A group of senior officials and renowned scholars criticized the falsely touted narrative of "democracy versus autocracy" during the opening ceremony of the second International Forum on Democracy: The Shared Human Values in Beijing on Thursday.
Attending the forum in person and online, numerous speakers from around the world agreed that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all model of democracy and that countries should respect diversified approaches to democracy.
Hosted by China, the forum asks important questions about how governance should be carried out in the 21st century to meet the "very complex needs" of modern society and the "complex needs" of the world's 8 billion people, Jeffrey D. Sachs, a professor at Columbia University, said in a video address.
"There is no magic formula," said Sachs. "There is no single model of good governance that one can apply to each place because every country has its political culture, its specific orientations and needs, its local, historical circumstances that would shape political institutions."
The U.S. scholar added that good governance should be based on deep wisdom traditions, the history of statecraft and national cultures and should aim for the common good and international cooperation.
In a six-minute speech, former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama warned of the danger of trumpeting the "democracy versus autocracy" narrative, describing the cause of today's turbulent global trends as a "clash of values."
"When values such as 'democracy' and 'human rights' are introduced aggressively into one country's diplomacy, there will inevitably be discrimination against and exclusion of other countries with different values," said Hatoyama.
He noted that Washington's advancing of the so-called free and open Indo-Pacific, the Quad – an informal strategic dialogue between the U.S., Japan, Australia and India – and the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) are seen as attempts to build an encirclement of China under the pretext of values.
"Such behavior contributes to blocs dividing the world and can even invite developments that go against economic rationality and undermine the world's prosperity," he warned.
Fred Mmembe, president of the Socialist Party of Zambia, stressed the importance of respecting others' sovereignty.
"If you have no respect for the dignity of others, if you have no respect for the sovereignty of the countries, you cannot claim to be a champion of democracy," he told the forum in Beijing.
Mmembe said that the only system that can survive and endure is one based on mutual benefit, win-win relationships, mutual respect for others, accommodation and tolerance of others and fraternal love for all humanity, adding, "This is what we find in China today."
China is a country that has developed itself without colonies, without plundering any country in the world and without subjugating any people in the world, he said. "This is a country that is developing with maximum respect, for others, for their history, for their cultures, and recognizes a diversity that is there in civilization."
Multilateralism should be practiced to advance greater democracy in the world, said former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva while highlighting the role of international organizations.
"What we should do is to come up with democratic standards and ideals that are agreed upon multilaterally and allow these international organizations to play a constructive role in encouraging all the countries to attain such ideals," Abhisit said.
He said the forum has provided a platform to share and exchange different views on democracy.