Fascinating op-ed at The National Interest, co signed by the Ambassadors to the US of China and Russia:
Peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom are common values of humanity. Democracy is not a prerogative of a certain country or a group of countries, but a universal right of all peoples. It can be realized in multiple ways, and no model can fit all countries. Whether a country’s path works depends on whether it meets the country’s realities, follows the trend of the times, and brings about economic development, social stability and progress, and better lives for the people. Ultimately, it relies on the support of the people and will be proven by its contribution to human progress.
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 fulfillment 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.
What China has is an extensive, whole-process socialist democracy. It reflects the people’s will, suits the country’s realities, and enjoys strong support from the people. In China, the people have the right to elections, and they can get deeply involved in national governance, exercising their power through the People's Congresses at the national and other levels. China has eight non-Communist parties participating in governance, as well as a unique system and corresponding institutions of political consultation. On matters concerning people's keen interests, there are broad-based and sufficient consultations and discussions before any decision is made. Policies and measures can only be introduced when there is a consensus that they are what the people want and will serve the people’s needs. It has been proved that the whole-process democracy works in China, and works very well. China calls for building a community with a shared future for mankind. As residents of the same global village, we should handle international affairs through consultation.
It has to be said that elections are not the end-all and be-all of life, and that many if not most people care more about jobs and social order. The ongoing debate we have in the US, about whether our old racist, sexist democracy should be celebrated, raises another issue: democracy really can lead to intensified ethnic conflict and the oppression of minorities. But I think it remains true that even with all its flaws a properly functioning democracy is still better than any other system, with more scope for self-correction and more freedom for dissenters. Some anarchists would love a sort of soviet system in which local committees elect representatives to higher level committees and so on, but the experience of Russia and China shows that this leads to capture of the system by insiders, not people power.
And then this:
There has seen no shortage of wars and turmoil worldwide to prove that spreading “democracy,” its political system, and values against other countries’ will severely undermine regional and international peace, security, and stability. Bombings of Yugoslavia, military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, and “democratic transformation” do nothing but harm. Countries should focus on running their own affairs well, not condescendingly criticizing others.
I agree with this completely; the on-again, off-again US project of promoting democracy by force has not gone very well, and I suspect it is true that democracy is just not an option for some places. But without democracy, how does anybody know what a "nation's will" is? Dictatorial regimes love to equate their own desire's with the nation's and their own power with that of the whole people, but I don't believe them. Even if it is true that for some nations in some periods dictatorship is the best option, democracy is still the best system and the world's oppressed people long for it with good reason.