America needed to stop playing the role of a democracy preacher, a People’s Daily (人民日报) editorialist named Zhong Sheng (钟声 – this name or pen name also translates tolling of the bells) wrote on Thursday. It would be much more worthwile to think about how America could join the Asian development process in better ways, how it could play a a constructive role in Asian stability and development. However, if Washington wanted to come up with better solutions, it needed to control itself, and put restraint on its impulse to be a “preacher of democracy”.
Zhong’s signed editorial refers to statements by U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton during her Asian tour that “Asian countries needed to expand the scope of human rights”, and “commended” certain countries to obliquely hint at China (还借“表扬”某些国家来影射中国), thus acting as a “human rights preacher” once again.
The Financial Times had referred to Clinton’s speech as part of an increasingly intense geo-political debate about Asia’s future, writes Zhong Sheng. However, this wasn’t only a debate, nor had America set out on which side of the debate it wanted to stand. Essentially, holding the great banners of democracy and human rights high was a major matter in America’s strategy of “returning to Asia”.
Who gave Americans the right to arrogantly assessing the democracy status of Asian countries, asks Zhong Sheng. Americans themselves possibly shunned to answer the question, or believed that there was no need for an answer. Exactly the problem’s deceptiveness could create could lead to a failure of the “return-to-Asia” strategy to reach its standards.
Some of America’s recent measures, from military exercises and increased military deployment, demonstrated how America did its utmost to demonstrate the adequacy of its role in Asia. To hold the banners of “democracy” and “human rights” only served to safeguard its so-called guiding moral status.
However, the more America failed to restrain itself from such policies, the more people would ask themselves what America actually feared to lose. There were two points which Washington didn’t understand: the cause for America’s estrangement with Asia and its need to “return” had been caused by the reduction in its involvement on the one hand, and on the other hand, because of major changes in the Asia region’s political and economic structures, American status was changing as a result.
The editorial cites factors such as a comparatively successful Asian handling of the international financial crisis – it attributes the crisis exclusively to Western countries -, to flourishing regional cooperation, and to mutually beneficial cooperation between Asian countries which had at the same time been exploring successful development paths, in accordance with their national conditions.
The development of Asian countries shows that Asians are able of solving problems on their own, on their path of development, and to find a road different from the West’s in building political systems, in accordance with their national conditions.
America was in no position to grade Asian countries, or countries worldwide, in terms of democracy and human rights. No size fitted all models. Practice had shown that it was exactly some countries that had drawn a tiger with a cat as a model (照猫画虎) and copied American-style democracy which had led to serious “acclimatization problems” leading to development lags, with some even unrevived to date.
America’s actual diplomatic considerations and abusive use of democracy issues had already incurred criticism from all sides. America’s Time magazine had pointed out in an article that America’s Middle-East policy was showing double standards, and that a country’s democratic status didn’t define if America worked with it – American interest did.
As a Pacific nation, America and Asian countries had inextricable links. America hoped to have a share in the fruits of Asian development, which was a matter of course. Nobody wanted to squeeze America out of Asia. However, Asian countries commonly expected that America would become more actively engaged in Asian development and cooperation. But it seemed that Washington had difficulty in looking at regional participants as equal players.
If America turns against the general trend of Asian development and cooperation, and play the role flag-waving preachers, and gesticulate at Asian democracy from commanding positions, and even, by this approach, build “contingents” to check and balance China, America may well end up marginalizing itself.
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