Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (via Kremlin)

By Avram Reisman

At a time when democracy is in recession and facing new challenges, it is worth looking back on essential literature written when democratic change was similarly challenged by authoritarian powers. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, by Guillermo O’Donnell and Phillippe Schmitter, was a paradigmatic publication that set parameters and expectations for democratic transitions in U.S. policy and for democratic opposition groups in many parts of the world. Looking with a contemporary critical lens, it’s clear the sands of time have eroded the model’s validity. However, with some adaptation, the model provides some direction for new international landscape.

By Yufei Zhang

China’s New Ambition

In November 2017, a major mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party published an op-ed, inciting fierce debate about the political system in China. “China is the biggest and the most successful democracy in the world,” Han Zhen, the head of a top-ranked university in China, stated in that article. “China’s achievements have already broken up the prerogative interpretation of democracy by the West.”

For many people in the West, facts speak for themselves – China has been an authoritarian country for decades, without a single interval. However, this fait accompli turns out to be not so true for those in China, who have received a set of systematic propagandas since childhood. Over decades, the spin doctors in China have led an effort to have ordinary Chinese believe that the political system in China, modified by various prefixes like socialism or people’s republic, has been a “truly democratic one” from the beginning.