Decoupling Governance and Democracy: The Challenge of Authoritarian Development in Southeast Asia

Improving global governance
Posted Jul 20, 2020 | Brookings Institution, Thomas Pepinsky

Recent academic analyses have identified a democratic backsliding across the world. Southeast Asia is particularly vulnerable to democratic decline. Taking stock of the comparative experiences of the 11 countries in the region, Thomas Pepinsky argues in this essay for the Brookings Institution that Southeast Asia is characterized by the decoupling of governance and regime type. This provides insight into how the Beijing model of authoritarian capitalism is shaping the region. China’s economic policies and diplomatic actions do not directly encourage authoritarian capitalism or incentivise countries to follow a particular political or economic model. Instead, its influence is indirect, consistent with its emphasis across the region on a small set of economic development issues, defined as a technocratic or managerial challenge rather than one of democratic politics.


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