Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations documents for Bloomberg Businessweek readers some recent troubles surrounding democratically elected governments around the world. Among the most disappointing passages is one that focuses on alternative to a democratic, or republican, government.
China’s mix of state capitalism and authoritarian politics looks, to some, far more inviting than the polarization, gridlock, and subpar economic growth that characterize the U.S., the European Union, and Japan. In part because of China’s economic success, “authoritarianism remains a fierce competitor of democracy in East Asia,” notes Yun-han Chu, a political scientist at National Taiwan University. China’s stable, if repressive, politics and high-speed economic growth—the “Beijing Consensus”—have impressed elites in places such as Thailand, where democracy seems to have produced only graft, muddled economic planning, and political strife. China encourages this line of thinking by each year training more than 10,000 bureaucrats from other developing countries in economic management and various civil-service skills—in sessions at which China’s successes in improving living standards are promoted. Southeast Asian nations “have shifted their development strategy from one based on free markets and democracy to one based on semi-free markets and an illiberal political system,” argues Indonesian scholar Ignatius Wibowo in a recent study on China’s influence in Southeast Asia. “The Beijing Consensus clearly has gained ground in Southeast Asia.”
It’s unfortunate that these “elites” have not learned the value of economic freedom.