In the Wall Street Journal, Marcus Walker writes, “The Collapse of Communism Marked an Ideological Victory, but Some Wonder If China Now Has a Competing Autocratic Model:”
To many observers, the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, symbolized the triumph of liberal democracy and free markets over their last serious ideological rival.
Two decades and one financial crisis later, a new debate is growing over whether that assessment was premature.
Some Western thinkers now argue that democracy is in a new competition with unexpectedly robust authoritarian regimes over which form of government can better deliver prosperity, security and national strength.
Critics of that view argue that democracy has far better serviced the needs of people and greatly boosted living standards through much of Central and Eastern Europe. They add that it remains to be seen whether autocrats anywhere can satisfy people’s aspirations in the long run.
In the summer of 1989, American political economist Francis Fukuyama foresaw the “End of History” in a landmark essay, meaning that no credible alternative had survived to political and economic liberty as practiced in the U.S. and Western Europe. All that remained, he argued, was for other countries to catch up.
Today, history is back, according to writers such as Israeli military historian Azar Gat. In his new book, “Victorious and Vulnerable,” he says that although democracy is the most benign system in history, it will have to demonstrate its advantages all over again in the face of its latest rival: authoritarian capitalism, as practiced by self-confident powers such as China and Russia.
The former is much beloved by Thomas Friedman at the New York Times (and deserves special praise for its remarkable environmental achievements); the latter’s antecedent just won strange new respect at Newsweek, in-between both publications’ fawning over Obama’s revival of corporatism.