WHY DO AUTHORITARIAN REGIMES STAY IN POWER?

An Authoritarian government, according to O’Neil, is a form of government or regime that denies their citizens the rights of participation, competition, and liberty.  All three of these factors are crucial elements of what creates a democracy, which provides for a fair and equitable form of government that encourages involvement of the people.  Alternatively, by having a state ignore or restrict these values denotes a regime that is consolidating power within itself and lessening the influence of the people, which outlines a truly authoritarian style of government.

China is a prime example of an authoritarian state, one which has been able to remain in power for a long period of time.  O’Neil points out that one of the reasons that nondemocratic or authoritarian powers have remained in control is because of the resource trap they employ.  A country with an excess of assets provides the leaders the wealth as well as the essential tools to operate their nation without the means of taxation.  This resource based power play enables political leaders to ignore the demands of its people since the government is not dependent on them financially.  The state does not tax their citizens instead it provides and supports them.  Azar Gat would even agree with O’Neil, for in his essay, he states that the reason democratic regimes have been able to defeat nondemocratic governments is for the simple fact that they lack the financial means or capital to leverage over the people it governs.  China, on the other hand, is one of the largest countries in the world, which has enabled the government to obtain and take advantage of the abundance of resources the nation has to offer.  In addition, China has been able to maintain an authoritarian state due to its one-party rule or single party state.  By forcing the establishment of a single party system through coercion, corruption, and propaganda the Chinese government limits any and all external challenges to its power.  A One-Party Rule means that China mandates any and all of its people’s civil liberties, especially when the actions do not co-inside with the interests of the authoritarian administration.  The Chinese government has and will continue to aggressively and physically curb open displays of protest over the government’s actions as a means to maintain order and restrict any opposition from forming.  The authoritarian regime also maintains a strict form of censorship over the media, thereby limiting any anti-regime information from being disseminated to the people across the airways or the internet.  The government’s control over their citizens’ actions as well as access to information is critical to their ability to retain power without opposition.

Overall, China is able to preserve an authoritarian rule mainly because of the vast resources within the country, its One-Party Rule, and continued restriction of information to and from its people.  This form of obstructive rule is based on controlling wealth, removal of opposition and the denial of any rights/civil liberties of its people.

Jacobs, Andrew. “China Further Tightens Grip on the Internet.” The New York Times. January29, 2015. Accessed October 2nd, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/30/world/asia/china-clamps-down-still-harder-on-internet-access.html?ref=topics&_r=0

O’Neil, Patrick H. Essentials of Comparative Politics. 5th ed. S.l.: W W Norton, 2015.

Gat, Azar “The Return of Authoritarian Great Powers.” Foreign Affairs July/August 2007. http://www.jstor.org/stable/i20032409

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3 thoughts on “WHY DO AUTHORITARIAN REGIMES STAY IN POWER?

  1. I think the concept you mentioned about the resource trap is very important to maintaining the authoritarian regime in China. Despite the important fact that the state does not have to give people representation since the state is not taxing, it has also been shown that a wealth of natural resources can lead too a small middle class. A small middle class is good for an authoritarian regime because there is no large group of people to make demands on the government like Huntington argued was an important factor in Democratization. Another thing to mention about the resource trap is that it can cause a dictator to hold onto power long past his prime, knowing that the wealth he has experienced during his rule will not follow him into retirement. These situations support that a natural resource rich country will find it difficult to become democratic.

  2. As you said, when a nation implements a resource trap, the leaders are left with great luxury and wealth but also able to maintain a relationship with the people by providing resources. This poses the question of how the resource distribution is being regulated and, as professor McNulty asked, what happens once the economy slows down? The resource trap-implementing leaders are then looked upon to take care of the people but they are unable because the nation functioned on trade from their domestic resource(s). With a resource trap their is no balance as the government is putting all of their marbles in the basket, if their is a hiccup in the economy, the government appears empty handed which in turn, deprives the people of their resources.

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