Over the past 15 years, democracy has regressed nearly everywhere in the world, capped off by troubling developments in the United States. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual Democracy Index found that the past year witnessed “an unprecedented rollback of global freedoms,” but this pattern has been going on for more than a decade. Meanwhile, authoritarian powers such as China, Russia and Turkey are becoming both more autocratic at home and more influential on the world stage.
Indeed, autocratic states are flexing their muscles outside their borders. In a disturbing new trend, chronicled in reports by Freedom House and other organizations, authoritarian states such as China, Russia and Rwanda have begun repressing their citizens even when those people are living outside their borders. Indeed, Freedom House found that 31 countries had used transnational repression in 79 host countries since 2014. (Full disclosure: I serve as a consultant for Freedom House’s annual survey of global freedom.)