Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President Biden's Summit for Democracy demonstrated the resiliency of America's convening power and the appeal of democracy as an ideal. That sparked a heavy flurry of propaganda from Beijing.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is touting its "people's democratic dictatorship" model of governance as a superior alternative to liberal democracy.

What's happening: More than 100 countries met during a virtual summit last week at President Biden's invitation.

  • In his opening remarks at the summit, President Biden cast the struggle to renew democracy in the face of internal and external challenges as “the defining challenge of our time" and said "democracy needs champions."

China wasn't invited, but it was the elephant in the room.

  • China's rise as an economic and geopolitical power under the direction of an authoritarian one-party state has challenged the Western assumption that democracy is inherently better at promoting prosperity and human well-being.
  • Some analysts have pushed the Biden administration to create an "alliance of democracies" to counter Beijing — and this summit seemed to be a big step in that direction.

Beijing reacted with a major propaganda campaign that presented American democracy as defunct and hypocritical and claimed "socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics" was superior.

  • On Dec. 4, five days before the start of the summit, China's State Council published a white paper called "China: Democracy That Works," which used the term "whole-process people’s democracy" 24 times to describe the kind of democracy it says is implemented there — a vaguely defined term asserting that China's system incorporates the people's will throughout the policy-making process.
  • State media outlets plastered the airways with denunciations of American democracy as a violent and broken system run by the rich, with one article even comparing the U.S. system to Harry Potter villain Voldemort.

Background: CCP leaders have long used variations on the term "democracy" to describe China's political system.

  • Under Xi's predecessor Hu Jintao, CCP officials touted China's "inner-party democracy," by which they meant a system of checks and balances carried out within the CCP (and not open to outside scrutiny).
  • "Democracy" was listed as one of the 12 "core socialist values" introduced in late 2012 as Xi assumed the presidency.
  • Xi first used the term "whole-process people's democracy" in 2019; the term resurfaced in October 2021 and was used extensively in the Chinese state media coverage surrounding the Biden-Xi virtual meeting in November.
  • The goal of such messaging is to "make the case before domestic audiences for the strength of China’s political system, as well as to throw off criticism internationally of China on human rights grounds," China Media Project's Stella Chen writes.

Between the lines: The CCP's long-standing attempts to rebrand its one-party state as a form of democracy, and simultaneously to redefine democracy in the party's image, demonstrates the ongoing appeal of the idea — and how party leaders can feel threatened by its power.

The big picture: The summit also demonstrated America's ability to gather many of the world's governments together in support of an American agenda, a very public sign of global sway.

  • The Chinese government has increasingly sought to convene international gatherings around its own political agendas, such as the Belt and Road Forum, held in 2017 and 2019, and the World Internet Conference, held annually since 2014.

Yes, but: Biden's goals of defending democracy and outcompeting China aren't perfectly aligned, Axios' Dave Lawler reports, as the summit's attendees demonstrated.

  • India, Vietnam and Thailand were invited, but all three governments are involved in severe human rights violations, or aren't even democracies at all.
  • American democracy, too, is facing severe challenges, with an uprising in Washington, D.C., earlier this year that challenged election results, growing barriers to voting access for minority groups, and rising socioeconomic inequality.

Go deeper

Dec 6, 2021 - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.

Nov 16, 2021 - World

Olympics sponsors caught between U.S. and China

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies that do business in China — especially Olympics sponsors — are concerned Beijing will use the 2022 Winter Games as a loyalty test.

Why it matters: China's leaders have become adept at silencing criticism from U.S. companies that might otherwise condemn the country's human rights record — and the Chinese government has been able to host prestigious global events like the Olympics while committing rights violations with impunity.

Focus group: Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images 

As President Biden approaches the one-year mark of his presidency, some swing voters say his handling of the pandemic has weakened him in their eyes.

  • But they see him projecting strength when he talks about protecting American democracy.

Driving the news: These were key takeaways from the latest Engagious/Schlesinger swing-voter focus groups for Axios, conducted Tuesday, just days after the president's Jan. 6 anniversary speech.