03 February 2010

Report: Undermining Democracy: 21st Century Authoritarians

"Undermining Democracy: 21st Century Authoritarians" is a report that was published in June 2009 by Freedom House, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia – all of them US-funded advocacy bodies set up to promote democracy around the world.

The full report can be read free of charge here:


Like all bad reporting, it is very tendentious, in particular demonstrating precisely the one-sidedness of which it accuses the media in authoritarian nations.

Some excerpts: "Russia is advancing a new form of authoritarianism, with methods of control that are significantly more sophisticated than the classic totalitarian techniques of the Soviet Union. [...] China, like Russia, has modernized and adapted its authoritarianism, forging a system that combines impressive economic development with an equally impressive apparatus of political control. [...] [T]he[se] systems [as well as those of Iran, Venezuela, and Pakistan] are poorly understood in comparison with the communist regimes and military juntas of the Cold War era. As a result, policymakers do not appear to appreciate the dangers these 21st-century authoritarian models pose to democracy and rule of law around the world. [...]

"The authoritarians examined in this study are pursuing a comprehensive set of illiberal policies that are contesting democracy in practical terms, as well as in the broader battle of ideas. Increasingly sophisticated and backed by considerable resources, these efforts are challenging assumptions about the inevitability of democratic development. [...] Modern authoritarian governments are integrated into the global economy and participate in many of the world's established financial and political institutions. And while they tolerate little pluralism at home, they often call for a 'multipolar' world in which their respective ideologies can coexist peacefully with others. [...]

"[A]s Beijing grows more aggressive in its promotion of the antidemocratic China model, it risks becoming the mirror image of the Western powers it criticizes; it will be 'intervening' in other countries' internal affairs, but to squelch rather than to promote democracy. [...] The elected government that succeeded Musharraf sought to bolster Parliament as the supreme source of power and legitimacy, but it is far from certain that Pakistan will be able to break free of the antidemocratic inertia that permeates large parts of the polity and even the media. [...] Russian efforts have come amid an ascendant antidemocratic zeitgeist in much of the developing world; Russia's role in this trend is as much follower as leader. [...]

"Using social spending as a foreign policy tool has allowed Chávez to win two types of international allies: other states, which are loath to cross him if they benefit from his [oil] largesse, and intellectuals on the left, especially in Europe, who feel that the aid empowers the poor more than the elites. Behind this shield of open or tacit international supporters, the regime is able to pursue its more belligerent and antidemocratic policies with minimal criticism."

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