Alternative votes: 'Non-Western' democracies and Asian political systems
January-March 2014
By: Alexei D Voskressenski

The economic and political rise of the non-Western world in the second half of the 20th century brought to the fore the issue of de-Westernization, raising the idea that culture, history and civilization are probably the most important factors for determining the type of market, political system and regime that a given state will adopt. Several countries in Asia – a region that, as a whole, embarked on the path of modernization later than the West – have found their own way, different from the Western one in prac­tical implementation but within parameters accepted in democratic and market theory. By modernizing and at the same time preserv­ing their culture and civilization, they have enriched the process of global development.

Today, there are more and more scholars, both in Western and non-Western countries, as well as in my home country, Russia, who are casting doubt on theories of Western political modernization (or Westernization) and “democratic transition” based on a vision of the world from the 1980s-90s. These scholars do not believe that Western-style democracies are necessar­ily ideal, and instead see the global politi­cal process as based on varied regional and national characteristics. They do not negate the idea of democracy, or democratic theo­ries and concepts; neither do they deny the prevalence of global democratic trends over autocratic ones. They do, however, argue for expanding the methodological base and the nomenclature of approaches, in particular, by using the methodology of regional and spa­tial analysis for a less biased, de-Westernized explanation of the global political process.

The roots of this concept are in the idea of political “tutelage” envisaged by the Chinese revolutionary nationalist Sun Yat-sen, attempted unsuccessfully by Chiang Kai-shek in mainland China and later with greater success in Taiwan by him and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo – such that it indeed resulted in the creation of a Chinese demo­cratic regime. A debate in the United States over these issues after the Communist gov­ernment seized power in 1949 (“Who lost China?” or “Why was China lost?”) found that free competitive elections under certain circumstances can produce more harm than good. The idea that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others does not deny structural/cultural hegemony or, occasionally, the selfish attempts of the stronger to prosper at the expense of weak political regimes or unstable democracies (Easterly 2006). Democracies first need to be stabilized politically in order to defend their economic interests. The slogans “do like us” and “be like us” do not necessarily result in prosperity and democracy (Nolan 1975).

To read the complete article, please subscribe.
You must be logged in as a Strategic Review subscriber to continue reading. If you are not yet a subscriber, please subscribe to activate your online account to get full online access.

Buy a premium PDF version of this article
Subscribe and get premium access to Strategic Review's content
Alan McNamara 01/19/2014 06:09 PM
This proposal is not an alternative democracy - it is an alternative to democracy. See
Please login to leave a comment