Russia, China, and Nigeria face several underlying democratic challenges. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, is one of the biggest institutions implemented in Russia that challenges the foundation of democratic ways (“The Making of a Neo-KGB State” 2007, 1). The FSB is the successor to the KGB, which was a powerful governmental organization that “provided a crucial service of surveillance and suppression”, and reinforced communist ways among the people. The FSB continues this tradition, with possibly even more oppression. It is said that “Apart from Mr. Putin, ‘There is nobody today that can say no to the FSB,’” (“The Making of a Neo-KGB State” 2007, 1). The FSB has a good deal of money and influence backed by high government officials. They are a ruthless organization that destroys the democratic values of free speech and press by taking aim against those who oppose the government. Writers and journalists have been jailed and killed for simply stating that they are against the Kremlin (“The Making of a Neo-KGB State” 2007, 4).
Another democratic challenge Russia faces is their unstable economy. Their economy is nearly solely based on energy providing natural resources (Skidelsky 2007, 1). The state of Russia’s economy is dependent on the price of energy. As energy prices go up, so does Russia’s economy. In the short run, this may seem like a stable way to grow an economy, but in the long run it can lead to instability. Prices of commodities are typically more volatile than that of industrial prices, which makes Russia vulnerable to sudden drops in the prices of resources (Skidelsky 2007, 1-2). Authoritarianism is promoted as democratic representation becomes less important due to the fact that states do not rely on income tax as much. They receive money from exporting resources. Fighting from can result from disputes over distribution of the resources within Russia. There are more problems from dependence of natural resources, but all seem to lead towards instability of the state. Democracy cannot be instituted when the state is not stable.
Russia does however have a great deal of stability in their political system. President Putin has an extremely high approval rating and seems to face no challenge for succession (Skidelsky 2007, 3). While many people are loyal to Putin, he garnishes too much power for Russia to be considered democratic. Putin has control over the KGB and FSB, which are loyal to him and make sure that opposing views are never heard or at the least controlled. Putin has employed systems where he basically controls everything that is going on; the people do not really have a say (Skidelsky 2007, 3). He has made it possible so that he is able to stay in office longer than intended by the constitution. In a democracy, that president should never have that much power or control. Russia obviously does not have the correct check and balances in place to limit Putin’s authority.
China faces similar democratic challenges. While China is economically stable, it suffers from other problems. In order to achieve their economic success, China had to make sacrifices in other areas. Human rights, for example, are somewhat lost in the mix when discussing economic reform. Illnesses and injuries often result from poor environmental and working conditions (Lee 2007, 1). While working conditions have improved over what they were in the past, they could be better. People often work long hours for minimal pay in less than desirable working conditions. This was a sacrifice that had to be made in order for China’s economy to improve so quickly.
Inflation is also a growing problem (Lee 2007, 2). Beginning with food shortages and a higher demand for nourishment, the prices of food have risen. Prices of other things, such as textiles, education, and medical care have also risen, contributing to inflation. Inflation can lead to problems such as poverty and a weak value of the yuan compared to other currencies. These problems are atypical of established democratic countries. While some nations do suffer from those problems, they have ways to deal with them. It will be seen whether or not China can control those issues.
China, like Russia, places a great deal of effort into censorship of people and ideas that could thwart the government. “Tank Man” is an excellent example of the censorship the Chinese government places on the media. Tank Man was a student or common citizen who blocked the path of a tank following the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. This man forced the brigade of tanks to stop and would not let them pass. The Chinese government did all they could to destroy any evidence of this protest, but some pictures and footage squeaked by their grasp. In order to prevent the Chinese people from seeing the media, the government controls internet web searches, so that pictures of Tank Man will not appear. Most people living in China do not know of Tank Man. The government restricts the knowledge of other protests and tries to ban certain books from being read. Democratic nations protect the rights of their people and do not do these sorts of things.
Nigeria, a sparsely developed country, also suffers from democratic challenges. While Nigeria has an abundance of natural resources, most of its citizens are living in poverty (“Will Africa Ever Get it Right” 2007, 1). Those in positions of power believe that they are the ones that should reap the benefits of their resources. This leaves nearly everyone else high and dry. Nigeria has become known as an “every-man-for-himself nation” (Polgreen 1996, 1). Living conditions are horrible for most people, and it is a struggle just to stay fed. Democratic nations need to make sure their people have high standards of living, and Nigerian peoples obvious do not have this.
Another problem Nigeria suffers from is a lack of infrastructure (Polgreen 1996, 2). The government does not supply electricity and running water to a vast majority of the nation. This forces people to use generators and pumps in order to have electricity and water. A textile manufacturer was forced to shut down simply because it was too costly to supply light, power, and water to his factory (Polgreen 1996, 2). This lack of infrastructure makes it nearly impossible for industrialization, which is needed in order to advance to economy and become a stable country. Unless Nigeria develops and infrastructure, it will never be able to become a democracy.
One last issue Nigerians have to deal with is corrupt elections. According to the Afrobarometer survey, “African voters are losing patience with faulty elections that often exclude popular candidates and are marred by serious irregularities” (Polgreen 1996, 1). Free and fair elections are a necessity in order for democracy to take hold (Linz and Stephan 1996, 15). Elections in Nigeria have been overshadowed by violence and corruption, which means that their elections are not legitimate (Polgreen 1996, 1). Those taking place in the electoral process should not have to deal with pressures like that. Nigerians also believe that elections will not help remove unjust leaders from their positions. This is often the case with corrupt leaders; they are not easily extricated (Ottaway 2003, 28).
All three of these countries face daunting challenges in order to develop and establish democracy. All three countries face the problem of either corrupted official in office or the governmental controlling too many aspects of their lives. Russia and Nigeria both suffer from economic instability in spite of their cornucopia of natural resources. China and Russia have stability in certain aspects, economy and political systems respectively, but overall they suffer instability. Nigeria seems to suffer from instability in all aspects. These democratic challenges must be address in order for Russia, China, and Nigeria to become more stable and democratic nations.