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Political freedom

LiveMint logoLiveMint 30-05-2014 Livemint

It will be 25 years next week since tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square to silence protesters who had gathered to ask for greater democracy in China. The tragic heroism of that time was dramatically captured in the photograph of a solitary man trying to stop a tank on a Beijing street.

Democracy has advanced across the world in recent decades, despite occasional setbacks of the sort we saw in Thailand this month. Most of the former communist countries are free now. The brutal military juntas of South America have lost power. Apartheid is history. The spark lit by the Arab Spring has overturned dictatorships across that part of the world.

China continues to be the only major global power that is not yet a democracy. Its transition to economic freedom has been far smoother than the equivalent political transition. Street protests have often toppled dictators, but political rights have survived best in countries that have embraced constitutional values rather than depending on leaders to protect liberty.

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