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The Difficulty of Spreading Democracy through Foreign Imposed Regime Changes: Implications for Political Order and Marginalized Populations

Democratic Foreign Imposed Regime Changes (FIRCs), are the FIRCs that uproot an existing authoritarian regime and replace it with a democracy. Though many democratic FIRCs have occurred, few have succeeded. There are three reasons why democratic FIRCs often fail. First, target countries of FIRCs generally have little to no prior experience with democracy. Second, after the FIRC, the population equates the new government with foreign oppressiveness. Third, FIRCs disproportionately target poor, unstable countries that do not yet have good foundations for democracy. In addition, high levels of economic development in the country prior to the FIRC are favorable conditions for why some FIRCs succeed. Future research on FIRCs should focus on addressing how foreign aid can increase FIRC success rates in poor countries. Moreover, how endogenous democratization happens in countries should be studied, especially in countries transitioning to middle income status, like China. Finally, a theory of FIRCs should depend on a theory of democracy, so studying what democracy properly is and how it is sustained is a new frontier for studying FIRCs.

Mason Ji is a junior at Yale University studying Global Affairs. Read his full paper here.

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