Research Group Regime Competition

More than thirty years after the proclaimed “end of history” and the third wave of demo­cratization, the world is once again marked by increased diversity in political regimes. The (re-)emergence of powerful autho­ritarian states like China and Russia and the trend of back­sliding in seemingly consolidated demo­cracies have created a more pluralistic and multipolar world, in which states with different political regime types increasingly view each other as competitors, seeking to prove the superiority of their own political and economic systems and to win the alle­giance of third countries.

This has particularly stark conse­quences for dynamics of peace and conflict at several levels: inter­nationally, events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine are inter­preted as evidence of an intractable, polarized and even violent conflict between demo­cracies and autocracies. Regionally, an uneasy co­existence of democratic and authoritarian states is complicating efforts at closer integration in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. And domestically, increasing polarization between democratic and authoritarian visions of governance is affecting countries across the globe, challenging existing regimes of both kinds. 

Despite the promi­nence of regime competition, many of the current political debates surrounding this pheno­menon tend to rely on three questionable assumptions: first, that there is a clear dividing line between demo­cratic and autho­ritarian camps; second, that their behavior is directly related to their regime charac­teristics; and third, that the resulting relationship between them is invariably antagonistic. PRIF’s research group on regime competition aims to develop a more nuanced understanding of these dynamics, by leveraging existing country and disciplinary expertise from across the institute. In particular, the group pursues two objectives: (1) to scrutinize the core assumptions behind the notion of a regime competition between demo­cracies and autocracies by pooling and reviewing existing knowledge on the inter­national behavior and performance of different political regimes; and (2) to contribute em­pirical studies on the politics of regime competition by analyzing the ways in which varieties of (perceived) regime competition impact on global order, foreign policy and the domestic politics of third states. Our empirical findings on these issues are not just of academic value, but identify and provide policy recommen­dations as to how German and EU foreign and develop­ment policies can and should (not) deal with regime diversity.


The research group publishes recent findings and analyses through PRIF’s blog series on regime competition.