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The Myth of the Autocratic Revival

Why Liberal Democracy Will Prevail

Courtesy Reuters

After two decades of post-Cold War liberal triumph, U.S. foreign policy is being challenged by the return of an old antiliberal vision. According to this vision, the world is not marching toward universal liberal democracy and "the end of history." Rather, it is polarizing into different camps and entering an era of rivalry between Western liberal states and dangerous autocracies, most notably China and Russia. Unlike the autocracies that failed so spectacularly in the twentieth century, today's autocracies are said to be not only compatible with capitalist success but also representative of a rival form of capitalism. And their presence in the international system supposedly foreshadows growing competition and conflict and is dangerously undermining the prospect of global cooperation.

Several recent developments seem to support this emerging view. Democratic transitions have stalled and reversed. In China, the Communist Party dictatorship has weathered domestic challenges while presiding over decades of

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