It is ironic that the democratic movements in the Arab world broke out just as autocracy seemed to be coming back into fashion. Francis Fukuyama, whose “end of history” thesis epitomised the democratic triumphalism of 1989, recently wrote an article for this newspaper that lauded China’s ability to “make large complex decisions quickly, and to make them relatively well”, while lamenting that American democracy “will not be much of a model to anyone if the government is divided against itself and cannot govern”. This month has also seen the publication of Dambisa Moyo’s much-discussed How The West Was Lost, which laments the “economic folly” of western democracies and lauds the dynamism of China.
Placed in the context of the wider debate between democracy and authoritarianism, the sight of demonstrators on the streets of Cairo demanding freedom should be immensely cheering to the west. The neoconservatives who always argued that the Arab world could not forever be an exception to the global spread of democracy may be tempted to claim vindication.
Gideon Rachman of FT writes: