The debate over democracy in China has been a major ideological battleground in Chinese politics since the 19th century. China is not a liberal democracy. The Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) state that China is democratic nonetheless. Many foreign and some domestic observers categorize China as an authoritarian one-party state, with some saying it adheres to neoauthoritarianism.[1] Some characterize it as a dictatorship.[2]


Are there other countries that subscribe to the same definition of democracy as China?

It seems odd that China consider itself to be democratic, I am wondering if there are other countries who would agree with China's definition of democracy, and especially a Western or other developed country? It seems to me that only China use that particular definition of what a democracy is. How many camps are there with different definitions or views about democracy?

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    Could you quote the salient points of the Chinese definition of democracy, according to China itself? As well as how they address the question of direct elections and free party participation, again according to themselves. Jun 29, 2023 at 23:32
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    I have voted to close as "needs details or clarity". As per @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica's comment, the question is asking if any other countries use China's definition of democracy, but doesn't state what that definition actually is, or why China considers itself to fall within that definition. Without those details, I'm not sure this can be answered. Note that OP a) has accepted an answer that doesn't really answer the question, which muddies things even further, and b) is currently serving a year-long ban and thus can't provide the needed clarifications.
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 14, 2023 at 15:26
  • Voted to close until clarified but upvoted. Looks like a great question that needs to ask a more direct, exact question
    – bharring
    Jul 14, 2023 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


Leaving aside the "with Chinese characteristics" part, China is nominally a socialist-wanting-to-become-communist country.

Pretty much all the former Soviet bloc countries defined themselves as democratic. Their remnants, even those with [some] special characteristics, like North Korea (DPRK) and Cuba, still define themselves as democratic. To quote Cuba's 1976/2002 constitution for instance:

Cuba is a socialist State of workers, independent and sovereign, organized with all and for the good of all, as a united, democratic republic, for the enjoyment [...]

The wording in their 2019 constitution has been changed somewhat to even emphasize the democratic part earlier on:

Cuba is a democratic, independent and sovereign socialist State of law and social justice, organized by all and for the good of all [...]

So, on the level of an extremely broad/nominal definition of democracy, China is nothing special, despite your assertion "It seems odd that China consider itself to be democratic". If that's what the question is. If the Q is what country or countries is closest in system with China and why the Western think tanks typically rank it at the bottom of their democracy scale[s], that's a slightly different question.

If you drill down to article 5 or so of Cuba's constitution, the "democratic character" is clarified to be in the vanguard party. China gets some bonus points for clarity here, as it's mostly spelled out in the first article of their constitution:

The People's Republic of China is a socialist state governed by a people's democratic dictatorship that is led by the working class and based on an alliance of workers and peasants.

And while "democratic dictatorship" is probably not a common term elsewhere, article 3 of China's constitution mentions democratic centralism, together with elections. What this meant in practice in most such one-party countries was that elected officials were typically limited to a pool mostly agreeing with the leadership (du jour) of the party. Although factions did (in fact often) emerge in communist parties, typically it was around personalities or minor divergences in Marxist-Leninist doctrine, although China is a bit more special in this regard, with their economic doctrine having diverged to a substantial degree and for a long time.


As per recent Acoup article, almost none of modern regimes may claim to be truly democratic, in the Ancient Greek meaning of the term:

Greeks understood to define the differences in the three kinds of constitution that a polis might normally have: oligarchy, democracy and tyranny.

In a democratic polis, the ekklesia was likely to be supreme, with both broad powers to set its own agenda... and also broad powers to direct the magistrates and to punish any magistrates who refused to be so directed.

But if either of those links is broken, an oligarchy could ‘tame’ the ekklesia. The cleverer way to do this was through the agenda-setting power. The Spartan ekklesia, for instance, could only vote on laws put before them by the gerousia or the ephors and could only give a yes or no vote to those very decisions; it could not debate, nor propose alternative decisions. This sort of system, where an oligarchic body like a gerousia or another body of magistrates is able to use its agenda setting power to simply prevent any proposal that the oligarchy does not already approve from coming to a vote was common enough... An oligarchy could thus ensure no radical proposal ever reached the ekklesia, while at the same time, tailoring its proposals to be just moderate enough to garner a majority of votes (under a system where, as noted above, chances are the oligarchs can ‘push’ fairly hard to get quite a lot of preference falsification), resulting in a government that is out of step with the popular will but still has that popular imprimatur; after all, there was a vote and we all agreed to this.

We are mostly talking about spectrum of oligarchic to tyrannic regimes, of which China apparently falls somewhere in the middle. Specifically, it does not seem much different from British or Swedish "1.5" party layout where one party may dominate the parliament for decades and only be briefly replaced by systemic opposition after becoming thoroughly unpopular.

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    If you call British 1 + 0.5 party layout, then China is 0.9995 + 0.0005 layout. Note that the 0,0005 almost agrees with the 0.9995100% of the time :)
    – r13
    Jun 29, 2023 at 21:13
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    Equally true is that the ancient Greek meaning of the term, non-voting slaves and non-voting women, seems to hold significant shortcomings compared to our modern understanding of the term. Don't get me wrong, it was still a massive step towards what has become the dominant Western form of political configuration, but holding it up as a direct yardstick seems a bit misplaced. Jun 29, 2023 at 23:35
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    If you do not care about the decision making power of votes but only about voting inclusivity, then you should be content with communist voting - these regimes were the first to extend voting to basically everybody.
    – alamar
    Jun 30, 2023 at 3:08
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    And besides, putting Sweden and the UK on the same level as China when it comes to democratic standards is simply ridiculous. I don't understand why 12 people upvoted this.
    – Philipp
    Jul 14, 2023 at 12:25
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    @Philipp: I only see 3 upvotes now. Are the 12 among the recently deleted accounts? See my [recent] meta Q. Jul 18, 2023 at 8:31

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