The democratic surge in the past twenty years has led many Americans to assume that all societies are, or should be, making progress toward becoming practicing democracies. Many in the United States approach countries such as China, Iran, and Vietnam with impatience and bewilderment. These seemingly intransigent holdouts are the subject of intense policy debates, not in the least because they also play important roles in U.S. security and economic policy. This book takes a fresh look at the prospects for political change in these countries and argues that immediate opportunities exist to advance political liberalization, with the possibility that democratization will follow in the mid to long term. But to encourage these trends, the United States must de-emphasize short-term human rights and democracy strategies to focus on more subtle attitudinal and institutional changes in both state and society, and develop new policy measures to enlarge political space.
Catharin E. Dalpino is a fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies program at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., USA. She is a former deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor.