This study seeks to further investigate the causes of democratization by posing the following research question: does the economic liberalization of a state lead to its democratization? By conducting a comparative case analysis, the study seeks to uncover which aspects of economic liberalization leads to the political transition of a once authoritarian regime, into a democratic one, and if not, why? The cases studied are the Republic of South Korea and the People’s Republic of China. Both of these East Asian countries originated as authoritarian regimes, and both countries experienced economic reforms that began during the late 1970s. The study hypothesizes that the economic liberalization of an authoritarian regime economy is not more likely to lead to its democratization. This study finds, however, that although the case of South Korea did in fact democratize after facilitating economic liberalization, China has still retained its authoritarian governance. Factors that potentially explain the reason for China’s authoritarian resilience lies within the one-party political system and its fundamental socialist ideology. This study concludes that further research should address how we conceptualize and understand democratization, outside of a Western-oriented literature, and that the continuation of academic research on the “authoritarian development” model is critical to understanding the future waves of democratization.


N'Diaye, Boubacar


Global and International Studies


Political Economy, Democratization, Economic Liberalization

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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