Authoritarian Police and Policing in East Asia: Scope, Patterns, and Paradoxes

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Book Chapter

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Assessing authoritarian police and policing in East Asia poses conceptual challenges – which institutions count as “police,” which functions constitute “policing,” which polities are “authoritarian,” what features are “East Asian”? Patterns can be understood in terms of common issues: functions or roles police are expected to perform; internal institutional structures of the police (including centralization/decentralization); horizontal relations with other institutions; vertical relations with the regime; relations with society; and external influences (from abroad and from the past). Policing is beset by several paradoxes and much ambivalence: scope versus effectiveness of police work; laws and the rule of law as both empowering and constraining police; bolstering legitimacy for the police versus for the regime; “police reform,” which can make police more benign (from a liberal perspective) or more potent tools of oppression and control. The country-specific assessments in this volume collectively reveal a complex pattern that includes fundamental similarities and significant diversity.


Authoritarian police, authoritarian policing, police in East Asia, police reform, political legitimacy, police in China, high policing versus low policing, police accountability, police-society relations, professionalization of police, transnational influence on policing, policing and transition to democracy, policing in post-authoritarian regimes

Publication Title

Regime Type and Beyond