HONG KONG – Official Chinese media are having a field day touting the dysfunction of Western democracies. Between the British vote to “Brexit” the European Union and the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for the US presidency, not to mention increasingly frequent terrorist attacks, they have plenty of evidence. But the truth is that the West’s loss is not China’s gain.
The hope, of course, is that the current travails of democracies around the world could boost the credibility of the Chinese Communist Party. And, indeed, a commentary in People’s Daily, the CCP’s official newspaper, portrayed the Brexit vote as a reflection of the fundamental flaws of Western democracies. The same paper used Trump’s rise to show that, in the American system, political leaders are “helpless” to address “complex social conflicts” like racial tensions and other sources of popular discontent.
The Global Times, an ultra-nationalist tabloid affiliated with the People’s Daily, seemed to suggest that recent terrorist attacks in the West were a harbinger of some kind of democratic apocalypse. The West may be facing some mysterious and unthinkable “change,” intoned the tabloid.
Given the CCP’s ideological hostility to the West, and its zero-sum geopolitical mindset, such gloating should come as no surprise. Indeed, the CCP has long used challenges that arise in democratic countries as part of its never-ending effort to enhance its own legitimacy. Claiming that democracy barely works in the West, the Party argues that it would be disastrous for China. Moreover, so long as China’s government is delivering consistently rising standards of living, as it has been over the last few decades, there is no need, according to the authorities, even to consider alternative systems.