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The Discourse of the China Model: Tension Between the Self and the Other

As we discussed above, the discourses of China’s past humiliation and greatness, in combination with various modernization discourses, has largely complicated the discourse of the China Dream. It brings the discourses of nationalism, culturalism, racialism and modernization into a hybrid combination. Thus seemingly contradictory notions are being regrouped in the process of China’s nation building: for example, the discourse of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” in achieving modernization (Fewsmith 2013: 2), or the discourse of the “China Model” (we will focus on this in the next section). Thus, the China Model is a discourse that highlights China’s uniqueness by showing its differences from Maoist policies, from Western liberal policies and from its former Socialist comrades (Kennedy 2010: 474). In other words, it is in sharp distinction to the direct democratization approach and “shock therapy” adopted by the post-Communist states of central Europe (Zhao 2010: 431).

It is often seen as a process of combining many modernist features with an anti-modernist ideology (Chang 2011: 131). That is, it integrates classical modernization theories with Chinese social and philosophical traditions (Wheeler 2005: 3). This discourse has also been used to facilitate a combination of “revolutionary” and “traditional” sources of cultural authority to foster a powerful collective identity for the nationalist end (Perry 2013: 8). The result is that the Party theorizes and engages in political discourse at the superstructural level, based on an ideology of “Chinese characteristics” in both its internal and external relations (Fan 2002: 73). In this sense, the revival of Confucianism seems to be synonymous with the search for a unique Chinese road to modernization (Chih-Yu 2014: 16).

To conclude, if the discourse of the China Dream can be seen as a philosophical-political term to describe the phenomenon of the revival of Chinese traditional culture, then the discourse of the China Model is an articulation of China’s unique political-economic system in the course of its modernization. Thus, the examination of the discourses of the China Model will enrich our understanding of the unique formation of epistemological, political and economic relations in China. This will pave the way for us to explore how the revival of Chinese traditional culture is possible, how the China Dream discourse aspires to balance the various power relations in China in the context of globalization and, more importantly, how the China Dream discourse is being deployed to try to legitimize the rule of the Party in China. In the next section, we will first examine the discourse of the China Model in order to expose the complex relationships between China’s political system and China’s economic development, and how the discourse of the China Dream can shape these relations.

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