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Catching the 'Shanghai Spirit': How the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Promotes Authoritarian Norms in Central Asia

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This article examines how the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) seeks to undermine democratisation in Central Asia. Prior studies of the interplay between international organisations and democracy have tended to examine only one half of this relationship: whether, how, and under what circumstances do international organisations promote democracy? However, the opposite has been largely ignored: how do international organisations sustain autocracy? Authoritarian governments are increasingly adopting policies aimed at preserving their political power and the SCO represents an additional strategy in this regard: utilising multilateral cooperation to defend themselves against regional or global democratic trends. As such, the 'Shanghai Spirit' may be a sign of things to come as autocratic leaders become more bold in their rejection of democratic norms.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: North Dakota University,

Publication date: 2008-10-01

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