The conventional wisdom these days is that autocracy is ascendant and democracy is on the decline. But the superficial appeal of the rise-of-autocracy thesis belies a more complex reality—and a bleaker future for autocrats. As people see that unaccountable rulers prioritize their own interests over the public’s, the popular demand for rights-respecting democracy remains strong.
Human Rights Watch says the world’s democratic leaders need “to do better” in meeting global challenges if they are to build momentum in toppling autocrats after a wave of protests against authoritarian rule last year.
With many democracies reeling from the disruptive effects of new technologies, it is easy to be pessimistic about the future of political systems built on individual freedom and political agency. Yet it is still fully within democratic countries’ power to decide which technologies they do and do not want.
India has a role no less important than America’s in exposing the falsehood of Chinese claims on representative governance
Rather than emphasizing their ideological differences with other countries, democracies should instead recognize their responsibility to themselves and the world. In particular, free societies must now address two critical, overdue tasks in order to revive their domestic and international legitimacy.
South and Southeast Asia have experienced a sharp decline in liberal democracy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the pretext of combating COVID-19, the Philippines and Thailand have suppressed freedom of speech, while Indonesia has concentrated power in the hands of government. India has promoted a COVID-19 tracking application that violates personal privacy while the military coup in Myanmar subverted the democratic elections of November 2020.
Digital technology was a reoccurring theme last week at the Biden administration’s Summit for Democracy on “defending against authoritarianism, addressing and fighting corruption, promoting respect for human rights.” COVID-19 has highlighted how central digital capabilities are for all aspects of life—work, health, education, commerce, and government. Digital infrastructure and government services are no longer just nice to have, but essential elements of a 21st century nation. Digital capabilities are ideologically neutral and can serve authoritarian as well as democratic tendencies, so development donors must be wary of whom they partner with and how they deliver assistance for digital government.
Kleptocracy undermines democracy. Bolstering the capacity of journalists and civil society to respond to it at its source must be a central priority of the international community.
The US and some Western countries have, for a long time, described China as an “undemocratic country.” But this labelling is a result of their arrogance and prejudice against other civilizations, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrote in an article published in state media People’s Daily on Sunday.