US President Joe Biden told American service members late last month that “we’re in a battle between democracies and autocracies.” He also exploited his history of extensive personal contacts with Chinese President Xi Jinping to misportray himself as an authority on the Chinese leader’s global vision. Biden falsely claimed that President Xi “firmly believes that China, before the year ’30, ’35, is going to own America because autocracies can make quick decisions.” Although these were only very minor details in a much larger speech, they deserve closer examination because they reveal a lot about America’s contemporary geostrategic designs.
The country’s Democrat-led leadership is openly ideological and regards the world as being divided between “democracies and autocracies”, with the US and China leading each one respectively. The purpose in seeing it this way is to establish the ideological and structural basis for a New Cold War. It also serves as a pretext for the US to pressure countries that don’t surrender their sovereign interests to America’s on the false basis that they’re “autocracies” who thus presumably required (usually violent) US-backed “democracy”. In other words, it’s nothing more than rhetoric for disguising self-interested foreign policy objectives.
The reason why it’s such a ruse is because there really aren’t any such thing as clear-cut democracies or autocracies anymore, only governments. Theoretically speaking, democracy in its purest, most classical form doesn’t exist at the national level in any country. It’s impractical for citizens to have the chance to vote on each and every single decision taken by every level of their government, hence the need for what’s referred to as representative democracy. But even that system is flawed because there isn’t much that can be done prior to the next round of elections to hold politicians accountable if they lie to the people during their campaign.
Another criticism that can be leveled against the concept of democracy is that permanent national security-oriented bureaucracies such as the military, intelligence, and diplomatic ones cannot realistically be democratic given their missions even though their decisions impact everyone else who lives in the country and sometimes even beyond. Rather, the concept of democracy itself has been exploited for perception management purposes so as to control the largest amount of people, whether one believes this is for better or for worse depending on the particular national context involved and their ideal vision of society.
As for autocracies, this term has also been distorted beyond its original understanding. There is no country in the world where a single individual wields supreme power. It’s simply impossible. No human being can make all the decisions needed on a daily basis to keep a country running. There’s such a thing as centralized and decisive leadership however, which is more common in non-Western political systems than Western (“democratic”) ones, but even the latter sometimes legally bequeath broad powers to certain figures like the US Constitution does for the President. The presence of absence of these rights is simply a difference between political systems.
So-called autocracies delegate responsibilities throughout society, though sometimes not in an electoral way but a meritocratic one. There’s nothing wrong with that either, it’s just another difference between the way that some countries are run. Nevertheless, the US tends to despise such systems because they’re more difficult to externally manipulate through political means such as election meddling and weaponized protest movements. It also seems to be the case that those types of systems are run by leaders and/or parties who prize national sovereignty and their people’s well-being more than profiting from transnational corporations.
The division of the world into “democracies” and “autocracies” is therefore an inaccurate reflection of reality. There are just governments, and each has elements of these two categories within them, albeit to differing extents depending on the particularities of the national model presently in practice. Attempting to establish a hierarchy of governing systems is an inherently subjective task prone to prejudice, exactly as establishing a hierarchy of ethnicities would be. Instead of obsessing over certain governments’ differences, everyone should embrace their diversity, just as they should do when it comes to the world’s many different ethnicities.