Democracy or death? Will democratisation bring greater regional instability to East Asia?

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The article challenges the view that democratisation is a recipe for regional disorder in East Asia. This view is not supported by evidence. Critics of democratisation fail to consider a number of mitigating factors that may check the destabilising consequences of democratisation while accentuating its peace-causing effects. These factors are not necessarily other liberal forces, like economic interdependence, or regional institutions, although these do matter. Certain dynamics associated with democratisation, such as focus on economic rebuilding for regime legitimation, positive nationalism ('democratic pride'), involvement of civil society, etc., may lessen the potential for inter-state conflict. These mitigating factors do not necessarily correspond with the normative and institutionalist logic underpinning the democratic peace theory, and they have been largely overlooked by the critics of that theory. After identifying them, this paper shows that the East Asian experience does not show that democratisation leads to greater conflict between states.On the contrary, democratisation might create better prospects for cooperative peace in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-358
Number of pages24
JournalPacific Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Asian democracy
  • Asian regionalism
  • Asian security
  • Cooperative security
  • Democratic peace


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