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Chinese Linkage, Leverage, and Cambodia’s Transition to Hegemonic Authoritarianism

Loughlin, N. (2021). Chinese Linkage, Leverage, and Cambodia’s Transition to Hegemonic Authoritarianism. Democratization, 28(4), pp. 840-857. doi: 10.1080/13510347.2021.1888931


This article considers authoritarian linkage politics and its relationship to regime stability. Between 2012 and 2018, Cambodia experienced its worst political crisis in a decade. During this period, China’s economic assistance, diplomatic backing and military exchanges have cemented it as the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s (CPP) most important foreign partner. This article’s findings support the linkage thesis: that ties between authoritarian regimes enhance their survival in moments of crisis. The article provides evidence for the specific forms of linkages that proved vital to the CPP during a transition from competitive to hegemonic authoritarianism. It shows that alongside more familiar linkage ties, the CPP also drew on more diffuse types of authoritarian cooperation and emulation, while Chinese discourses on non-interference and the right to develop provided an authoritarian nexus supporting CPP legitimation narratives in defiance of challengers. The article reflects on Cambodia’s variant of hegemonic authoritarianism in light of these observations. Finally, the argument draws attention to leverage exercised on Cambodia by China as a consequence of these linkages, which have been beneficial to China’s strategic and military interests in Southeast Asia. In the current moment of autocratization and great power competition globally, this has implications for research beyond Cambodia.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Democratization. Loughlin, N. (2021). Chinese Linkage, Leverage, and Cambodia’s Transition to Hegemonic Authoritarianism. Democratization, 28(4), pp. 840-857 is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: China, authoritarianism diffusion, linkage, democracy, Cambodia People’s Party
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

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