No Tweets Allowed

Following the Arab Spring, a similar group of outbursts occurred in China. They was carried out by civilians and police. As soon as they started, the protests seemed to die out. The author then goes into detail about the suppression the Chinese government implements against activists and protests, such as these, in their own country. The controlled media began broadcasting the dangers of the Arab Spring riots, warning against similar ones from occurring in China. Seen in the VPN disruption, the Chinese government does not outright stop loopholes or protests, but rather ceases them from working in a way that cannot be traced back to them. It is believed that the government is worried because of the predicted economic troubles ahead. (1)


The New York Times posted an article regarding the people that have been recently punished by the Chinese government for posting on Twitter. Although most social media apps are banned in China, people circumvent the Golden Firewall and post on them as a way of speaking their minds. Those who post on Twitter or other accounts risk serious punishment from the government. Many people claim their tweets get mysteriously deleted. (2)


How do authoritarian regimes maintain control of the media without retaliation from their people?


An authoritarian regime is one which has high autonomy and often  one party consistently rules the government. It is important for an authoritarian regime that the people of the country have faith in the government because the leaders do not listen to the voice of the people often. Similar themes of media regulation can be seen in Russia where there is only one news station, and what is produced on this station is under the control of their leader, Putin.


(1) James Fallows “Arab Spring, Chinese Winter” The Atlantic (2011).

(2) Paul Mozur “Twitter Users in China Face Detention and Threats in New Beijing Crackdown” New York Times (Jan. 10, 2019).

Transistion into an Authoritarian Regime

Henry Vaule



Memo #11

Authoritarianism is in it’s most basic definition is “a form of government or regime that is non-democratic”. Even though we all have the privilege to live in a democratic society, many places still have an authoritarian ruling regime. Throughout history, an authoritarian rule has been the norm for multiple regimes, all with different variations. These regimes have traditionally been centered around one individual or a small group of elites. Today, new authoritarian regimes are often formed after a coup or a democratic breakdown, which is the transition from a democratic to a non-democratic regime. If a current authoritarian leader is removed, the process of authoritarian persistence may occur. This is the ongoing continuation of an authoritarian regime, such that democratic transition does not take place. This processes can often occur in less developed countries such as Nigeria. Between 1979 and 1983, Nigeria experienced a brief period of democracy, however after this regime failed, an authoritarian leader once again regained power.

Although American politics appears to distance itself from authoritarian regimes, many of these regimes have been discretely influencing our politics for years. In a recent article by Bloomberg Government, it was revealed that multiple authoritarian regimes have been investing millions in lobbying. These regimes hire companies to have their country promoted. Saudi Arabia, a country that has had numerous human rights issues, apparently spent $24 million in lobbying since the beginning of 2017.

How should America interact with unstable Authoritarian regimes?

Once a stable relationship has been established between America and the Authoritarian regime, America should respectfully feel free to trade or establish deals with this country. However, these regimes should have no influence on America’s politics through the abused lobbying system.

James Tyler, Dickovickand Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.)

Jodie, Morris. “Authoritarian Regimes Pay Millions to K Street Lobbyists.” Bloomberg Government. (January 09, 2019.)

Inquiry into Authoritarianism with Lee Kuan Yew

This conversation between Fareed Zakaria and Lee Kuan Yew started off as an investigation of Lee’s ideology, but it gradually induced arguments from both sides.(1) Lee finds certain facets of America attractive and worth following, such as the social and political openness, while rejecting total individual freedom in fear of “moral decay”. He believes that culture is the dominant factor behind societal development. In particular, Lee prefers the Asian cultures’ emphasis on family to Western cultures’ faith in governmental influence, arguing that families are more ephemeral and pervasive and thus impact the society more. His proposal that only those between the age of 40 and 60 can vote stems from Confucian filial piety. He also advocates a balance between multiculturalism and interchangeability. Overall, Lee’s arguments seem to serve as the foundation of his political philosophy, as they necessitate certain authoritarian traits of Singapore, including a strict criminal system, Confucian ideals, and national unity.

A recent BBC article talks about Singapore’s focus on tidiness and hygiene.(2) The “Clean and Green” policy was established by Lee Kuan Yew decades ago to improve health conditions and city appearance. Even with 56,000 registered cleaners, there still are many organizations for volunteer cleaning. In addition, fines over tens of thousands are issued each year as punishment for littering alone. The growth of life expectancy from 66 to 83 is said to be correlated to the “Clean and Green” policy.

Lee believes that culture is more impactful than government, but how can government steer society progression by influencing culture?

Long-term policies can change the nations’ culture because of the change in everyday habits. However, a more thorough influence must be exerted through the educational system. Although this approach seems inherently authoritarian or even totalitarian, it exists to some degree in many democratic societies. What really differentiate them is freedom of speech and civil society, which ensure the protection of various opinions.

Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings, (New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 69-79

McDonald, Tim. “Capital – The Cost of Keeping Singapore Squeaky Clean.” BBC, BBC, 29 Oct. 2018,

Putin…The Reigning King of Russia


Image result for steven levitsky

Levitsky and Way’s article describes competitive authoritarianism, a type of hybrid regime. Competitive authoritarianism regimes possess many democratic institutions such as elections and civil liberties however, they are often violated or abused to an extent and frequency that separates them from being democratic. The authors list four arenas of democratic contestation in which opposing forces from a competitive authoritarian regime might challenge: the electoral arena, the legislative arena, the judicial arena, and the media. The article provides the various paths that can lead to competitive authoritarianism suggesting that this type of hybrid regime can result from decay of both a democratic as well as a authoritarian regime.1


Although Russia holds a presidential election every six year, current President Vladimir Putin has managed to rule longer than any Russia leader since Stalin. This article from the Economist explains how Putin has managed to hold office for so long despite the occurrence of elections in Russia. Being able to control the media and well as eliminate competition has allowed Putin to convince the people that there is no other alternative. The article describes the elections as less of an election and more of a coronation for the “reigning king”.2


How can holding elections provide the head of government of an authoritarian regime legitimacy?


According to the procedural definition of democracy, a regime must have free and fair elections to be considered democratic. In a competitive democracy, the regime will often hold elections for office but they will most likely not be free nor fair. In Mexico, the PRI party was dominant and in rule for several years. Although Mexico held a presidential election, the PRI manipulated the election so they would win without fault. Similarly, Russia holds elections but Putin has managed to hold office for several terms because he has control over both the media and the competition

  1. Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way, “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism” Found in J. Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
  2. “Why Vladimir Putin is Sure to Win the Election” The Economist, May 16, 2018.

Putin = Russia?

Venezuela suffered a great loss when president Hugo Chavez passed away in March of 2013. His funeral gathered large crowds consisting of people even from the lowest classes of society. These people were there to say goodbye to the man who has given them a political identity. Many woman considered Chavez not only as their president but also as their, father, brother, and husband. With Chavez’s personality and character being engraved into the political scene, the election for his successor becomes heavily based on support from Chavez fans. For those who mourn Chavez, Maduro was the clear candidate yet his lead was not secure. Opposing candidate Capriles gained momentum in the election closing the gap. Despite the result of the election, either candidate would find themselves in a difficult situation due to the dysfunction of the state.1

Legally a Russian president can only serve for two consecutive terms but this regulation did not create a problem for Putin. In 2018 Putin was elected for his second-second term as president of Russia. In 2024, Putin’s term will be up and he will be forced to leave office. Due to Putin being such a central part of Russia’s political scene, many fear what is to come when Putin steps down from office. Although many people cannot imagine a successor for Putin because he has wiped away most if not all of the viable competition, people fear what will happen if Putin doesn’t step down becoming the next tsar.2

Is it possible to have a peaceful and effortless transition of power in a personalistic regime?

In many authoritarian regimes, the personality of the leader is often reflected in the regime. Many political scientist categorize this type of regime as personalistic authoritarianism. Often in a personalistic regime, the people worship the ruler and many see the leader not only as the “government” of the state, but even as the regime itself. In both present-day Russia and pre-2013 Venezuela, the population could not image a country without the leadership of their presidents. This type of regime can cause problems not only when the character is in power but rather when the leave office because their personality is so ingrained into the regime. The best option for a smooth transition may often be a person with similar ideals and goals as the exiting president, however, this does not guarantee a smooth transition.

  1. Boris Munoz, “In the Shadow of Chávez,” The New Yorker, (April 13, 3013).
  2. Shaun Walker, “2018 Election is no problem for Putin–but what about 2024?” The Guardian, (February 6, 2018).