It would be a serious mistake to assume that Cuba’s economic opening, advanced by the Obama-initiated rapprochement, will necessarily usher in a new political era in Cuba, argues Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research. Democracy and communism are, it seems, mutually exclusive. But capitalism and communism clearly are not — and that could be very dangerous, he writes for Project Syndicate:
In fact, the marriage of capitalism and communism, spearheaded by China, has spawned a new political model that represents the first direct challenge to liberal democracy since fascism: authoritarian capitalism. With its spectacular rise to become a leading global power in little more than a single generation, China has convinced autocratic regimes everywhere that authoritarian capitalism — or, as Chinese leaders call it, “socialism with Chinese characteristics” — is the fastest and smoothest route to prosperity and stability, far superior to messy electoral politics. This may help to explain why the spread of democracy worldwide has lately stalled…..
In short, communism is now focused less on what it is — that is, its ideology — and more on what it is not. Its representatives are committed, above all, to holding on to political power — an effort that the economic prosperity brought by capitalism supports, by helping to stave off popular demands for change.
The story is similar in Vietnam and Laos. Both began decentralizing economic control and encouraging private enterprise in the late 1980s, and are now among Asia’s fastest-growing economies. Vietnam is even a member of the incipient 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership. But the one-party state remains entrenched, and continues to engage in considerable political repression.