A 21st Century Myth—Authoritarian Modernization in Russia and China

Bobo Lo, Lilia Shevtsova Report July 1, 2012 Carnegie Moscow Center Report
The idea of authoritarian modernization, or state capitalism, has become fashionable in the wake of the global financial crisis, but the examples of China and Russia demonstrate that it is ultimately a self-serving illusion.

In recent years, China has emerged as the poster child for a new economic “model,” commonly known as authoritarian modernization or state capitalism. The idea that economic development is best managed top-down by a wise, paternalist state has become especially fashionable in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Shevtsova chaired the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, dividing her time between Carnegie’s offices in Washington, DC, and Moscow. She had been with Carnegie since 1995.
Lilia Shevtsova
Senior Associate
Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program
Moscow Center
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To many observers, this crisis has not only exposed the weaknesses of the advanced Western economies, but also called into question the value of democratic liberalism itself. Set against the failures of the West, the continued economic success of China and, to a lesser extent, Russia appears to suggest a more promising path of development.

Bobo Lo and Lilia Shevtsova rebut such assumptions. They argue that the notion of authoritarian modernization is in fact a self-serving illusion. In Russia, there has been a significant increase in authoritarianism, but very little modernization. Meanwhile, China has experienced a remarkable transformation, yet one driven largely by economic liberalization and bottom-up reform.

The authors conclude that the real threat to democratic liberalism comes not from competing value-systems such as a putative “China model,” but from within. Political and economic stagnation, moral complacency, and a selective approach to values have led to the current crisis of Western liberalism, and helped build up the myth of authoritarian modernization.

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Source http://carnegieendowment.orghttp://carnegie.ru/2012/07/01/21st-century-myth-authoritarian-modernization-in-russia-and-china/dudd

In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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