“It is a coincidence — but perhaps no accident — that these are the three nations that have emerged as the closest protectors of Syria’s murderous one-party state,” notes Gideon Rachman:
The spectacle should give pause to those who like to believe an irresistible wave of democracy is sweeping the globe. But events in Russia, Iran and China should also give a perverse form of encouragement to democrats. For even as they decry the flaws and hypocrisies of western democracies, the world’s autocrats feel compelled to ape their practices.
The authoritarian urge to cross-dress in democratic clothes is an implied compliment to the democratic nations. That matters, because western democracies are going through a crisis of confidence that is being closely watched.
“The ‘Arab Spring’ has shocked the pillars of global authoritarianism,” even in its most successful bastion. “A surprising number of Chinese and foreign observers in Beijing believe that, as one analyst put it, ‘this place could blow at any moment’,” Rachman notes.
China exemplifies the inherent fragility or brittleness of authoritarian political systems lacking the delicate balance of malleability and stability that emerges from democratic legitimacy:
“Democracy can roll with the punches, but authoritarian systems have a glass jaw,” he concludes:
Even in Greece, demonstrators are arguing for new policies and politicians — not to abandon the democratic system. By contrast, all China’s economic success cannot change the perception that the current political system will have to change. China’s ability to get things done has excited interest and envy, but it is hard to think of any nation where there is popular demand to adopt China’s political system.