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On his recent trip to Europe, President Joe Biden hammered home the defining theme of his foreign policy. The U.S.-Chinese rivalry, he said, is part of a larger “contest with autocrats” over “whether democracies can compete . . . in the rapidly changing twenty-first century.” It wasn’t a rhetorical flourish. Biden has repeatedly argued the world has reached an “inflection point” that will determine whether this century marks another era of democratic dominance or an age of autocratic ascendancy. Tomorrow’s historians, he has predicted, will be “doing their doctoral theses on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy?”

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