Why are some countries in the East and Southeast Asia persistently authoritarian while so few are democratic?

Topics: Communist state, Democracy, Communism Pages: 13 (2842 words) Published: November 29, 2014


POL 215Y Assignment 1
Why are some countries in the East and Southeast Asia persistently authoritarian while so few are democratic? Compare and contrast two or more cases.

Student Name: Xin Zhang
Student #: 999620771
Instructor: Jacques Bertrand
TA: Wayne Zhu

Democracy is a political system that makes sure that all eligible citizens have the right to participate in making the decisions that affect them either in a direct or indirect way. President Lincoln addressed that in democratic countries, “government is of the people, by the people, and for the people”.1 East and southeast Asian countries did not develop a democratic regime that integrates the western democratic system with their indigenous cultures and traditions. The contemporary democratic regime in Asia was transmitted from the western society rather than a local product. Asian democracies emphasizes the respect and obedience to authorities and dominant parties, which is acknowledged that flourishing economic development has occurred under its authoritarian nature. Even some countries in East and Southeast Asia which are considered democratic (Thailand, Malaysia, Philippine, etc) are more precisely to be defined as semi-democracies for the specific characteristics that are originated from authoritarian components.2 However, this can not be taken and the sole and primary reason why it is hard to establish democratic political regime in east and southeast Asia, political corruption and low governance effectiveness can also be taken into account. Even though that almost all the authoritarian regimes can be torn down overnight, however, outstanding democracies can not be built up in a short time. The path to democracies is always rugged. It is the purpose of this essay to find what the obstacles are in East and Southeast Asia in seeking for democracy and how the authoritarian regime is rooted in Asia in terms of how these factors lead to the erosion of democracy. The uniqueness of Asian culture, political corruption, and cases on specific countries all play an important role in obstructing the development of democratic regimes in some East and Southeast countries. While there are some successful cases in east and southeast Asia that turned to be democratic regimes with certain authoritarian characteristics. Ample explanations of political change are always up against with the complexity and uniqueness of local conditions.3 The uniqueness of East and Southeast Asia reflects in the culture, traditions, and histories. Asian countries have been traditionally concerned with the ideology that puts its emphasis in the individuals as a part of a group rather than concerning with individuals separately. There are close ties between superior individuals or groups have access to power and resources and inferior individuals or groups with no resources, contracts or other material benefits. These relationships, are often called patron-clients ties, also known as Patrimonialism4 In politics, these patron-clients alliances are built to be in exchange for resources, the patrons have arbitrary control over those clients who don't have power themselves and serve only to consolidate the monarch's rule.5 It has been found most often in East and Southeast nations. Patrimonialism is unlikely to lead social development and it brings out stability rather political change to a society. The high-status patrons provide instrumental support to the low-status clients in exchange for their service and deference, which help the superior people in the competition to gain a dominant position and sovereign power from village to the national level.6 Patron-client ties make authoritarianism resistent to the democratic reforms by demobilizing the opposition and the patrons are not particularly receptive to the political openness. There are other unique features to explain the difficult political change in Southeast Asia. Economic...

Bibliography: Aspinall, Edward. "The Irony of Success." Journal of Democracy 21, no. 2 (2010): 22.
Bertrand, Jacques. "Cambodia and Laos." In Political change in Southeast Asia. New York : Cambridge University Press, 2013. 165-189.
Bertrand, Jacques. "Indonesia and Timor-Leste." In Political change in Southeast Asia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 41-70.
Bertrand, Jacques. "Thailand ." In Political change in Southeast Asia. New York : Cambridge University Press, 2013. 121-139.
Bertrand, Jacques. "Understanding Political Change in Southeast Asia." In Political change in Southeast Asia. New York : Cambridge University Press, 2013. 1-30.
McCargo, Duncan. "Network monarchy and legitimacy crises in Thailand." The Pacific Review 18, no. 4 (2005): 499-519.
McCargo, Duncan. "Cambodia: Getting Away with Authoritarianism ." Journal of Democracy 16, no. 4 (2005): 98-112.
Myrittnen, Henri. "Timor-Leste A Relapsing "Success" Story." Taiwan Journal of Democracy 5, no. 1 (2009): 226.
President Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address (Nov 19, 1863), in This Fiery Trial: The Speeches And Writing of Abraham Lincoln 184,184 (William E. Gienapp ed., 2002).
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