The present time is precarious for democracy, scholars said at a dialogue in Beijing, adding Western countries, including the United States (US), are places where democracy have declined the most over the past century.
Democracy in western countries is now in its worst health since the 1930s, said British journalist Martin Jacques.
The US is not functioning as a democracy, it is rather functioning as a plutocracy, mentioned Kishore Mahbubani, a distinguished fellow at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore.
"Many Americans themselves feel that something has gone wrong with their democracy."
Mahbubani said that money has taken charge in the US political system.
"While you have all the processes of democracy like regular elections, freedom of speech associations, and all that makes no difference. At the end of the day, the decisions don't reflect the wishes of the majority. The decision reflects the wishes of the minority and therefore that is plutocracy," Mahbubani said.
The scholars' panel at the dialogue – Linja 7 Salon Dialogue with Scholars on Democracy – organised by the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA) on 2 December at Xianhe hall of Beijing International Club also included Eric LI SM, vice chairman of China Forum, Centre for International Security and Strategy of Tsinghua University; Zhang Weiwei, dean of China Institute of Fudan University; and John ROSS, former director of economic and business policy for the mayor of London.
The dialogue focused on topics such as what democracy is, how to measure democracy, the whole process of people's democracy, etc.
The speakers emphasised that for democracy to function well, the countries should ensure it provides well for the citizens. This is where the western countries are falling behind, Martin Jacques said.
In his keynote speech at the dialogue, Chinese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs LE Yucheng criticised a "few countries" that are taking democracy as a cover and political tool for their selfish interests and to create division that runs against the spirit of democracy.
Claiming that China is a true democracy, he said the Chinese democracy is not the kind that wakes up at a time of voting and goes back dormant afterwards. "China's democracy is not just a formality. It truly makes the people happy and improves their wellbeing."
"In the past decade, more than 800 million Chinese have been lifted out of abject poverty. A miracle unseen anywhere in the world."
He said the Chinese people have "full rights" to express and supervise. "It means the people participate in every part of democracy."
The vice minister said the Chinese model of democracy fits well within its national condition. "It enjoys the support of the mass people. It is a real, effective, and successful democracy. China is indeed, no doubt, a true democracy."
The "Chinese success in democracy" highlights a lesson that a country should be lectured about how they operate their own democracy, LE Yucheng added.