From the Dani Rodrik blog:
As the figure below shows, there are very few countries that have developed beyond $5,000 in 2005 PPP dollars without becoming democracies somewhere along the way (unless they are an oil economy).
This scatter plot covers all countries with population larger than 1 million and with fuel exports less than 50% of export revenues. (Democracy is measured by the Polity score, which runs from -10 to +10).
The exceptions in the chart are interesting. Singapore is the most intriguing, of course, as one of the richest countries in the world, but with what Polity considers an authoritarian regime. Belarus is one of the Soviet-era holdovers. Tunisia and Jordan – well, we know what has happened recently in that part of the world.
Which leaves China. Will China remain an exception and develop into another Singapore? Or will it go in Tunisia's direction?
My guess is that this question will leave a larger imprint on the world economy than the double-dip we seem to be entering at present.