China Leadership Monitor

Debating “the China Model”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In recent years, especially since 2008, there has been a broad-ranging discussion about whether a “China model” exists, and, if so, whether it is good or bad, and whether it is restricted to China or can be spread to other countries. While this discussion has involved both Chinese and foreign scholars around the world, it is largely a discussion about Chinese identity and whether and how China should adopt “Western” concepts and practices or resist such trends. Although some of the discussions are serious explorations of development trends, most are highly politicized and emotional. Participants in the discussion tend to fall along the lines of past debates, with those identified with the “new left” advocating the existence and virtues of the China model, and those identified as liberal rejecting the claims of the former. In addition, there are some who seek to avoid politicization by taking an agnostic attitude toward the existence of a China model. In many ways, the discussion of the China model is a recurrence of earlier debates over “socialism” and “capitalism,” “the Beijing consensus,” and even earlier debates in Chinese history about the uniqueness of Chinese civilization.