Asian Economic Development and Democratization


Every country has a history of economic growth development. Once a sustainable economic development has been attained in a country, there is a high likelihood of democratic growth in the governing system. On the other side, there is little possibility of a country attaining economic growth and development while having an unstable government. However, some countries have thrived economically while under dictatorial governance in the past. Unfortunately, such countries hardly achieve economic stability (Midlarsky 81). There is vast social growth and development around the world, and thus people have become more aggressive to oppressive governance as compared to the past few decades.

Any country that aspires to have stable economic growth needs a governing system that gives room for democratic rights of citizens. Asian economies have interesting case studies of the relationship between economic sustainability and democracy. The majority of fastest growing economies are in the Southern Asian region. Dictatorial governance is quickly vanishing from the region to give room for the rising need for democratic governance systems (Midlarsky 107). This paper argues that sustained economic development leads to democratization in a country.

Economic Development, Political Stability, and Democratization

Economic development, political stability, and democratization have a closely-knit relationship. Economic growth and development are very sensitive elements to the state of politics in a country. The world economic powerhouses like the United States and other western countries have the most stable politics. Additionally, such countries have democratic governance structures that allow for the rights of citizens as stipulated by their constitutions (Przeworski 76). Hence, democratization and stable political status have contributed to the economic growth and development in such countries.

On the other hand, the developing world countries are characterized by unstable politics and lack of democracy. Political instability is the greatest inhibitor of economic growth and development. Political elites are greedy individuals who take advantage of their powerful positions to deny citizens their democratic rights. Consequently, the economic growth is hampered due to the increased corruption and unequal distribution of resources. Besides, foreign investors avoid investing in such countries due to the high cost of operations and cases of powerful individuals demanding bribes.

Democracy cannot thrive in countries that experience unstable politics. Democracy is highly subject to the nature of political stability. Political instability is brought about by greed among the powerful individuals who deny others the right and freedom to exercise their democratic rights. Consequently, there is a struggle between the opponents and proponents of democracy in the country. In most cases, the powerful individuals use oppressive means to silence their opponents. Historical records have names of renowned individuals who were killed trying to oppose oppressive governments and political classes.

The motive of such individuals was to achieve democracy that gives equal rights to citizens, but the despotic politicians could not allow such a thing to happen. Scholars argue that political stability is the backbone of democracy and economic developments in a country (Midlarsky 90). Therefore, the first step to achieving economic development is ensuring that political stability is in place. A positive economic growth and development lead to a rise in democratic levels in a country as well. However, the relationship between the two aspects is sometimes intertwined.

Economic growth and development open channels for democratic rights in various ways. The political class realizes the importance of citizens in the economic development. This appreciation compels leaders to build good relationships with the citizens. This goal is achieved by putting in place mechanisms for equal sharing of resources in a country. On the other hand, the government ensures that a country has mechanisms that would attract foreign investments. Foreign investors are highly skeptical, and thus governments endeavor to enact policies that depict transparency in governance. Therefore, the government promotes democracy by allowing citizens the right and freedom to participate in economic developments.

As mentioned earlier, the relationship between democracy and economic development is intertwined. In many cases, democratic achievements preceded economic developments. In the contemporary world, the advanced technological developments allow citizens the freedom of speech. Therefore, citizens monitor the political class to ensure that the government does not violate their democratic rights. Hence, democracy is a key motivation and if denied citizens cannot contribute to economic growth and development of a country. Therefore, it suffices to conclude that democracy precedes economic growth and development in the contemporary world. However, in some cases, the scenario is different. For instance, the rights and freedom of North Koreans is a debatable issue as citizens are denied their democratic rights and the economy seems to thrive.

Historically, democracy was brought about by colonial powers in many countries around the world. Albeit being initiated by greed, colonialism promoted democracy by introducing governance systems that recognized the rights and freedom of citizens. Colonialists were motivated by the benefits that they would acquire from the subdued countries. Therefore, in ensuring peaceful means of acquiring those resources, they promoted their values to the citizens. They valued economic growth and development that would give them better lives. Hence, they instituted government systems that would foster economic growth by trading with them. On the other hand, the governments would promote democracy by allowing citizens their freedom and democratic rights.

Citizens who opposed oppressive governing systems in many parts of the world fought for democracy (Midlarsky 113). During the postcolonial period, after the World War II, there was a massive movement of students from colonies going for studies in the western countries, which were the colonial powers in most cases. In the course of the pursuit of education, those students were taught political science studies. Upon returning home, they kept a close watch at government motives and rose against oppressive motives. The majority of the world’s renowned political activists of the pre-colonial period studied in western countries.

In some cases, economic growth and development lead to democratization. In the contemporary world, the majority of countries aspire to achieve some set economic goals. In the plan towards achieving those goals, the government gives equal right to education. Upon being educated, citizens are empowered to revolutionize political system as a way of promoting democracy in a country. Hence, economic growth and development give rise to democracy in such cases.

Democracy and Economic Development in Indonesia: a Case Study

The 20th Century was the awakening period of democracy and economic development in the Asian countries. Indonesia is currently ranked as one of the fastest growing economies around the world. However, the country was in a bad economic state fifteen years ago due to the lack of democracy. According to Aspinall, the development of democracy in Indonesia was hampered by three strong forces (The Irony of Success 30). First, President Suharto developed strong military power and used political elites to implement his agendas. Second, politicians divided the country along ethnic and religious lines prompting high risk of separatist violence. Finally, Islamists used political forces to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state by introducing sharia laws (Aspinall Opposing Suharto 131).

Despite those challenges, Indonesia is a role model for other countries that face similar challenges in the contemporary world. The country did not use oppressive forces in trying to neutralize the risks that each challenge posed to its political stability. However, leaders, who had prioritized the interests of their country, dealt with each vice separately and intelligently. The main goal was to achieve democracy, which made every individual feel responsible for contributing to economic growth and development of the country (Bubalo, Fealy, and Mason 114).

The greatest democratic achievement made by Indonesia was the withdrawal of the military from the political power. After the collapse of Suharto’s regime in 1998, Indonesians took to streets in protest over the military’s involvement in politics and government affairs. Consequently, senior military officers realized that they had suffered a crisis of political confidence and thus resolved to withdraw their heavy presence in politics. Additionally, the military separated itself from the police force and withdrew their role of providing domestic security. By the year 2004, military officials had withdrawn fully from politics and government positions that had hitherto been their preserve (Bubalo, Fealy, and Mason 86). Even though Indonesia has not managed to punish military officers who violated human rights during Suharto’s regime, democratic progress has been made in revolutionizing the reputation of the military forces.

Besides, Indonesians united to resist disintegration that could have been caused by communal unrest. Political forces during Suharto’s regime had taken the advantage of ethnic divisions to cause unrest. In 1998, the politically motivated division had succeeded to some extent where a series of bloody conflicts rendered to more than 19000 deaths. The government made efforts to resolve the local conflicts by using peaceful methods, which saw a coalition government structure formed.

Additionally, Islamists had threatened to transform Indonesia into an Islamic state. They argued that Sharia laws should govern the country since they are not in the western world where constitutions favor Christianity. However, Muslims are a minority in Indonesia and thus they did not have the power to push for their agenda. The government resolved to make a constitution that made them feel accommodated whereby pornography and dressing codes laws were introduced. Lately, Islamic lawmakers have been trying to introduce Sharia laws into the constitution from within whereby some laws have been changed to favor Islamists.

From the case study, it is clear that Indonesia achieved democracy due to economic growth and development. The citizens rose against the military presence in the politics and government affairs after realizing that such forces hindered economic development in the country. On the other hand, the government resolved to use democratic means to solve conflicts to protect the country’s economic development. Consequently, citizens united to drive their country’s economic development by upholding democracy.

The Chinese Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: a Case Study

China has an interesting history of nationalism. Nationalism is an ideology of national states and movements demanding statehood. Hence, nationalism is essentially a struggle for democracy and economic development. However, Chinese nationalism aimed at eradicating all forces of external control from other countries (Fung 141). Chinese leaders valued their ethnicity and cultural heritage. Therefore, they opposed the external influences that could have caused disintegration of values that they valued most.

The Chinese are nationalists share a common history albeit distinctive cultures and they love fellow nationalists. Additionally, they love economic achievement, and they are hostility to outside forces that would hamper their nation’s economic agenda. These paradigms define the nationalistic characteristics of the Chinese and the driving force behind their economic growth and developments (Fung 148). Hence, these aspects underscore the motivation that has made China the fastest growing economy in the world.

The Chinese leaders believed in upholding nationalistic values with a view that unity of citizens would bring forth economic benefits (Fung 143). During the World War II, they viewed external forces from the Japanese, Americans, and Russians as oppression to their nationalistic values, and thus they resolved to oppose their ideologies. However, they resolved to become communists who uphold nationalistic values. This aspect explains why their nationalistic values are different from the Soviets.

Economic growth and development of China has contributed to the vast growth of democracy in the country. In the 21st Century, there has been uproar from the youthful citizens demanding changes in the government structures to favor some capitalistic ideologies. The inherent nationalistic values do not allow the opposition to the government’s agenda, but economic growth has created room for the citizens to air their ideas. Hence, the elements of economic growth and development are pushing for democracy in the country.


Democracy is vital for economic growth and development in the modern world. The two are closely related since governments need citizens to achieve economic goals. On the other hand, economic developments spur the growth of democracy where citizens acquire their constitutional rights and freedom. Even though initially democracy preceded economic growth, the scenario is changing. For instance, in China, the gains of economic development are spurring the push for democratization. Therefore, it suffices to conclude that sustained economic development leads to democratization.

Works Cited

Aspinall, Edward. Opposing Suharto: Compromise, Resistance and Regime Change in Indonesia, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005. Print.

“The Irony of Success.” Journal of Democracy 21.2 (2010): 20-34. Print.

Bubalo, Anthony, Greg Fealy, and Whit Mason. Zealous Democrats: Islamism and Democracy in Egypt, Indonesia and Turkey, Woollahra: Longueville Books, 2008. Print.

Fung, Edmund. “Chinese Nationalism in the Twentieth Century.” Eastern Asia: an introduction history. Ed. Colin Mackerras. New South Wales: Longman, 2000. 139-148. Print.

Midlarsky, Manus. Inequality, Democracy, and Economic Development, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.

Przeworski, Adam. Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950-1990, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Print.

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BusinessEssay. "Asian Economic Development and Democratization." December 12, 2022.