According to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, “the liberal idea has become obsolete”. Maybe so. But illiberalism does not seem to be doing so well either, to judge from my recent visits to Moscow and Hong Kong.

Between them, Russia and China represent the major geopolitical and ideological challenges to western liberalism. But both countries are facing public protests that undermine their governments’ claims to stability, efficiency and public support. In response, both governments have retreated into self-serving paranoia, alleging that mass protests in Moscow and Hong Kong are being orchestrated by foreign enemies.

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