From a report submitted by The Economist, the index of democracy worldwide in 2020 was at its lowest position in the last 14 years, only getting a score of 5.37%. Restrictions on gathering in public spaces, distrust of election results and coups, are directly the main factors behind the decline of democracy as in Indonesia. There has even been a shift in the form of democracy in developed countries. France, Hong Kong and even America are currently in the category of flawed democracies. In fact, they are one of the main sponsors of democracy, this shows that there is considerable damage to democracy.
Biden, who is the current President of America, is trying to build a common narrative that democracy is facing a real threat. The threat comes not only from China which is considered the main sponsor of authoritarian values but also from the strengthening of autocrats around the world. This narrative is used as a way to build awareness that at this time there needs to be real action for democracy to survive.
Biden is trying to encourage dialogue between each democratic country through forums such as the Copenaghen Democracy Summit 2021, with the hope of building awareness with the world community about the future of democracy. Not only that, Biden together with G7 countries openly formed infrastructure projects for countries in Asia and Europe with the name Build Better World as an effort to compete with China’s BRI project which is considered a real threat to the existence of democracy. The project and forum was an important step for Biden to demonstrate that America will not remain silent as it is.
The President of the United States has consistently directed and built a foreign policy narrative oriented to the promotion of democratic values. Woodrow Wilson in 1918 said that “the interests of the United States will be in line with the values of democracy and the rule of law.” This spirit was reaffirmed during the Cold War, the United States provided economic assistance to countries in Europe, especially those who adhered to the democratic notions contained in thePolicy Marshall Plan. Although the application of democratic values will only be applied if it is in accordance with American interests. However, this narrative must be maintained in order to maintain the international order.
The realities of world democracy
But first, Biden must realize how the world is today. The problem is that the countries with the leading democracies and the countries with the largest democracies depend too much on China and Russia such as Indonesia and Pakistan, which are major sponsors of authoritarian values. China is currently a trading partner major for Asia and even the European Union. China has succeeded in displacing the United States, which has become a major player in the region. And last but not least, Russia has strong relations with countries that are members of the EU such as the Netherlands because it is one of its main trading partners.
Indonesia, which is one of the largest democracies in the world, places China as its main trading partner and this greatly affects Indonesia in responding to the policies taken by China, as evidenced by Indonesia’s attitude which tends to be passive in dealing with the issue of Uighur Muslims. serious human rights violations by the Chinese government against ethnic Uighurs who are Muslim, such as physical and psychological torture. Even though the majority of Indonesia’s population is Muslim, the policies taken should be able to adjust to these facts. Not only in Indonesia, Pakistan also takes the same attitude.
Pakistan has very close relations with China, through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Pakistan received an investment of 62 billion dollars from China which began in 2013. CPEC is an infrastructure project that focuses on building roads, ports and even power plants in order to boost the economy. and connectivity in Pakistan. This cooperation makes Pakistan unable to oppose China’s policies. In the case of Uighur Muslims, in an interview conducted by The Independent with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Khan stated that “I accept the statement or version presented by the Chinese government about Muslims in Uighurs, and am more worried about the problems at the border.” This shows that the democratic values espoused does not guarantee that the foreign policy of a country will be in tune, in the end the interest will be the main factors that drive the country to act.
Biden response so far
After demonstrations for months demanded the improvement of the situation in Tunisia. President Saied on 25 June 2021 took steps to freeze parliament for 30 days, sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and Defense Minister Brahim Bartagi, and banned gatherings of more than three people in the streets and other public places. Kais Saied’s actions were considered an act of coup d’etat and hurt the spirit of the Arab Spring by the public and observers alike. America is being asked to take concrete action so that things don’t worsen but in fact the opposite.
The Biden administration has taken this matter very calmly, as evidenced by statements by Jen Psaki, who is secretary of the White House, which says that the government “will learn more about the situation, urge calm, and support Tunisia’s efforts to move forward in line with democratic principles.” Yet this is the key and the right moment to show seriousness to Biden in support of democracy issues.
On the other hand, the Taliban who had just taken control of Afghanistan after Biden surprisingly withdrew thousands of American troops. This ends America’s commitment to building a democratic regime in Afghanistan.article The Economist, written by Henry Kissinger, said that “Biden is trying to create a narrative that America’s only options are complete control or peaceful departure from Afghanistan.” Biden’s recklessness raises questions about how committed he is to pushing the narrative of building stability and a democratic regime.
What Biden should do
Building dialogue forums such as the Copenaghen Democracy Summit or the Bali Democracy Forum” is an attractive option but it will not be enough. Biden’s allies will ultimately prioritize economic cooperation that has a significant impact on their countries rather than just adhering to democratic values. Therefore, the infrastructure project Build Back Better World starting in 2021 involving G7 countries must be built carefully and efficiently. Being a counter to the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) project, this project can be a new era for the hegemony of the United States.
A less serious response to the Tunisian issue, and leaving Afghanistan when the country still needs America is not the right action. The public will ask what kind of commitment Biden wants to build, if policies like this continue then the narrative that democracy is under threat will only become a slogan.
Don’t forget that America still has close ties to the authoritarian state. Biden should also start thinking about how to deal with the United States’ affinity with authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The two countries are one of the main partners of United States Economic and security in the Middle East. Biden will have to weigh whether to leave his main running mate for democratic values or vice versa.
And in the end, building on the narrative that a common enemy of Chinese and Russian influence is not enough to sustain democracy, Biden must learn from history that his predecessors did something bigger in the form of direct economic aid and propaganda during the war. Cold War, only through this can Biden win the heart of the international community.
*Gufron Gozali, is a research assistant from the Islamic University of Indonesia.