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Scholar: 'Summit' would go unnoticed

By YIFAN XU in Washington | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-03-27 07:35

A foreign policy expert in the United States says the upcoming US-led second "Summit for Democracy" is not going to be noticed very much.

Jack Midgley, principal of the global consultancy Midgley & Co and an adjunct associate professor in the security studies program at Georgetown University, told China Daily that the meeting has low political value in the US and it will get little attention in the world.

"What we're seeing now is just a demonstration of activity. The American State Department and the administration want to show that they're active. We're starting the election season again, and it's more important to show activity than results," Midgley said. "I don't think this new summit will have much impact at all."

As per the White House's announcement in November, the US, with the governments of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia, is set to host the so-called summit on Wednesday and Thursday via video link.

"The countries ... typically will issue a declaration. Each country will make certain commitments. In most cases, these are commitments to actions that they were going to take anyway. They're commitments that are not measurable. They're commitments that are not necessarily funded," he said. "And frankly, I just don't see that many countries or many diplomats will take this 'summit' into account. It's not a terribly big or well-funded or popular effort."

The Joe Biden administration hosted the first such virtual gathering in 2021. There have been major changes in the geopolitical regime since then, Midgley said.

Significant contrast

"Of course, the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine has been an important change. But that's not the only thing that has changed. China's diplomatic presence in the world has increased very sharply in the last two years. And I think it has drawn a contrast between the approaches of the two countries that are being noticed and paid attention to worldwide," he said.

In the report entitled "The State of Democracy in the United States: 2022" released last week, China's Foreign Ministry noted that there is no single model of a political system that is applicable to all countries in the world.

"The US has American-style democracy, China has Chinese-style democracy, and other countries have their own unique models of democracy that suit their respective national conditions," the report said.

Midgley said most US diplomacy in the last several years has been about the administration of sanctions, the application of military assistance, and other security-related approaches, while the Chinese approach has been much more focused on development and less on internal politics of others. "This has made it possible for Chinese diplomacy to do things that US diplomacy cannot do," he said, giving the example of the Saudi-Iran agreement.

Under China's mediation, the Iranian and Saudi Arabian officials signed an agreement in Beijing on March 10, announcing the reestablishment of diplomatic relations seven years after severing them.

"We should not miss the difference in the basic approaches of the two countries. In the US case, it's defense and security-led. In the Chinese case, it's economics and development-led. And history will tell us which one has worked better," Midgley said. "But so far, at least in recent years, the Chinese approach is doing very well."

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