WASHINGTON — Just a few days earlier than President Biden’s Summit for Democracy, a digital assembly of greater than 100 nations that opened on Thursday morning, the Chinese language international ministry launched a stinging report in regards to the American democratic system.

The “gunshots and farce on Capitol Hill have utterly revealed what’s beneath the beautiful look of the American-style democracy,” the Chinese report said, citing the Jan. 6 riot. In a rustic the place “cash decides every thing,” the report charged, “an entrenched political paralysis” renders governing unimaginable.

A spokeswoman for the Russian international ministry struck a equally contemptuous tone in late November. “The USA claims the precise to resolve who’s worthy of being referred to as a democracy and who isn’t,” stated the spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, according to Tass, the state information company. “It definitely seems cynical. I’d say that it seems pathetic, given the state of democracy and human rights in the USA and within the West usually.”

A backlash from authoritarian governments that weren’t invited to a summit assembly meant to help democratic values is hardly shocking.

However even U.S. officers concede that American democracy is straining from political polarization, racial injustice and discord, voting rights restrictions and home extremism, amongst different points. Some activists are urging Mr. Biden to commit extra consideration to issues at dwelling earlier than turning his focus overseas.

“You may’t attempt to export and defend democracy globally when you possibly can’t defend it domestically,” stated Cliff Albright, a co-founder and government director of the Black Voters Matter Fund, a progressive nonprofit group in Atlanta. “You may’t be the worldwide fireman when your home is on hearth.”

That pressure will loom over the two-day digital gathering of leaders from mannequin democracies like Germany, Japan and Sweden to nations with blended data akin to Georgia, Nigeria and Pakistan. The assembly, which additionally contains journalists, civil society activists and enterprise leaders, is supposed to be a discussion board for democracies to trade concepts and critiques, U.S. officers say. Individuals will even make commitments on political reform, corruption, human rights and different issues.

“The U.S. is clearly going by means of a tough patch proper now,” stated Michael J. Abramowitz, the president of Freedom Home, a nonpartisan group devoted to human rights and democracy. The USA ranked fiftieth on Freedom Home’s annual index of global freedom, he stated. Final month, the Stockholm-based Worldwide Institute for Democracy and Electoral Help positioned the USA on its record of “backsliding democracies.”

Home shortcomings shouldn’t deter the USA from selling its core values the place authoritarianism and populism have gained traction in recent times, Mr. Abramowitz stated, “so long as it’s executed with humility.”

“With out United States engagement and management, the reason for democracy is not going to advance,” he stated. “Who else will do it?”

In his opening remarks, Mr. Biden stated the world stands “at an inflection level” within the contest between democracy and autocracy. He added that his administration would work with Congress to spend money on democratic resiliency abroad.

“The alternatives we make, in my opinion, at this second are going to basically decide the course our world goes to absorb the approaching decade,” he stated.

Mr. Biden’s new initiative will make investments roughly $424 million to help impartial media abroad, fight corruption, help activists, advance expertise and defend truthful elections, in keeping with the White Home.

Mr. Biden has additionally vowed to indicate that the U.S. system is superior to extra centralized fashions, like China’s, which brook little dissent. Administration officers say they meet that problem however don’t have any illusions about their home troubles.

“We strategy this week with each humility and confidence,” Uzra Zeya, the underneath secretary for civilian safety, democracy and human rights, advised reporters on the State Division on Tuesday.

She added: “Humility in that we wish to pay attention and study and don’t draw back from our shortcomings; confidence in our fixed striving for a extra excellent union; and our certainty that, working collectively, democracies can and can ship for the world’s residents, whatever the uncooked deal that autocrats and authoritarians attempt to promote.”

However others cautioned towards shifting the highlight abroad whereas issues festered at dwelling. The federal authorities have stated that violent home extremists proceed to be emboldened by false claims in regards to the 2020 election. Former President Donald J. Trump is fighting in court to block the release of documents requested by a congressional committee investigating the mob assault on the Capitol. And Republicans have handed voting restrictions in 19 states this 12 months.

Whereas Mr. Biden has referred to as defending the precise to vote an pressing precedence, a lot of his supporters complain that federal laws to bolster voting rights, standardize fundamental election guidelines and outlaw gerrymandering has not superior in Congress.

A White Home truth sheet issued earlier than the summit cited the passage of his bipartisan infrastructure plan as a distinguished instance of a functioning democracy. However Marc H. Morial, the president and chief government of the Nationwide City League, stated that extra motion was wanted on home threats to democracy. He referred to as the summit “a missed alternative.”

“You can not separate what’s happening globally with what’s happening in the USA,” Mr. Morial stated.

The Biden administration might additionally use the summit to set out longer-term plans to work with different nations going through comparable threats to democracy, stated Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow within the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace, a Washington suppose tank. For instance, officers might strategize on methods to crack down on U.S. extremist teams more and more making connections abroad, she stated.

“American democracy at dwelling and world democracy overseas are in dire want of technique, of enchancment, as a result of each are going through swift recession,” Ms. Kleinfeld stated. “However a summit isn’t a method. Actually, a summit has been a distraction.”

Home points usually are not the one potential supply of awkwardness on the assembly, which will characteristic periods with heads of state and greater than a dozen occasions.

The administration has additionally confronted questions over its standards for invites. Critics have questioned the inclusion of nations just like the Philippines, which the State Division has condemned for extrajudicial killings, and Pakistan, which the USA accused of “compelled disappearance by the federal government or its brokers; torture; and circumstances of merciless, inhuman or degrading therapy or punishment by the federal government.”

Freedom Home discovered that Georgia was affected by the affect of oligarchs over its politics and information media, and that Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy, had endemic corruption and permitted the harassment and arrests of journalists.

“I’d not have thrown a celebration in fairly this fashion,” Ms. Kleinfeld stated of the “broad tent” of invitees.

Hungary and Turkey, that are NATO members, weren’t invited; nor had been a number of different nations that establish as democracies however have data of repression. Singapore was additionally omitted, although Protection Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Vice President Kamala Harris each traveled there this 12 months to advertise its relationship with the USA as an ally within the South China Sea.

“The choice to not invite sturdy democracies like Singapore and Bhutan underscores that democracy is within the eye of the beholder,” stated Curtis S. Chin, a former U.S. ambassador to the Asian Growth Financial institution.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates additionally weren’t invited.

Jen Psaki, the White Home press secretary, stated this week that the invites shouldn’t be handled as a “stamp of approval on their strategy to democracy.”

“This is a chance, once more, to not rejoice every thing we’ve executed on democracy, both for the USA or all these nations, and name it a day,” she stated. “It’s a chance to proceed to attempt to do higher.”

Michael Wines contributed reporting.