chapter  19
12 Pages

Democracy, development and authoritarianism

ByMark Beeson

The remarkable levels of economic development associated with East Asia continue to attract attention. Significantly, the primary driver of East Asian economic development in the future looks likely to be China rather than Japan. Passing the baton of economic leadership in the region is significant not just for geopolitical reasons –China is, after all, notionally a ‘communist’ country and not aligned to the US – but also because the political systems that underpin economic development in China and Japan are so very different. China is an unambiguously undemocratic, authoritarian regime and its growing economic and political importance has potentially profound implications for East Asia and the wider international system. As a consequence, the possible relationship between economic and political development will come under renewed scrutiny given the geopolitical and comparative significance of China’s rise in particular. At the very least, it is entirely possible that the authoritarian forms of politics that were associated with state-led industrialization processes across much of the region in the postwar period may not disappear. On the contrary, the success of China’s economic development in particular may prove an attractive role model or source of legitimation for other regimes that may not be enthusiastic about initiating wholesale political reform or encouraging democratization.