Herman Tiu Laurel / Phil-BRICS Strategic Studies / June 22, 2020

                Dalia Research – a German global survey organization established in 2013 and led today by former NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen – polls the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of people across the world using IT micro-surveys. It boasts of its ability to generate over 1 billion responses. One of its regular outputs is the Democracy Perception Index, and this year they have new eye-opening findings.

                Polling 120,000 people across 53 countries some Dalia Research key findings in its 2020 survey about peoples’ attitudes to democracy in the world are: 78% of people around the world say that democracy is important to have in their country; 40% of all people living in “democracies” believe that their country is not actually democratic; and 43% of the global population say that their system only serves a small group of people in their country.

                We presume the Dalia Research takes the term “democracy” to mean electoral democracy, as the “Western democracies” defines it in contrast to what they see as “authoritarian” governments like China. However, the survey includes such “people’s democracy” or “socialist democracies” as well as monarchies such as Saudi Arabia. In that way a more balanced and complete picture of the global attitudes to democracy and governments is actually measured – which should be appreciated.

                While holding up Western “democracy” as the paradigm of egalitarian virtue, Western academics and its media invariable criticize China as “totalitarian” or “authoritarian”, never accepting it as a genuine democracy. China is often held up as an example of an oppressive and repressive system that holds no consideration of the peoples’ welfare and prosperity, subjected to the whims of a “small ruling elite” serving its own interests – a myth that this survey collapses.

                The above notwithstanding, the common ideal of both types of democracies or governance is to serve their citizens. As the constitution of the so-called “Bastion of Democracy”, the U.S. says the goal is “to promote the General Welfare” echoing the Benthamite ideal of “the greatest good for the greatest number of the people.”  In similar fashion, “Serve the People” – the motto of the Communist Party of China expresses its supreme devotion to the welfare of its people.

                The Dalia Democracy Perception Index-2020 survey asked the question of the people whether the government in their country serves only a minority of the people or serves the majority of the people.

               The answer was presented in an interactive map where the countries are colored according to the percentage of respondents who perceive their government as serving the only a minority or the majority of its people. Deep green represented the governments perceived as serving the majority or I term “populist” for convenience, to dark red representing the view that their government serves only a privileged minority or “elitist”.

                The survey found that 43% of respondents around the world say their respective government serves only the minority or elitist. Fifty-two percent (52%) of Americans surveyed said their government serves only the minority. In contrast, only 13% of Chinese respondents said their government served only the minority; i.e. 87% of the Chinese see their government as serving the majority of the people. By this standard, which country is more democratic?

                Ranking the 53 respondent countries in the scale of the most populist to the most elitist, the U.S. is 20th among the most elitist countries. On the other hand, China is ranked second among the most populist countries, second only to another socialist democracy Vietnam of which 88% of its people see its government as serving the majority of the people. Singapore is ranked third among the “populist” governments 71% of its people saying it serves the majority.

                Vietnam is of course like China, a one-party led socialist democracy. Singapore is only marginally considered by the West as an electoral democracy. It has had only one ruling and governing political party since the founding of its Republic, with security and media laws ensuring the perpetual domination of the island-state’s politics. Tying Singapore at third place with 19% is a shocker – Saudi Arabia, but it has had the resources to make its citizens happy but its elite even happier at the same time.

               The Dalia survey finds the Filipino people more postive about their government: only 25% of Filipino respondents think its government serves only the minority, i.e. 75% believe President Duterte is truly serving the majority of the people. The Philippines ranks no. 7 among the countries that have faith its government is serving the people – i.e. not elitist. But as the better-informed Filipinos are well-aware that there’s a lot more work to be done to improve that.

               In light of the current global COVID-19 crisis, the survey appropriately included the question of the various peoples’ judgment of their government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 95% of the Chinese people approve of their government’s handling, sharing the highest rank with Vietnam. 53% of Americans say their government performed well – only Brazil is five ranks lower which fared the worst at 35%. Sixty-three percent (63%) of Filipinos are satisfied with the government’s handling of the crisis.

                The survey asked about the performance of the US and China on the COVID-19 crisis. Ander Fogh Rasmussen is quoted saying, “COVID-19 is also a litmus test for democracy”, in this China again beats the U.S. 50 to three; that is, only three countries out of the 53 surveyed say the US handled the coronavirus better than China, and only a third of people around the world said the US responded well compared to 60% who said China was better.

                Does the U.S. help or hurt democracies around the world? Asked Dalia Research. As the British publication The Guardian reported it, “Reflecting Donald Trump’s unpopularlty globally, only a third of Europeans believe the US is a positive force for global democracy, compared with half who say its has had a negative impact.”

               Interestingly, the Philippines is ranked fourth (47% of respondents) among the countries who think the U.S. has had a positive impact on the world’s democracies; this is higher than the American ranking of 17th (22% of respondents). We can always expect many Filipinos to believe more in America and its democracy myths than Americans themselves. The “conscientized” Philippine media like SOVEREIGNPH.COM have a lot more to do to liberate the Filipino from colonial mentality.

                Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former NATO chief, heads the Dalia Research organization. It should be no surprise that the survey would be factored in EU policy decisions. We should not be surprised then that foreign policy chief of the EU Josep Borrell called for a “big, positive agenda for EU-China cooperation” and opined that the EU “would not pick a side” on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notion of a possible “transatlantic alliance against China”.

               One of the certainly unintended consequences of the 2020 Dalia survey is the emphatic highlighting of the positive aspects of the “other form of democracy” – the model that China represents that I would say is “communitarian” instead of individualist and liberal, and sometimes called “guided democracy” instead of “chaotic democracy” that brings to mind Winston Churchill’s oft quoted words:

                “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…” But Churchill was speaking in the Age of Imperialism where the liberal form of government could be lavishly funded by imperial looting.

                The 21st Century has brought in new realities and lessons. The success of the China model is one of these. Amidst the pressures for countries in Asia to also choose sides and join an anti-China alliance in the region it is wise to take the insights from this survey. It would be fruitful to reflect upon the satisfaction and happiness of the populations who are under the new successful models of governance. The future of a more just and prosperous Filipino nation may lie in that model of democracy.

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