- Authoritarianism Goes Global (II)
The four short essays that follow complete a series of articles that the Journal of Democracy has been publishing during the past year on the global resurgence of authoritarianism. These began, in our January and April 2015 issues, with essays on the leading authoritarian regimes—China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. These countries, which we have dubbed the authoritarian “Big Five,” are distinguished not only by their size and political importance, but also by their efforts to make their influence felt both locally and globally. Although ideologically diverse and sometimes even at odds with one another, they all share the goal of trying to halt or reverse the advance of democracy.
Cooperation among the authoritarians sometimes has a geopolitical dimension, but it is perhaps most apparent in various “soft-power” arenas in which the authoritarians are seeking to undermine democratic norms. In part, they do this by learning from one another with regard to domestic measures that constrain democratic activity within their borders. They also strive, however, to make the global political framework less hospitable to democracy by working together in regional and international organizations. They have built new authoritarian groupings such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and they have been undermining the prodemocratic efforts of existing organizations such as the OSCE and the OAS.
In our July 2015 issue, Alexander Cooley offered a broad look at the campaign to counter democratic norms, Ron Deibert explored the authoritarians’ bid to gain greater control over cyberspace, and Patrick Merloe documented their attempts to undermine the new norm of impartial election monitoring. In this issue, we focus on two other arenas where the authoritarians are increasingly making their influence felt—civil society and the media. Anne Applebaum unearths the Bolshevik roots of the attempt to crush independent civil society, and shows how this legacy survives in Putin’s Russia. Douglas Rutzen looks at measures that countries have taken to limit the freedom of civil society organizations and especially to restrict their receipt of foreign funding. The remaining two essays focus on fast-growing and amply funded authoritarian initiatives in the field of international media: Peter Pomerantsev shows how the Kremlin, having mastered Russia’s domestic media, is now seeking to sell its depictions of pseudoreality abroad; and Anne-Marie Brady traces China’s use of international media to improve its global image and to discredit its critics, especially among Overseas Chinese.
In March 2016, Johns Hopkins University Press will be publishing all these essays as a book. We hope that this publication will promote wider understanding of a grave but still underrated threat to democracy’s future. [End Page 20]