Why democratic India will outpace autocratic China

China’s churlish reaction to Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi this week suggests that the US president and Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, are on to something important in their attempt to remake the geostrategic map of the world, writes FT analyst Victor Mallet:

Mr Obama and Mr Modi…tacitly contrasted Chinese authoritarianism with their own declared respect for freedom, democracy and the rule of law.               

Mr Modi is not saddled with the historical baggage of anti-capitalism and suspicion of the west that made the Congress party lean towards the Soviet Union while publicly adopting “non-alignment” during the cold war. Instead, he finds himself propelled into a friendship with Mr Obama by 3m Indian-Americans, many of them prosperous entrepreneurs hailing from his native Gujarat.

india china“Modi comes in and finds that there is much greater strategic convergence with the US vis-à-vis China,” says Mr Vaishnav. “He doesn’t have this historical ideological baggage” and is not embarrassed about openly befriending the US. “That,” Mr Vaishnav says, “has to be counted as a significant break from the past.” 

Autocratic China has plenty of capitalist superfans in the West, but the latest forecast suggests that the tide may be turning in India’s favor, possibly for good. The World Bank anticipates (PDF) that, by 2017, India will be growing faster than China, writes analyst Allison Schrager:

Once that happens, growth will depend on demographics and each country’s ability to innovate. India has a better outlook on both fronts. Its population is growing; China’s is shrinking. It’s harder to predict which country will be better at innovation. Signs point to India because democracies, with their secure property rights and general stability, tend to be better at fostering successful entrepreneurship. China’s authoritarian capitalism is a new model, and it’s not clear whether it can produce the sort of environment in which people take chances, form businesses, and invent things. 

India also has some long-term advantages over China, the FT adds:

First, its demographics are considerably better, with a relatively much larger cohort of young people entering the workforce. Second, while China requires great political upheaval to become a prosperous liberal democracy, India has only to improve the imperfect democracy it already has. Third, China is beginning to exhaust the rapid manufacturing phase of expansion, and may find growth harder to come by in the future.

Major States Fall Short in Democracy Support Deficit

 

freedom house2The world’s leading democracies are making significant efforts to promote democracy and human rights, but their policies are inconsistent, and they often overlook authoritarian threats, according to Freedom House analysts Daniel Calingaert, Arch Puddington, and Sarah Repucci. As authoritarian states collaborate to push back against political and human rights around the globe, democracies must reassess their approach and adopt a bolder and more coherent strategy, they write in a new report.

Among the 11 regional and global powers examined, the democracies in Latin America, Africa, and Asia were less likely to exert pressure on rights violators in their regions and less inclined to condemn the abrogation of democratic standards by major powers than were the United States, the European Union, and individual European countries. The disparity is largely attributable to the emphasis placed by the former group on the principle of noninterference and respect for sovereignty.

“Few leading democracies consistently stand up for their values beyond their borders,” said Repucci, project director of the report, Supporting Democracy Abroad: An Assessment of Leading Powers . “As dictatorships increase their influence worldwide, democracies must pay more attention to places where democracy and its advocates are most under threat. This is especially true where acts of repression are on the rise in a major democracy’s own neighborhood.

Main Findings

  • Significant gap between north and south: Among the countries examined, the democracies in Latin America, Africa, and Asia were less likely to exert pressure on rights violators in their regions and less inclined to condemn the abrogation of democratic standards by major powers. …
  • Strong support for elections, weakness on trade and coups: Nearly all of the countries assessed have a systematic program of electoral support, whether through observation missions, assistance to electoral bodies, training and knowledge sharing, or condemnations of vote fraud. Most concentrate their energies in their own regions, but some reach further afield. However, almost all governments in the study believe that economic interests should determine trade policies, meaning human rights issues take a back seat. …
  • China gets a pass: All countries have immediate economic and strategic interests that compete with, and often override, their support for democracy and human rights. Nowhere is this more evident than in policies toward China. Various states either openly proclaim a policy of unconditional cooperation, as does Brazil; respond unevenly, as does the United States; or simply withhold criticism, as with France. … In no other country could a Nobel peace laureate languish in prison for political crimes, as Liu Xiaobo does, without provoking sustained pressure from diplomats and global civil society alike.
  • Multilateralism aids legitimacy but dilutes impact: Many countries put a strong emphasis on supporting democracy through regional or international bodies, such as the Organization of American States, the African Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union, and UN Human Rights Council. Countries like Indonesia (in ASEAN) and Poland (in the EU) have worked to make democracy promotion a high priority for these bodies, while Brazil and South Africa have brought violations of political and civil rights to the attention of their respective regional organizations. …. Democratic powers sometimes even use multilateral organizations as a screen, supporting joint statements of concern about violations of democratic norms or human rights in order to avoid criticizing an authoritarian government directly or taking responsibility for a stronger response.

Recommendations

The report’s recommendations for leading democracies include the following:

  • Vigorously counteract encroachments by large authoritarian states—such as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran—that seek regional hegemony and are openly hostile to democratic change among their neighbors.
  • Devote greater attention to the settings where democracy and its advocates are most under threat, and jointly adopt more robust methods when responding to coups and massive human rights abuses.
  • Ensure that major democracies take the lead in firmly addressing democratic setbacks and gross human rights violations in their own regions.
  • Actively engage in regional and international institutions to mobilize strong collective responses to democratic disruptions and human rights abuses, and to oppose efforts to water down any joint action.
  • Establish a united front when dealing with China and Russia in order to check their coercion of neighboring states and address antidemocratic practices within their borders.

 

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Solidarity Center partner Kailash Satyarthi wins Nobel

Labor and human rights activist and long-time Solidarity Center ally Kailash Satyarthi won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel committee announced this morning, the Solidarity Center reports. He shares the prestigious award with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who survived a brutal 2012 Taliban attack for her stance on girls’ education.

As a grassroots activist, Satyarthi has led the rescue of more than 78,500 child laborers and survived numerous attacks on his life as a result. As a PBS profile describes Satyarthi’s work: “His original idea was daring and dangerous. He decided to mount raids on factories—factories frequently manned by armed guards—where children and often entire families were held captive as bonded workers.”

Solidarity Center Asia Regional Director Tim Ryan said, “Kailash’s lifetime commitment to the cause of eradicating child labor is an inspiration to every human rights defender around the world to promote the rights of the most vulnerable, the most economically exploited young workers and the paramount importance of finding ways to secure basic education for all children around the world.” Satyarthi’s decades of work to end exploitive child labor have encompassed advocacy for decent work and working conditions for adults, including domestic workers, because impoverished families must often make the difficult choice of sending their children to work for the sake of family survival. ….

In 1998, Satyarthi created the Global March Against Child Labour, a coalition of unions and child rights organizations from around the world, to work toward elimination of child labor. ….

Winning the Nobel “will help in giving bigger visibility to the cause of children who are most neglected and most deprived,” Satyarthi said upon learning he won the prestigious prize. “Everyone must acknowledge and see that child slavery still exists in the world in its ugliest face and form. And this is crime against humanity, this is intolerable, this is unacceptable. And this must go.” (Listen to his interview with the Nobel Prize team.)….

Satyarthi’s award of the Nobel Prize is the latest high-profile recognition of worker rights activists in the last month. Earlier this week, Alejandra Ancheita, founder and executive director of the Mexico City-based ProDESC (Project for Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights), won the prestigious international Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. And in September, Ai-jen Poo, founder and director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, became a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant recipient.

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Is ‘civil society’ imperialistic?

russia_civilsociety_HRW“Civil society imperialism” is a term bandied about by the world’s authoritarian regimes and illiberal democracies, analyst John Lloyd writes for Reuters.

Russia is the main suspect state here. Its 2012 Foreign Agents Law forces all NGOs that are registered or receive money from abroad to register as a foreign agent, a designation that carries overtones of espionage and treachery, he notes:

In a speech to actual – domestic – agents of the Federal Security Service in February 2013, Putin said that “any direct or indirect interference in our internal affairs, any form of pressure on Russia, our allies and partners is unacceptable.” The Russian president apparently believes that organizations that advocate for human and civil rights, campaign against ecological damage and support such causes as feminism and gay rights are foreign-funded attempts to weaken the Russian state.

China, whose leader Xi Jingping is said to be an admirer of Putin, is also bearing down hard on anything that smacks of civil society. Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that the climate for civil-society bodies in China has become much more wintry, quoting one unnamed manager in the office of an international NGO as saying that, “there has been an increase in the number of meetings, and an increase in the number of departments who want to speak to you. The questions have become more pointed. ‘So what are you really doing?’ That’s the question you get all the time.”

But it’s not just the usual state suspects questioning the value of a civil society. India, which rejoices in the name of the world’s largest democracy, is suspicious of it, too. Earlier this year, Narendra Modi, the country’s new prime minister, took delivery of a report by a domestic security service that contended foreign NGOs were fronts for foreign interests and were responsible for a loss of 2 percent to 3 percent of economic growth.

“Civil society organizations can be big pains for the most open of governments,” Lloyd adds. “They can be unfair, shrill and mindlessly militant. But they are as fundamental to a real democracy as regular elections: to detach civility from elections is to court the loss of both.”

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Non-Western roots of international democracy support

A striking feature of international democracy support is the connection between a country’s domestic experience with democracy and the shape of its efforts to promote democracy beyond its borders, according to Carnegie analysts Richard Youngs and Thomas Carothers.

The nature of a state’s democratic transition inevitably influences how it perceives and interacts with transition processes in other countries. In addition, the specific form of its own democratic institutions will condition how it seeks to support institutional reform in other countries.

These linkages can be a source of strength. By drawing on their country’s own experiences with a particular institutional form or political process, aid providers and democracy activists can offer usefully grounded knowledge to others grappling with similar challenges. Yet they can also prove problematic if those same actors try to export their own transitional experiences and institutional forms to disparate contexts in which different democratic solutions are needed. Western support for democracy around the world in recent decades has often embodied both the strengths and weaknesses of such internal-external linkages.

As rising democracies in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere increasingly engage in supporting democracy outside their borders, internal-external linkages in this domain take new forms. Often these countries have only relatively recently transitioned from authoritarian to democratic rule, and thus lessons from their own experience about how democratization should or should not unfold are vivid in the minds of policymakers and aid providers. ….

Thus, exploring the internal-external linkages that characterize the democracy support work of rising democracies is a useful early step in gaining a deeper appreciation of how these countries go about such work. It sheds light on the assertion made by actors in some rising democracies that their external democracy work benefits from political nuances and sensitivities that Western democracy assistance may lack.

To help illuminate this issue, experts in the recently established Carnegie Rising Democracies Network explain, on a case-by-case basis, how the experience of democratic transition influences external democracy support policies in Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, and Eastern Europe. These case studies highlight how the expanding range of actors involved in international democracy support is increasing the variety and complexity of the field overall.

BRAZIL – Oliver Stuenkel

Brazil’s democratic transition, which began in the late 1970s, was gradual, steady, and relatively peaceful. After introducing free and fair national elections in the 1980s, the government undertook market-oriented reforms and controlled inflation in the 1990s and initiated broad cash-transfer programs to reduce poverty and inequality in the 2000s….

Compared to other countries’ experiences, the Brazilian political transition was relatively drawn out. …..Democratization occurred without the explicit intervention of international actors (the IMF played a key role in the 1980s, but it was not a prodemocratic force). This fact helps explain why Brazilian foreign policy makers today remain skeptical that outside intervention of any kind can be of much help in a country’s quest to democratize, even though Brazilian political leaders agree that outsiders can at times help mediate internal conflicts. Furthermore, Brazil’s relatively smooth and bloodless transition contributed to a natural reluctance to support potentially disruptive prodemocratic movements that may lead to sudden instability and complicate civil-military relations. ….

CHILE - Claudio Fuentes

Following Chile’s transition to democracy in 1990, the country’s new leaders began developing a set of foreign policy initiatives to promote human rights abroad. Several consecutive governments promoted Chile’s proactive involvement in various regional and global institutions—the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Organization of American States, the UN Human Rights Council, the International Labor Organization, and the UN Security Council, among others. Under these governments, the Chilean armed forces also participated in international peacekeeping operations and contributed to international debates on pressing global issues, such as the UN discussion on the global responsibility to protect populations from war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. 

Chile’s domestic experience of transition helped inform this proactive approach in three ways.

First, the experience of human rights abuses committed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 to 1990, pushed Chile’s new democratic authorities to make human rights protection a foreign policy priority….Second, Chile’s first generation of democratically elected policymakers played a crucial role in shaping the country’s emphasis on international human rights protection. ……Third, policy continuity also played an important role in bringing human rights to center stage. …..

These three factors—historical context, political leadership, and substantial policy continuity—were crucial in shaping Chile’s considerable engagement in advancing human rights abroad.

INDIA - Niranjan Sahoo

Once considered an unlikely candidate for democracy, India’s political journey continues to surprise international observers. With each passing election, India’s democratic credentials have grown stronger. Unsurprisingly, successful democratic governance in a large and highly diverse country like India that is plagued by mass poverty and low levels of literacy has attracted considerable academic interest and global recognition. Given India’s success, Western powers tend to see the country as a beacon of democracy in a region characterized by authoritarian regimes and failed states.

However, India remains hesitant to exercise soft power to promote democracy beyond its borders. ….The reasons why India tends to avoid including democracy support in its foreign policy stem from the country’s complex domestic politics and institutional processes. Respect for national sovereignty, a legacy of India’s anticolonial struggle and Cold War anxiety, remains an abiding principle of the country’s foreign policy. The memory of colonial subjugation and perceived virtues of nonalignment, through which India sought to position itself as the leader of the Third World, mean that Indian diplomats still tend toward nonintervention and active or interventionist democracy support finds few backers within India’s foreign policy establishment. ….

India’s dismal rights records, domestic vulnerabilities, volatile neighborhood, and rocky democratic transition have a decisive bearing on India’s foreign policy postures when it comes to values such as democracy support. Given this, India’s democracy support has mostly been in the form of extending technical assistance, capacity building, and institutional strengthening.

Yet, in recent years, there has been considerable positive movement with regard to India’s changing worldview on the role of democracy and human rights concerns in its foreign policy. The interaction of various internal and external stimuli seems to be creating an environment that is conducive to increasing democracy promotion efforts…..

INDONESIA - I Ketut Putra Erawan

The case of Indonesia exemplifies the close connection between a country’s experiences in democratization and its initiatives for external democracy support. Democracy and reform processes in Indonesia, reformasi, are perceived as new foundational national values and experiences that need to be nurtured internally and shared externally. The country’s experience of democratization strongly colors the characteristics and approach of its external democracy support initiatives in a number of ways. …..

The country’s democratic transition entailed the positive engagement and interaction of the state with civil society and other nonstate actors. The emergence of reformers from inside Indonesia’s state institutions brought not only greater legitimacy to the process of change but also the possibility of reforming the state from the inside. The engagement of civil society, media, and other nonstate activists then became crucial for sustaining the reform process.

As a result, Indonesian democracy support efforts target state, civil society, and nonstate actors. Through the Bali Democracy Forum initiative, an annual intergovernmental summit on the development of democracy in the Asia-Pacific region, Indonesia engages state actors in its neighborhood and beyond to share their experiences with and learn about democracy.

Lessons and experiences made available by international and regional actors and institutions informed Indonesia’s democratic consolidation. These external partners shared with Indonesia examples of constitution building, legal reforms, party reform, accountability mechanisms, and other institution-building challenges. International and regional actors provided support while respecting Indonesia’s internal processes and its leaders, an approach that is now reflected in the country’s emerging foreign policy.

JAPAN – Maiko Ichihara

Japan is one of the few countries that did not democratize as a result of a domestic social movement for political change. Instead, the current democratic regime was installed in the aftermath of World War II by external forces led by the United States. Due to the lack of a mass democratization movement in their own country, the Japanese remain generally opposed to supporting popular struggles for political change abroad. ….

Japan has a relatively weak democratic tradition, which is reflected in the country’s external democracy assistance policy. While the Japanese government has launched multiple policy frameworks on democracy support since the early 1990s, the country has not become a major player in the field. Between 1995 and 2012, Japan on average only allocated approximately 1 percent of its official development assistance to democracy support. ….

SOUTH AFRICA – Tjiurimo Alfredo Hengari

At the heart of South Africa’s transition was a model of tolerance and overcoming injustice. An abiding legacy of South Africa’s transition is that democratization was about “the weak” prevailing over “the strong.” That model now sits at the root of South Africa’s external projection, and this ethos continues to condition the way democracy support is woven into the broader aspects of South African foreign policy. 

A result of this legacy is a duality in South Africa’s foreign policy. During the apartheid years, South Africans saw some countries providing considerable support to the African National Congress (ANC) while other countries supported the government the ANC was fighting. As a result, some in the ANC came to associate democratic transitions with overcoming Western geostrategic neoimperialism; this has bred a reluctance to be at all interventionist in foreign policy. On the other hand, some came to see democracy support more as a civic-led movement with strong links across borders. This school of thought has pushed for more active South African democracy promotion policies built on support for civil society rather than cautious government-to-government, sovereigntist diplomacy. …..

Through the legacy of the past and the messianic tone used by the ANC as it was endorsing the transition in 1994, South Africa has elevated itself to a principled role, and it could serve as a guarantor and promoter of democratic norms and values, particularly in Africa. However, the past two decades have witnessed shortcomings in the manner in which such values have been instituted in South Africa’s external democracy support initiatives. The same features of the country’s transition that inspire others also inhibit or confuse South African democracy promotion efforts abroad. The normative bases in the country’s foreign policy, with democracy at the core, have been pursued inconsistently—albeit within the limits of what is possible and permissible in light of South Africa’s own history and the structural international political context in which the country operates.

SOUTH KOREA - Sook Jong Lee

South Korea’s democratic transition began in 1987, when the ruling authoritarian regime gave in to popular demands to reinstate direct presidential elections (an indirect system had been in place since 1972). The country’s democratization struggle drew the participation of diverse liberal segments of South Korean civil society. The involvement of white-collar workers and middle-class citizens in this struggle played a critical role in pushing the country’s ruling elites to seek a compromise for political liberalization. ….. 

The role of international organizations or foreign governments in this evolution was limited. In fact, the United States, an influential ally of South Korea, did little to press the ruling authoritarian regimes for reform at critical junctures in the process of democratization.

South Korea’s democratic transition thus grew out of successful internal modernization. It was successful only after the country had already modernized substantially.

This particular pattern explains why South Korea today supports the democratization of developing countries primarily through indirect means. Although South Korea experienced a tenacious internal struggle for political change and has evolved into a vibrant democracy, its government and nongovernmental organizations remain reluctant to support democratization struggles in other parts of the world directly. Having experienced no such intervention from the outside world during their own democratic transition, most Koreans view autonomous democratization as the most viable path.

Moreover, South Koreans tend to believe that democracy is sustainable only once a certain level of economic development has been achieved. …..

TURKEY – Senem Aydin-Düzgit

Nowhere is the linkage between a country’s domestic political system and its support for democracy and human rights beyond its borders more visible than in Turkey. In the Turkish case, this connection is best illustrated through three main processes. 

The first concerns the debates on Turkey’s potential as a democratic model in the Middle East. Turkey became active in democracy promotion after the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002 in what was widely seen as a test case of whether Islam and democracy could indeed be compatible in a modern state. ….

A second important internal-external linkage in the Turkish case pertains to the ways in which the AKP, particularly after the Arab Spring, has used the discourse of democracy promotion in the Middle East and North Africa to consolidate its power base at home….

A final key linkage between domestic political developments and Turkish democracy promotion efforts concerns the rise of neo-Islamist ideology, which became prevalent across the Turkish state and government bureaucracy with the AKP’s ascent to power. In the foreign policy realm, this ideology envisions a strong revival of Turkey’s soft power in the post-Ottoman space through the country’s cultural, historical, and religious ties to the region. It is therefore no coincidence that the volume and scope of Turkish democracy assistance (as well as its development and humanitarian assistance) in neighboring regions has increased substantially under AKP rule. The regional dimension went hand in hand with the AKP’s internal political project and was mirrored in the nature of external democracy support.

EASTERN EUROPE  - Tsveta Petrova

The Eastern European members of the EU, and especially Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Lithuania, are some of the most active emerging donors providing external democracy support. Unlike many other new democracies, Eastern European states do not negatively associate democracy promotion with an imposition of Western values. In fact, for much of Eastern Europe, the end of the Cold War was a victory for the democratic West over the regional imperial power, the Soviet Union, and its autocratic governance system. ….

As a result, democracy promotion efforts by Eastern European governments and civil society actors primarily stem from the desire to share their own transition experiences with other countries struggling to overcome authoritarian rule, and the Eastern European countries’ own democratic experiences have influenced their foreign policy priorities. Eastern European democracy promoters thus very consciously and purposefully pass on best practices and lessons learned about what worked and what failed during their own transitions. ….

Eastern European democracy promoters also prioritize work with governing elites in recipient countries. Most of this work has been primarily political, that is, building and strengthening the prodemocratic forces within recipient states rather than focusing, like many other donors do, on recipients’ socioeconomic and state development as an intermediate step toward political liberalization.

Lastly, the influence of the Eastern Europeans’ democratic experiences on these countries’ democracy promotion priorities has produced some distinctive thematic investments and policy instrument preferences. For instance, Hungary prefers to implement democracy assistance projects with the consent of the host government and often emphasizes human and especially minority rights questions. Czech diplomats, on the other hand, strongly believe in the power of “naming and shaming” oppressive regimes at the international level. And Estonia has invested in sharing its distinctive e-governance expertise in the realms of information policy and transparency with regional partners. In each case, these thematic priorities reflect aspects central to the country’s own democratic transition.

CONCLUSIONS – Richard Youngs and Thomas Carothers

The group of states included here as rising democracies went through different processes of transition. …..Each of these countries draws on the distinct features of its own transition to inform the way in which and the extent to which its supports democracy externally. This internal-external link can be purposive or more instinctive. That is, in some cases these countries seek to share their own transition experiences directly through democracy initiatives that they fund in other countries. In other cases, they simply tend to believe that the nature of their own transition represents the best way for political change to occur. Central and Eastern European states often foster civic activism as something positive, for example, while for Brazil elite-led change is seen as more desirable. 

These types of internal-external links can be seen as both advantageous and problematic. Rising democracies make a valuable contribution to democratization by sharing their own distinctive experiences. They can add much useful experience that is not so readily available to Western democracy promoters. Arguably, however, there is not sufficient recognition on the part of rising democracies that their own models of change might not be the most appropriate for some other societies. Rising democracies struggle to detach from their own transition experiences and design their external support from an understanding of the local desires and particularities of the countries in which they operate.

In addition, as with established Western democracies, at times these countries operate from myths about their own transitions that underplay complexities and can be unhelpful if projected onto other states. As they fine-tune their democracy support, these rising democracies grapple with the same difficulty that established Western democracies have long faced: they benefit in some ways from the richness of their internal experiences, but they are simultaneously hindered in other ways by the local specificities of their own experiences and models.

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