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"Chinese Democracy" is a song by the American rock band Guns N' Roses, and the title track from their sixth studio album of the same name. The song was released as the band's twenty-first radio single on October 22, 2008[1] and was released on the iTunes Store on November 9, 2008. It was primarily written by Axl Rose and Josh Freese.[2] It was the band's first single of original material since "Estranged" was released in 1994 as the final single off the 1991 album Use Your Illusion II.

"Chinese Democracy"
Chinese Democracy (song).jpg
artwork of the UK vinyl single release
Single by Guns N' Roses
from the album Chinese Democracy
B-side"Shackler's Revenge"
ReleasedOctober 22, 2008
  • Axl Rose
  • Caram Costanzo
Guns N' Roses singles chronology
"Sympathy for the Devil"
"Chinese Democracy"
"Shadow of Your Love"
Audio sample
"Chinese Democracy"
Alternative cover
Geffen version
Geffen version

Commercially, "Chinese Democracy" charted well in most territories. It was particularly successful in Scandinavian countries, topping the Norwegian Singles Chart and reaching number three in Sweden and Finland. The song reached the top 20 in Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland, as well as number 27 on the UK Singles Chart and in Flemish Belgium and New Zealand. In North America, the song reached number 10 in Canada and number 34 in the United States. In the latter country, the song peaked at number five on the Mainstream Rock chart.



Prior to the song being released as a single, "Chinese Democracy" had been played live by Guns N' Roses on their Chinese Democracy Tour in 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2007.[3]

The final line of the song was originally "like if your ass were your head, you can tell", but was ultimately changed to "when their arms reach out for your help".

Axl Rose introduced the band's first live performance of the song in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 1, 2001 with the following:

The movie Kundun was on [television] about the Dalai Lama. I was getting ready to leave...and it was the end of the movie. And the Dalai Lama is about to cross over the border, to you know, be in exile for the rest of his life from his own country. And he looks back at the men who helped him, and you know he's escaped the Chinese government. And he looks back at them and he waves and they wave at him. And then they show a scene where he looks back at them again and he sees every one of them dead. Because he knew they would be killed, and they knew that in helping him they would be killed. And you know the emotion in this next song, that's all that's about. It's not like an intelligent song. It doesn't have the answer to anything. And it's not necessarily pro or con about China. It's just that right now China symbolizes one of the strongest, yet most oppressive countries and governments in the world. And we [Americans] are fortunate to live in a free country. And so in thinking about that it just kinda upset me, and we wrote this little song called "Chinese Democracy."[4]


The song has received a mostly positive reception from critics. It was played over 4 million times on Myspace in one day. Spin Magazine noted that with "a thick, muscular four-chord riff and that Axl banshee wail, only the most stubbornly jaded will manage to suppress the goosebump reflex", but criticized it for being "hook-free".[5]

The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, described Axl as "the most ambitious hard rocker of the late 20th century" and though also noting that "the chorus is just an extension of the verses" and that the song therefore "doesn't behave the way radio-friendly singles usually do", still stated that "the refrain sticks after several listens". Ultimately, the Los Angeles Times concluded that the song "brings back a passionate weirdness that the hard rock airwaves have lacked", also comparing it to David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans", noting that "Both songs have a suffocated quality, as if their makers are pushing through smoke to express these thoughts. It's the sound of florid, romantic rockers aiming for something cold and modern".[6]

Popwatch noted that not "even the greatest GNR song ever conceived could possibly be worth so sustained a buildup" and echoed the sentiment that the chorus of the song "feels like the buildup to a great refrain, but turns out to really be the refrain",[7] while suggested that, judging amongst the leaked songs, "Chinese Democracy" was a curious choice for lead single, suggesting that "Madagascar" or "There Was a Time" would have been superior.[8] A review on the site Zimbio argued that "no matter how I wanted to hate this song, I can't", describing the tune as "better than some songs on Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II" and declared that "if you can put your bias aside, you will find this song isn't bad" and that "it does make me excited to hear the rest of the album".[9]

The then former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash reacted positively to the song upon release, saying "That sounds cool. It's good to hear [Axl Rose's] voice again, y'know".[10]

The song was the official theme of WWE's Armageddon 2008 pay-per-view.[11]

Live performancesEdit

"Chinese Democracy" has been played live at most Guns N' Roses shows since the first Chinese Democracy Tour in 2001. With each tour, the performances drastically changed, gaining more background structure and guitar parts, along with a second solo akin to the album version. During the 2009/2010 tour, the song was used exclusively as the show opener. The song continues to be played even after the pre-Chinese Democracy members, Slash and Duff McKagan, have rejoined.[12]


Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[13]Guns N' Roses

Additional credits

  • Guitar solos – Robin Finck, Buckethead
  • Intro – Eric Caudieux, Caram Costanzo
  • Arrangement – Axl Rose, Paul Tobias, Sean Beavan
  • Digital editing – Eric Caudieux, Caram Costanzo, Axl Rose, Sean Beavan
  • Additional guitar processing – Chris Pitman


Chart (2008) Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[14] 26
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[15] 27
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[16] 32
Brazil (ABPD)[17] 58
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[18] 10
Denmark (Tracklisten)[19] 23
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[20] 3
Germany (Official German Charts)[21] 38
Ireland (IRMA)[22] 32
Italy (FIMI)[23] 7
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[24] 15
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[25] 27
Norway (VG-lista)[26] 1
Poland (LP3)[27] 8
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[28] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[29] 11
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[30] 27
US Billboard Hot 100[31] 34
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[32] 24
US Digital Songs (Billboard)[33] 20
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[34] 5


  1. ^ Guns N’ Roses Officially Announce "Chinese Democracy": Pre-Orders Start Today
  2. ^ Image of CD single
  3. ^ GNRontour
  4. ^ "Meaning Behind Songs". Guns N' Roses - N.I.R. Archived from the original on August 31, 2003.
  5. ^ "First Listen: New Guns N' Roses Single Reviewed | Spin Magazine Online". Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  6. ^ "Snap judgment: Guns N' Roses' 'Chinese Democracy' (single)". Los Angeles Times. October 22, 2008. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  7. ^ Willman, Chris (October 22, 2008). "Vote for (or against) Guns N' Roses' 'Chinese Democracy' single |". Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  8. ^ "The GQ Eye: GQ". October 13, 2009. Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  9. ^ "Chinese Democracy Song Review - Guns N' Roses". Zimbio. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  10. ^ "Slash Endorses 'Chinese Democracy'". October 24, 2008. Archived from the original on February 10, 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  11. ^ "WWE Armageddon home page". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved November 24, 2008. The official theme song for Armageddon was "Chinese Democracy" by Guns N’ Roses. The song is off the album Chinese Democracy, which is in stores now on Geffen Records.
  12. ^ "Guns N' Roses Setlist April 1 2016". Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  13. ^ Chinese Democracy (Media notes). Guns N' Roses. Geffen Records. 2008.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  15. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  16. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  17. ^ "Brazil" (PDF). ABPD. October 6, 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 8, 2016. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  18. ^ "Guns N' Roses Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  19. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy". Tracklisten. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  20. ^ "Guns N' Roses: Chinese Democracy" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  21. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  22. ^ "Chart Track: Week 46, 2008". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  23. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy". Top Digital Download. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  24. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  25. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  26. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy". VG-lista. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  27. ^ "Notowanie nr1400" (in Polish). LP3. November 29, 2008. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  28. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy". Singles Top 100. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  29. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Chinese Democracy". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  30. ^ "Guns N Roses: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  31. ^ "Guns N Roses Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  32. ^ "Guns N Roses Chart History (Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  33. ^ "Guns N Roses Chart History (Digital Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  34. ^ "Guns N Roses Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2017.