Research in Progress

Book Projects

John J. Chin. Historical Dictionary of Modern Nonviolent Revolutions (manuscript in process).

Description: The book will be an essential reference work containing historical narratives on each nonviolent revolution worldwide from 1946 to 2019. It will be useful for scholars and students of civil resistance, revolutions, and democratization. The book also may be read as a qualitative companion and historical documentation for the NEVER dataset.

John J. Chin. Military Power and Democratization (revised and extended dissertation, manuscript in process).

Description: The book examines how variation in the power, structure, and behavior of militaries affects the survival of autocratic regimes and a country's prospects for a transition to democracy. Overall, it shows that military power -- particularly well-funded ground forces -- hinders democratization via democratic diffusion, democratic revolutions, and democratic coups. First, strong militaries buffet autocratic regimes from the pressures of democratic diffusion and democratic external powers, particularly after the Cold War. Second, analysis of reconstructed and extended data on major nonviolent and violent campaigns and outcomes since 1946 (RE-NAVCO dataset) demonstrates that democratic revolutions are less likely to emerge or succeed against militarily powerful authoritarian regimes. Third, analysis of a new cross-national dataset of regime change and leader reshuffling coup attempts (Colpus dataset) in authoritarian regimes since 1946 reveals that only some kinds of coup attempts -- particularly those that succeed in ousting entrenched personalist dictators -- promote democratic transitions. Democratic coups are less likely when militaries are well-funded.

Working Papers

On Coups

John J. Chin, David B. Carter, and Joseph G. Wright. “Coups de regime or Coups de chef? Introducing the Colpus Dataset.” (under review)

Abstract: Interest in authoritarian politics and the causes of democratic breakdown has grown, fueling a revival in scholarship on the causes and consequences of coups d'état. However, research in these areas continues to be held back by the fact that no extant global coup dataset captures theoretically salient information on the identity of coup-makers, their goals, and the relationship between the coup leaders and the ruling regime. We introduce the Colpus dataset, new global data on coup types in the post-World War II era. The Colpus data introduces a typology of coups that differentiates between whether coups seek to preserve existing ruling coalitions (leader reshuffling coups, or coups de chef) or significantly alter ruling coalitions (regime change coups, or coups de regime). We develop a measurement strategy and coding procedures for distinguishing between these two kinds of coup attempts. Next, we demonstrate general trends in this data across time and space. We finally establish the utility of this new data for scholars by showing how the poverty -- a well-known and widely presumed determinant of coups -- in fact only has predictive power for regime change coups.

John J. Chin, Abel Escriba-Folch, Wonjun Song, and Joseph G. Wright. “Reshaping the Threat Environment: Personalism, Coups, and Assassinations.” (under review)

Abstract: Dictators shape the organizational configuration of their regimes as a strategy to change the political threats they face. Personalization entails the progressive accumulation of power in the hands of the dictator that minimizes internal threats from other organized elites in the military and regime party. However, elites have incentives to act against the dictator to avoid being marginalized by personalistic strongmen. We argue that as personalism increases, rival elites, less able to coordinate a coup attempt, turn to strategies that do not require elite coordination or substantive collective action: assassinations. At low levels of personalism, elites coordinate an insider coup to oust the ruler, reshuffling leadership and still retaining power. At middle levels of personalism, elites switch to assassinations and regime change coups as insider coups become more difficult. However, at the highest levels of personalism, assassination risk falls because dictators are relatively protected from elite rivals. In these regimes, mobilization to oust the leader comes from outside, not inside, the regime in the form of popular uprisings and foreign interventions. We test these expectations with new data on personalism, assassination attempts, and coup attempts.

On Democratization

Jonathan Pinckney and John J. Chin. “Activists Against Autocrats: TSMO Networks and Democratic Diffusion.” (under review)

Abstract: Do transnational social movement organizations (TSMOs) promote the international diffusion of democracy? If so, how? Scholars of democratization have studied a plethora of international factors in the spread of democracy, including geographic or regional proximity, colonial history, trade and alliance networks, and joint inter-governmental organization (IGO) memberships. However, few have studied the role of TSMO networks in democratic diffusion. We theorize that TSMOs empower and connect civil societies and thus promote democracy from the “bottom up,” whereas IGOs promote democracy from the “top down” by socializing or sanctioning elites. We leverage a new Transnational Social Movement Organizations Dataset and data from the Varieties of Democracy project over the 1953-2013 period to test the theory. We find that TSMOs promote democratic diffusion but do so through different mechanisms than IGOs. Whereas IGOs are best at diffusing electoral democracy in general and free elections in particular, TSMOs are strongest at diffusing the participatory and deliberative dimensions of democracy. TSMOs also promote the diffusion of electoral democracy but do so by promoting the diffusion of freedom of association and freedom of expression rather than elections.

John J. Chin. “Democratization in the Long Run: A Global Forecast.” Working Paper.

Abstract: Will the world become more or less democratic over the next three decades? Which regions and countries are ripe for the next wave of democratic transitions, and where is authoritarianism most likely to be resilient? Most political forecast models, such as those of the Political Instability Task Force, focus on regime change and transitions in the short-run (e.g. in just a few years). By contrast, this paper introduces a new long-run global forecast of democracy for the 2020-2050 period by drawing on historical data on democratization since 1945 and the most recent cliometric and economic forecast data through 2050. The paper applies the model to China, whose democratization prospects have been much debated. The model illuminates structural factors that push today’s autocracies towards democracy but others that push away. The new forecast model offers little consolation to forecasts of a liberal democratic “end of history” over the next decade (by 2030), but does offer a measure of optimism for a “long march” to democracy by 2050.

On Social Movements, Nonviolent Revolution, Civil Resistance, and Mass Protest

John J. Chin and Jonathan Pinckney. “Nonviolent Capital: How International NGOs Promote Civil Resistance.” (under review)

Abstract: Does global or transnational civil society – the so-called “world polity” – promote mass contention within states? If so, are its effects limited to democracies or non-democracies, or to violent or nonviolent resistance movements? This paper examines the relationship between international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and the onset of “maximalist” protest and insurgency campaigns using new data on major nonviolent and violent campaigns and outcomes (RE-NAVCO) and INGOs from 1960 to 2013. Contrary to prior research relying on post-Cold War protest event data, the results show that INGOs significantly increase the likelihood of onset of nonviolent resistance campaigns targeting authoritarian regimes, but do not promote either violent insurgencies or nonviolent campaigns in democracies. The results point to the revolutionary promise of civil society to promote nonviolent regime change and democratization.

John J. Chin and Dov Levin. “A Protest Vote? Partisan Electoral Interventions and the Onset of Electoral Revolutions.” Working Paper.

Abstract: Do partisan electoral interventions by great powers bring about post-election nonviolent resistance campaigns in target countries? Both phenomena are quite common -- but the ties between them are yet to be investigated in a systematic manner. This paper examines this relationship using new, original data on such U.S. and Russian/Soviet electoral interventions (PEIG) and major nonviolent and violent campaigns and outcomes (RE-NAVCO) over the 1946 to 2000 period. Our results show that electoral interventions can significantly increase the chances of post-election protests in the target erupting under certain situations -- such as when the intervention is done in an overt manner or the meddling was conducted in favor of the challenger in that election but failed to gain the latter a victory in the ballot box.

John J. Chin, Wonjun Song, and Joseph G. Wright. “Personalization of Power and Mass Uprisings in Dictatorships.” Working Paper.

Abstract: Most major nonviolent civil resistance campaigns target autocratic regimes. Most dictators, however, are toppled by their close supporters, not civilian protestors. Building on theories of strategic interactions between leaders, security agents, and protesters, we make three core claims. First, protesters are relatively less likely to mount a major nonviolent uprising against dictatorships with personalized security forces since they realize that these dictatorships have partially mitigated, via loyalty mechanisms, the moral hazard in employing security agents against protesters. Second, the fate of personalized security forces is tied more closely to that of the dictator, making such forces relatively more likely to respond with repression to realized protest. Finally, although personalized security forces are more likely to deter mass mobilization and repress it once it manifests, they are nonetheless more likely to splinter should initial attempts at repression fail to end the uprising, making security force defections more likely. We leverage new data on security force personalization – a proxy for loyal security agents – and major nonviolent protest campaigns to test these expectations. Our theory explains why many dictatorships rarely face mass protest mobilization and why uprisings that are met with violent force often fail in bringing about new democracies even when security forces splinter.

John J. Chin. “Re-counting Nonviolent Campaigns: Introducing the RE-NAVCO Dataset.” Working Paper.

Abstract: This article contributes to the nascent literature on civil resistance by introducing an original Reconstruction and Extension of the Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes (RE-NAVCO) dataset on all major insurgencies from 1946 to 2013. The paper summarizes the rationale, coding rules, and updates made in the Re-NAVCO dataset and provides a detailed comparison with prior widely used datasets, namely NAVCO 2.0 and the Major Episodes of Contention (MEC) data. In contrast to prominent scholars who argue that nonviolent campaigns emerge and succeed equally regardless of a state’s material power, replication results using the new data indicates that state power is in fact a deterrent to successful mass uprisings.

Ongoing Projects

“Re-syncing the CINC Data: Introducing the RE-CINC Dataset”

“Military Coups, Bloodshed, and Democratization”

“Testing the Locks on the Iron Cage of Liberalism”, with Jonathan Pinckney

“Coups and Ethnic Politics”, with Joseph G. Wright

“Territorial Concessions and Coup Opportunity in Dictatorships”, with David B. Carter and Keren Yarhi-Milo