The Big Five


    Over the last generation, China has undergone a vast economic transformation. However, while China has enjoyed considerable economic growth in recent years, it has not moved in the direction of...

  • IRAN

    The Islamic Republic’s system of authoritarian control relies on coercion, terror, and massive state subsidies that total tens of billions of dollars annually for basic staples.  The regime enforces its...


    Russian President Vladimir Putin has been the country’s paramount leader since 1999. Under his rule, high energy prices have served as a cushion against social and political unrest, but a...


    Ruled by the Al Saud royal family since 1932, Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most repressive regimes. Space for civil society and free expression is severely limited: human...


    One month after President Hugo Chavez’s death in March 2013, his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, took office following a controversial and flawed election. Maduro inherited a politically polarized country suffering...

Authoritarian Tactics

  • Authoritarian Cooperation & Learning

    To maintain power, authoritarian regimes must constantly revise and adapt their playbooks to find new ways to repress, subvert, and co-opt threats to their rule. In the era of globalization, authoritarian sharing of information and methods occur more rapidly, allowing repressive regimes to quickly adopt the latest tools for repressing...

  • Subverting the International System

    In the era of globalization, regime security cannot be achieved solely through domestic control. To shield themselves from international scrutiny, resurgent dictatorships are seeking to reshape global institutional frameworks that have served as the glue of the post-Cold War order.                    ...

  • Media Manipulation

    Where old-school authoritarians relied on traditional forms of censorship and ideologically-oriented propaganda to maintain control over their populations, modern authoritarians are adopting increasingly sophisticated methods to influence public opinion and shape political narratives. By restricting space for independent media outlets, policing the Internet, sponsoring fake think tanks, and relying on...



The end of the Cold War, the implosion of communism, and the advance of new democracies in the 1990s strongly suggested that the positive direction of global freedom would continue into the new millennium. While this assumption was entirely reasonable, it did not foresee the emergence of a new set of influential illiberal powers that in the past decade have sought to actively contest democratic development and the democratic idea. 



Authoritarianism is not a new phenomenon, and there are many excellent organizations, media outlets, bloggers, and scholars conducting ongoing research on the current authoritarian resurgence and its various dimensions. For further reading on this topic, these resources offer a range of comparative studies and focused analysis of the Big Five authoritarian regimes and their tactics for projecting authoritarianism beyond their borders.



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