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Authoritarian Behavior Costs Russia and China Support

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Floyd Ciruli

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Russia and China claim their authoritarian models offer “attractive” methods of strong, consistent governance, systems that get things done and a unique definition of democracy.

Tsai Ing-wen and Xi Jinping

Unfortunately, their behavior belies their claims. Russia’s seizure of Crimea and intervention in Donbas convinced Ukrainians that their independence was valuable and being allied with Russia was not. China’s actions in Hong Kong offered proof their guarantees of self-governance are meaningless. The invasion of Ukraine with all its death, destruction and cruelty has also failed to achieve its objectives. Meanwhile, Russia has only provided its population state-oriented propaganda and no public dialogue or debate. Russia’s behavior lacks any “attractive” aspects, and elite and public opinions in democracies have turned against both Russia and its ally, China. Several key reports of opinion:

  • Ukraine turns against Russia after Crimea and Donbas: In 2013, it believed Russia was “mostly good” – 88%, but only 42% in 2021; in 2013, join NATO – 30%, but 56% in 2021 (2021)
  • Taiwan: After being largely apathetic, 72% will now fight against forced unification, 62% even if declare independence (youth more supportive), 60% identify Taiwanese (2021)
  • Japanese public support more assertive action: 86% support Prime Minister Kishida’s sanctions on Russia, 90% concerned China may invade Taiwan, 75% worried about disputed islands with China (2022)
  • U.S. would defend Taiwan with troops in 2021 – 52%, 19% in 1982; 60% see Taiwan as an ally or partner; 61% China rival or adversary; Americans are 84% favorable toward Japan (2021)
  • Democracies. There has been a 20% increase in approval in most NATO countries since 2020. NATO has been revived in key European countries, up 30% in Germany, 19% in France and 18% in Britain.