By David Shullman
Thank you to the Commissioners for the opportunity to testify today. Thank you, also, for organizing a hearing on this topic critical to U.S. interests and the future of democracy, human rights, and prosperity around the world. China is increasingly promoting its authoritarian “model” of governance and development— robust economic growth under an authoritarian political framework—as a viable alternative to liberal democracy. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) views this endeavor as critical to its efforts to weaken norms around universal human rights and democracy that underpin the current international order, paving the way for China to take a more central role in that order under CCP leadership.
China is not promoting a coherent ideological alternative to democracy, nor is the Chinese Government encouraging other countries to adopt wholesale its approach to governing China. The CCP nevertheless is creating conditions conducive in many countries to the weakening of democratic institutions and the express or gradual adoption of autocracy. China need not engage in a concerted effort to “export” its model to undermine democracy and human rights protections in countries around the world.
China’s popularization of a model starkly different from that advocated by the US and other developed democracies is not of purely academic concern. The CCP intends to use its growing power in the international system to shape the twenty-first century, much as the U.S. shaped the twentieth. China’s leaders seek to determine which features of the global status quo to preserve and which to reject, not only in business, culture, and politics but also in such basic values as human rights, free speech, and privacy.
In the testimony that follows I will address Chinese leaders’ view of the current liberal international order and the opportunity presented by China’s growing power to transform that system from the inside out, hollowing out the norms upon which it is based. I will then turn to how China is promoting its authoritarian approach at both the international and national levels, contributing to democratic decline across the world. I will close with some recommendations for how the United States can take action to reverse these trends.
Read the full testimony here.