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Democracy and development in Southeast Asia: China’s long shadow

Reilly, B. Democracy and development in Southeast Asia: China’s long shadow. Southeast Asia Research Centre, City University of Hong Kong.

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Abstract

Southeast Asia represents a profound puzzle for students of democracy and democratization. Democracy is weak or absent in the region’s wealthiest states – Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia – but present, to varying degrees, in three of its poorest ones, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and the Philippines. Democracy also appears to be unrelated to human development such as educational levels, literacy, maternal health and other public goods, given the standout performance of quasi-authoritarian Singapore and Malaysia, and the rapid development of Indochina. All of this challenges the key tenets of democratic theory, and indeed modernization theory more generally. In this paper, I present an alternative explanation for the presence or absence of democracy across Southeast Asia that is based not on domestic social or even political factors but rather on international influence, geography and history - in particular, a country's proximity to and history of relations with the People's Republic of China.

Publication Type: Working Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs
Series Name: Working Paper Series No. 169 August 2015
Publisher: Southeast Asia Research Centre, City University of Hong Kong
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/38789
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