The fight over the meaning of democracy

Attempts to re-signify democracy in China, the U.S., and Brazil demand the world's attention as we enter a potentially pivotal 2022

democracy bolsonaro
President Jair Bolsonaro in front of the presidential palace. Photo: Estevam Costa/PR

I recently had an apocalyptic nightmare in which I was part of the last remaining group of people willing to fight for an odd idea that almost nobody knew anything about: democracy. A few days later, I read about how China labeled itself a democracy in response to U.S. President Joe Biden’s Democracy Summit. I soon realized that my nightmare could well be materializing in real life.  

The response included a paper by the Communist Party entitled “China: Democracy That Works,” according to which “there is no fixed model of democracy; it manifests itself in many forms.” As such,...

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