There does appear to be a confidence threshold for any successful democracy. Once the threshold is passed, it becomes very unlikely that the move to democracy will be reversed…. No democracy has reverted to autocratic government once per capita GDP has risen above $7,000.
But liberal versions of democracy are not similarly irreversible, and there are signs that a shift is underway in a number of European countries
Vladimir Putin’s Russia exemplifies one version: repression is combined with liberalization, and elections coexist with entrenched power elites…. Russia has not turned into a democracy. It has turned into a pseudo-democratic kleptocracy, in which people use money to get power and power to get money.
In general, the spread of democracy has often set off movements for secession, as groups that fear becoming permanent minorities struggle to establish their own states. In interwar Central and Eastern Europe, parts of postcolonial Africa, and post-Tito Yugoslavia, the emergence of democracy was accompanied by intense civil and ethnic conflict. It is hard to think of a convincing reason why China would be different. As in other parts of the world, any move to democracy will very likely come at significant human cost.
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