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Imagine that you, like me, are a typical product of Western liberal democracy, and are invited to give a lecture to a group of Chinese students in Beijing or Shanghai on its benefits.According to Stanford University's Larry Diamond, several countries that were democracies at the beginning of this century have since shifted to different systems.Of course, elections alone do not a democracy make. Consider those cases when elections empower a majority ethnic or religious group, which then rides roughshod over minorities – an outcome that has been seen all too often in the Balkans, for example.Then there are the cases when the election of a leader is treated as if it somehow legitimizes the subsequent emergence of dictatorship. This has been the case in Russia, which, since President Vladimir Putin's first electoral victory in 2000, has become a Potemkin democracy. The bad few years that democracies have had is no reason to tout the virtues of dictatorship and authoritarianism.
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