In This Review

Making the World Safe for Dictatorship
Making the World Safe for Dictatorship
By Alexander Dukalskis
Oxford University Press, 2021, 264 pp

All states engage in public diplomacy to burnish their images abroad. But today’s authoritarian states, operating in a global system that has elevated norms of democracy and human rights, have extra incentives to engage in image promotion. As Dukalskis shows in this intriguing book, authoritarian states protect and enhance their legitimacy and standing with a range of practices, from standard advertising campaigns to high-risk extraterritorial operations to apprehend and silence critics. Regimes such as Kazakhstan’s routinely employ Western public relations firms in campaigns to promote the country’s achievements. Russia engages in more systematic efforts to censor, obscure, and refute unfavorable information, using its infamous Internet “troll farms” to distract and discredit critics. China has sought to persuade foreign elites to view the state favorably through junkets for journalists and policymakers, and its state-owned media outlets offer positive accounts of the Chinese regime. North Korea, Russia, and Saudi Arabia have all reportedly assassinated dissidents living abroad. Dukalskis argues that the best way to counter authoritarian propaganda is to promote transparency, protect information flows, and stand up for democratic values.