to clean up their act and collectively put their best foot forward.
As mobs struck the fount of democracy at Capitol Hill, the intellectual class in the United States appeared to have gone into an introspective mood, to identify and root out the ills of their system. However, an editorial in <em>New York Times</em>, rather than introspecting the roots of the current crisis did not go far enough, and blamed Trump alone for the brazen assault on democracy.
“Mr. Trump sparked these assaults. He has railed for months against the verdict rendered by voters in November. He summoned his supporters to gather in Washington on this day, and encouraged them to march on the Capitol. He told them that the election was being stolen. He told them to fight. He told them he might join them and, even as they stormed the building, he declined for long hours to tell them to stop, to condemn their actions, to raise a finger in defence of the Constitution that he swore to preserve and protect,” wrote the Times.
There are several steps that Washington must take to regain its ideological lustre and soft power. For starters, the US has to carry out a course correction of dislodging the 1 per cent plutocratic elite that seems to have captured the founts of US power. Instead, in the digital age, power must flow back to the people. Stark inequalities, homelessness, gun violence and racial divisions hardly serve as a role model of a vibrant democracy for the world. The US must heal internally and return to classic Jeffersonian values of democracy, which were once the pride of an inclusive an innovative nation. A return to the dictum of Abraham Lincoln of democracy being “of the people, by the people and for the people” could not be timelier.
The poor handling of the Covid-19 crisis in the west generally, and the US particularly have allowed China to project the “ superiority” of its model, which enabled it to snuff out the virus at home in a more timely manner. But linking dictatorship with efficiency is both erroneous and dangerous.
Democracies such as South Korea, Taiwan and to some extent Japan have done a far better job of battling the disease than China, without adopting draconian measures that Beijing had adopted including the locking down millions of its own citizens in Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic.
In defining the “superiority” of its model, the CPC is hiding its authoritarian system as the trappings of the revival of a “civilizational state”. In countering this lie, India has to play a particular important global role in defining the idea of a civilizational state. With a 5,000-year history, India has eminent credentials of conflating its rise as a civilizational state with ideological commitment to democracy.
Finally, with the west in an introspective mood, it is the democracies of the Indo-Pacific: India, Japan, Australia and South Korea that have to hold the torch of democracy and counter the ideological falsehood radiating from Beijing, before the west regains its natural equilibrium.