In contrast to inward-leaning democracies, which have an “End of History” sense of complacency, today’s autocrats are vibrant internationalists in the ideas sphere, notes Christopher Walker, vice president for studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy. In recent years, the leading autocracies have forged a diverse constellation of efforts to shape perceptions and project their preferred worldview, while contesting the ideas they find anathema. They have upped the competition in this arena at a time when the world’s leading democratic states have largely gone to the sidelines, he writes for POLITICO.
What we have been slow to recognize is that in an era of globalization, ambitious regimes that play by their own coercive and predatory rules at home are keen to move the goalposts toward authoritarian preferences internationally. And their strategy is working, adds Walker, coeditor with Marc F. Plattner and Larry Diamond of Authoritarianism Goes Global: The Challenge to Democracy:
A crucial case in point is the competition over the rules that will govern cyberspace, itself a critical field for the battle of ideas. Here, the autocrats are on the same team, arguing that this realm should be controlled by governments, while seeking to exclude private business, civil society and any other non-state participation in decision making. This approach on the international level is a natural outgrowth of authoritarians’ domestic suppression of independent voices and institutions of any kind.