Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Zhou Yuxiao says the world's political system should not solely be premised on multiparty elections.

Zhou also says that the concerns by the West on whether there were political reforms or advancement in China was unfairly premised on one criterion, namely multiparty elections. He says there is more than that: "Why should the world's political system be based on multiparty democracy or elections? Malaysia, Singapore are regarded as authoritarian. India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka are regarded as democratic countries.

But if you look at results, all those that were regarded as authoritarian have developed faster than those other countries. We think our system has been working very well. Producing quick development, it benefits the people. It is the reason we keep the tradition of selecting our leaders. Secondly, there are different traditions and cultures in the world. The other thing is China is multi-ethnic."

In a world in which peace truly reigns, democracy can take more forms of expression in a fair society. In a world in which the world hegemony of the mightiest imperialist power reigns and the peoples' sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence are threatened, democracy won't have many different forms of expression.

Truly, the Chinese may have found their form of expression of democracy, and they believe that it suits their conditions ideally. To some extent, they are right because its effectiveness has been shown for more than 63 years, and we think that no country could have stood firm in the midst of the many challenges and problems China has faced and be where it is, what it is in the world today if its people weren't politically aware and united - not split into a million parts. Therefore, unity and political stability are the main things for them.
But for us, the single-party state, except at rare moments in history, is a recipe for tyranny.

What we have learnt from the Soviet experience and from the African experience is that the concept of the party as a vanguard which has the right to rule by virtue of calling itself something and which is entrenched in the constitution as a permanent God-father of this society, is a disaster. But this does not blind us from seeing democracy in a much broader way.

The word "democracy", of Greek origin, means power or strength of the people. Rather than being horrified by it, all sorts of people have taken it over with extraordinary brazenness and admirable persuasion.

Democracy is based on the principle of the subordination of the minority to the majority and on the recognition of freedom and equality in terms of civil rights. We are accustomed to see it only in its formal terms, divorced from social reality. It is said that, when you get right down to it, democracy is determined by the owners of the wealth, who also distribute the resources, and that it is subject to historical events. That is what we think.

When they feel safe and it is in their interest, they are proud of democracy and use it as a surgical tool or as acupuncture needles for exercising political control. Then come the constitutionalist euphoria, the rhetoric defending representative institutions, and the praise of elections and formal political freedoms.

Generally speaking, all possibility of using these mechanisms is energetically and subtly denied to the dispossessed. The promises of democracy cannot hide the crumbs and torn and dirty clothing of such societies. The democratic apparatus of such societies is structured to inhibit political activity by the masses and to limit the workers' participation in decision making.

This being the case, what does democracy mean to us? Very briefly, for us, as Abraham Lincoln once defined it, democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people.

For us, democracy means that governments are closely linked to the people, arise from the people, have the support of the people and devote themselves entirely to working and struggling for the people and the people's interests.

Democracy implies the defence of all the rights of citizens, including the right to independence, freedom, national dignity and honour. For us, democracy means fraternity and true equality among men and women and equal opportunities for all men and women, for every human being who is born.

Democracy, in some of these countries with regular or periodic multiparty elections, doesn't contain any of those elements. How can they talk of democracy in countries where a minority has immense fortunes and others have nothing? What kind of equality or fraternity can exist between a beggar and a millionaire?

What rights do the poor, the dispossessed and the exploited have? What they have done in some of these societies is to establish a system of domination with all the resources of wealth, publicity and everything else in the hands of a class that maintains discrimination and excludes the rest of society from any real participation and from any real possibility of exercising their rights.

People used to cite Greek democracy as an example, democracy from a classical age of Greece. Athens, which was the prototype of democracy, had 40,000 citizens - men, women and children - and 90,000 slaves.

Around 35,000 of the slaves worked in shops and in agriculture, 20,000 were women who were house slaves, 10,000 were children who provided various services and 25,000 worked in mines. For every free man, woman and child in Athens, there were more than two slaves. Even the great historians and philosophers had slaves - we are not criticising them, because they were products of their society.

A slave wasn't anything; they were human beings who could be bought and sold, or even killed.
We wonder, really, what great difference there was between that society and this society that imperialism and its supporters are trying to exalt!

We understand the difficulty the Chinese people have identifying themselves with that kind of democracy that some people want to impose or have imposed or are trying to impose on every part of this planet - and with which they have weakened our societies, breaking them up into a thousand pieces, so that they can't solve problems.

There is no real participation by the people in that kind of democracy, because opinions are manipulated to a great extent. People's criteria and decisions are completely influenced by propaganda and what are called "scientific" methods of influencing how people think.

Many of those so-called multiparty elections are a quite disgusting show. You can see that money is a decisive factor in that kind of electoral propaganda in which they engage. Those who don't have resources can't set themselves any political goals, because they are excluded and eliminated.
The form of democracy, of political organisation that a society adopts should promote unity, if possible.

True democracy cannot exist in the midst of social inequality, in the midst of social injustice, in societies divided between rich and poor. Democracy can exist only in a fair social system. We say this because true democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people - a government in which all the people participate.

Multiparty elections are useless if they do not enable people to live in a way that respects and enhances the lives of others.

Although we are generally opposed to a one-party state, except at rare moments in history, we feel China has characteristics that can today qualify it for that exception. The country has over 1.4 billion human beings, living in a Third World nation and with all the problems and challenges one can imagine - from man-made to natural disasters that don't seem to end. For everyone in such a society to be fed, clothed, provided with 21st Century education and healthcare demands a very high level of organisation and political stability.

And the current political order in China, albeit with many contradictions, seems to be holding well in its responsibilities to such a gigantic population.