Chinese Democracy (song)

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"Chinese Democracy"
Single by Guns N' Roses
from the album Chinese Democracy
B-side "Shackler's Revenge"
Released October 22, 2008
Format Digital download, CD single
Recorded 1999-2008
Genre Hard rock, industrial rock, heavy metal
Length 4:43
Label Geffen
Writer(s) Axl Rose, Josh Freese, Eric Caudieux, Caram Castanzo, Robin Finck, Dizzy Reed, Tommy Stinson, Paul Tobias
Producer(s) Axl Rose, Caram Costanzo
Guns N' Roses singles chronology
"Sympathy for the Devil"
"Chinese Democracy"
Chinese Democracy track listing
"Chinese Democracy"
"Shackler's Revenge"
Music sample
Alternative cover
Geffen version

"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 released since "Estranged".


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]

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


"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.[5]


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".[6]

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".[7]

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",[8] 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.[9] 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".[10]

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".[11]

The song was the official theme of WWE's Armageddon 2008 pay-per-view.[12]

Chart positions[edit]

In the U.S. "Chinese Democracy" debuted at #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 based on downloads, becoming the band's highest charting single since 1992's "November Rain". It also did very well on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks peaking at #5. In Canada it debuted at #83 on the Canadian Hot 100 on the issue of November 8, and on the issue of November 22 it then skyrocketed from #60 to #10 the next week based on sales strength. In Ireland, the song peaked at number 3. In the UK it entered at number 27.

Chart (2008-09) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 34
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 5
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 24
Australian Singles Chart 10
Canadian Hot 100 10
Finnish Singles Chart 3
Greek Singles Chart 6
Irish Singles Chart 3
Italian Singles Chart 7
Norwegian Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart 2
UK Singles Chart 27


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


  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. ^ "Guns N’ Roses Setlist April 1 2016". Retrieved 26 April 2016. 
  6. ^ "First Listen: New Guns N' Roses Single Reviewed | Spin Magazine Online". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  7. ^ "Snap judgment: Guns N' Roses' 'Chinese Democracy' (single)". Los Angeles Times. 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  8. ^ Willman, Chris (2008-10-22). "Vote for (or against) Guns N' Roses' 'Chinese Democracy' single |". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  9. ^ "The GQ Eye: GQ". 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  10. ^ "Chinese Democracy Song Review - Guns N' Roses". Zimbio. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  11. ^ "Slash Endorses 'Chinese Democracy'". 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  12. ^ "WWE Armageddon home page". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 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. 
  13. ^ Chinese Democracy (Media notes). Guns N' Roses. Geffen Records. 2008.