Biden’s ‘Democracy Summit’ offers no anchor to a sinking US hegemony

In this article for Beijing Review, Friends of Socialist China co-editor Danny Haiphong assesses the recent ‘Summit for Democracy’. From the attendees and content of the event, which was dominated by the US and a few of its close allies in the West, Danny concludes that when the organizers use the term democracy, what they mean is “whatever policies and governance decisions serve US interests.”

Increasingly, the countries of the Global South cannot be duped by the West’s claims to democratic greatness. After all, “no one in the US, or the world, votes for or participates in the American policy of invading, sanctioning and destabilizing nations across the globe.” People are coming to understand the truth that US democracy is “a democracy for the few, a democracy of a tiny number of corporations and their political representatives; a democracy that serves the most destructive force on the planet: US hegemony.”

What the US has is “a system that weaponizes democracy for the sake of hegemony and economic domination.” This is not the democracy the world needs. It is China and the other socialist, progressive and anti-imperialist countries that are moving towards a genuinely democratic world order, based on peace, equality, sovereignty, non-interference, mutual learning and mutual benefit. The West needs to stop lecturing others on the topic of democracy, and instead learn some lessons.

U.S. President Joe Biden hosted the second “Summit for Democracy” from March 28 to 30. In the lead-up to the event, which first took place virtually in December 2021, the U.S. Department of State had promoted the three-day meeting as “a multilateral collaboration” between the U.S. and cohosts spanning four continents—Zambia, the Republic of Korea, Costa Rica and the Netherlands. But nothing could be further from the truth. The gathering proved an exercise in unilateralism that sought to reestablish the American monopoly on democracy, and a failed one at that.

The troubles for the meeting had already begun well before it got underway. Mainstream U.S. media as well as many in the U.S. foreign policy establishment questioned Biden’s decision to host the event during such a delicate period for his country’s global reputation. Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations and former Department of State official Richard Hass referred to it as “a bad idea that won’t go away.” The Washington Post called it “inconsequential” while outlets such as The New Yorker retorted that U.S. democracy is currently in “a worse state than ever before.”

British daily business newspaper Financial Times alternatively labeled the gathering “awkward” in its approach and lamented how the U.S. lacked an effective strategy toward developing stable relations with the Global South.

An ‘exclusive’ event

The event itself was true to criticism. Rather than demonstrating the American ability to assert leadership on the world stage, Biden’s “Summit for Democracy” further exposed the decline of U.S. hegemony. The National Endowment for Democracy, an organization founded in the U.S. in 1983 and a proven agent of foreign interference, was a prominent participant during the event. The U.S. exploited the event to push its political interests in the Ukraine crisis by organizing a forum led by U.S. officials and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

However, the attending Global South countries played just a small role compared to U.S. and European officials who spoke for hours on the superiority of the U.S.-led model of democracy. China, Russia, most African nations and even NATO members Hungary and Türkiye were excluded from the event entirely. Several political experts noted that by declining to invite the latter two to the event, the Biden administration drew attention to underlying tensions in the Western alliance supporting Ukraine in the country’s ongoing conflict with Russia.

All in all, this is hardly behavior indicative of secure democratic leadership.

The summit was merely another example of U.S. hegemony masquerading as a democratic endeavor. Judging from the event, the term “democracy” is to be defined as “whatever policies and governance decisions serve U.S. interests.” What the country has often referred to as “authoritarian” states were excluded from the summit over alleged human rights violations and disrupting the international order. Biden’s “Summit for Democracy” basically turned reality upside down.

While China is called “authoritarian” and excluded from poorly conceived events like the most recent summit, U.S. foreign policy remains at the root of instability in every corner of the globe. U.S. sanctions have caused untold misery in Syria, Iran and more than 20 other nations. The U.S. has more than 800 military bases around the world, scattered across at least 80 countries, and is engaged in at last seven open military conflicts. In Ukraine, U.S. military assistance has escalated a conflict that has caused immense damage to the global economy and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian military personnel alone.

Wrecking ball

If democracy truly constitutes the “rule of the people,” then the U.S. governance system is far from it. No one in the U.S., or even the world, votes for or participates in the American policy of invading, sanctioning and destabilizing nations across the globe. U.S. “democracy” is a democracy for the few, a democracy of a tiny number of corporations and their political representatives. It is a democracy that serves the most destructive force on the planet: the U.S. hegemony.

The world has quickly come to realize that U.S. hegemony, cemented after the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991, has taken a wrecking ball to the world order. Trust in U.S. leadership within the Global South is at an all-time low. As the U.S. struggles to offer anything but war and austerity, China has strengthened its global prestige by offering diplomacy and win-win cooperation in all fields. The U.S. was on the sidelines as China helped broker a peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March. China’s leadership in multilateral institutions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS, a group comprising the world’s five leading emerging economies—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, has been embraced by the Global South. This is evidenced by the expressed interest in and admission into these organizations of nations in Africa, Latin America and Asia over the past two years alone.

As the saying goes, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The recent “Summit for Democracy” offered no anchor to the sinking ship called U.S. hegemony. Rather, the U.S. used it to throw stones at China, Russia and other nations it deems a “threat” to its interests. The summit only served as a reminder that political leadership within the Biden administration has abdicated its responsibility to resolve the pressing problems at home.

And these problems are manifold. Since the onset of this year alone, U.S. rail systems have seen more than a dozen accidents like the one in East Palestine, Ohio, that have proven toxic to the surrounding populations. Infrastructure has been crumbling along with declining living standards and an exorbitant increase in the cost of living that have precipitated a decline in life expectancy by nearly three years since 2020. The U.S. remains a world leader in prison population, healthcare expenditure and murder by lethal firearms. Happiness in the U.S. is at an all-time low, as is trust in the government.

China has recently released a series of reports on the state of U.S. democracy and human rights that rightfully highlight these problems. These reports were not meant to antagonize the U.S. Rather, they point to humanity’s dire need for the U.S. to stop meddling in the affairs of other countries and focus on the crises that poor and working people experience within its own borders. Too many suffer from the resolvable crises of climate breakdown, militarism and extreme poverty due to U.S. foreign policy. Instead of pointing the finger elsewhere, the U.S. must take a long look in the mirror and begin resolving the historic contradictions of a system that weaponizes democracy for the sake of hegemony and economic domination. 

2 thoughts on “Biden’s ‘Democracy Summit’ offers no anchor to a sinking US hegemony”

  1. Proud to be an American has lost it’s luster. More and more people are becoming homeless and rich people are complaining about it instead of helping to fix the problem. Everyone should have the right to live in a safe secure environment not put out on the street because prices keep going up. There is no reason why housing has to be so expensive. Have you had to apply for section 8 or affordable housing. A 5 year wait is what they tell you. How is that helping This was a great country to be proud of when I was growing up and now it has diminished my belief in it’s ability to be fair and just. We overcome one obstacle and our government creates five more. Racial devides The outrageous transgender movement. Hate speak about China and Russia and Iran and any other countries that only want to promote peace throughout the world. People stand up against the government and get put in prison for no good reason except to silence them. Look past what they have created BARRIERS that prevent us from being united. I believe everyone has a right to be happy. Isn’t it time we all work together for peace.

  2. As a China-born, Thai national (since 1965), I am 99.9% Chinese. My grandfather, my mother, & I were all China-born – therefore, my MOTHERLAND IS CHINA while the Kingdom of Thailand (formerly Siam) is my Fatherland – my father was born here.
    I was born in Pingle of Guilin, Guangxi province of China where my medical father from HKU & Queen Mary Hospital – took my mother into China to assist the Chinese Red Cross during WWII – where I was born in 1944. My father registered me with a Taiwanese passport which was useless – I needed a guarantor of the Chairman of Hang Seng Bank when studying in Hong Kong for 9 years. My father had to change my nationality to Thai before sending me to college in America.
    Coming back to Thailand in 1971 to start my career but not successful – over 30 professional jobs in the span of 50 years.
    Thailand’s Western Democracy of 90 years was full of ‘ Selfish, Greed, Bad, & Evil ‘ politicians, military, mafia, etc. – luckily, our late Beloved King Rama ix had to come out to neutralize them with His Majesty 4,685 Royal Projects under his name.

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