WASHINGTON — A number of 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 overseas 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 attractive look of the American-style democracy,” the Chinese report said, citing the Jan. 6 riot. In a rustic the place “cash decides all the things,” the report charged, “an entrenched political paralysis” renders governing not possible.

A spokeswoman for the Russian overseas ministry struck a equally contemptuous tone in late November. “The USA claims the suitable to resolve who’s worthy of being referred to as a democracy and who is just not,” stated the spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, according to Tass, the state information company. “It actually seems cynical. I’d say that it seems pathetic, given the state of democracy and human rights in the USA and within the West on the whole.”

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 dedicate extra consideration to issues at house earlier than turning his focus overseas.

“You may’t attempt to export and defend democracy globally when you possibly can’t shield 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 own 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 information corresponding 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. Members may also make commitments on political reform, corruption, human rights and different issues.

“The U.S. is clearly going via 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 checklist of “backsliding democracies.”

Home shortcomings mustn’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 performed with humility.”

“With out United States engagement and management, the reason for democracy won’t advance,” he stated. “Who else will do it?”

Mr. Biden has stated the world stands at a historic “inflection level” within the contest between democracy and autocracy. He has additionally vowed to point out 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 below 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 be taught and don’t draw back from our shortcomings; confidence in our fixed striving for a extra good 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 transferring the highlight abroad whereas issues festered at house. 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 yr.

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

A White Home reality 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 occurring globally with what’s occurring 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 assume 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 house and international 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 is just not a technique. The truth is, a summit has been a distraction.”

Home points will not be the one potential supply of awkwardness on the assembly, which began off with remarks from Mr. Biden and can function classes 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 instances of merciless, inhuman or degrading remedy 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 manner,” 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 determine as democracies however have information of repression. Singapore was additionally unnoticed, although Protection Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Vice President Kamala Harris each traveled there this yr to advertise its relationship with the USA as an ally within the South China Sea.

“The choice to not invite strong 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 had been additionally not 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 all the things we’ve performed 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.