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Opening Arguments

The other China syndrome

Freedom has been on the march in the world the past few years, but every good journey has a few bumps in the road:

Democracy and good governance are on the retreat in a number of countries around the world, a wide-ranging report says on Tuesday.

The report, compiled by Freedom House, a US government-supported campaigning organisation, concludes that human rights and governance have worsened in Russia and Iran, arguing that corruption in Iran has intensified in spite of the campaign promises of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.

It also indicates that states across the world are attempting to follow the model of China and Russia by seeking to modernise parts of their economy while keeping a central grip on power.

Among the countries that have achieved economic success while maintaining or intensifying what the report identifies as political repression are Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. It adds that Egypt has been both economically unsuccessful and politically repressive and that democratic developments have been stopped in their tracks by coups in Thailand and Bangladesh.

The best hope for the world is that the China model will fail as a growing middle class puts increasing pressure on the ruling class for the freedom to enjoy its wealth.