Home Political science China’s Ethical Revolution and Regaining Legitimacy: Reforming the Communist Party through Its Public Servants
Tension of Relationships Between the State and the Market
The China Model discourse has been predominantly driven by Western scholars examining China’s global influence (Breslin 2011: 1324). It was then adopted by Chinese scholars who were strongly influenced by devel- opmentalism and scientific discourses. The China Model is often presented as a pragmatic, experimental and non-ideological model for developing China’s economy while maintaining political stability (1328). Scholars have tried to analyse the China Model discourse from different perspectives. For example, development scholars tend to focus on whether China will manage to export its state-driven capitalism model to other countries, as a statist alternative to the market-driven Anglo-American model, whereas economists are mainly interested in whether China’s economic growth is approaching its end (Mulvad 2015: 200).
In fact, when studying contemporary China, one cannot really separate economic reform from political change, as politics and economics are closely linked (Li 2010a: 3). Market forms are legitimated as the scientific and rational means of achieving the socialist ends of national economic prosperity, social stability and prestige in the international political arena (Osburg 2013: 4). The way in which the China modernization project has operated can be summarized thus: (1) it is driven by pragmatism not a specific ideological doctrine; (2) the state has to play a strong and prodevelopment role, which emphasizes economic growth as an overarching national goal and political stability as a precondition for modernization; and (3) it selectively learns from Western experiences in the process of development while rejecting the more liberal aspects of development that would reduce the role of the government (Zhao 2010: 424).
China’s way of developing the economy operates more like an “illiberal capitalism” (Ambrosio 2012: 382) or “embedded economy,” wherein the bureaucracy attempts to be simultaneously untouchable (or insulated) and also connected to society (Ortmann 2012: 340). For example, the Party’s institutionalized presence in state companies makes possible the co-location of communication and the promotion of entrepreneurship
(Jones 2014: 126). Capital and the state are not two separate entities in China; the state is, in fact, a principal agent of capitalism (Khiabany 2007: 499). In this sense, the discourse of the China Model is fundamentally a model of successful state capitalist economy, and not a standard bearer for a radically different set of ideas or practices (Beeson 2013: 239).
The China Model (it is also called the “Beijing Consensus” in international contexts) is often compared with the “Washington Consensus” of democratic capitalism and neoliberal development policies (Chen and Goodman 2012: 169). The advocates of the Washington Consensus argue that the modernization project should prioritize “values of the rule of law, transparency, accountability and democracy” (Chan et al. 2008: 12). The China model of economic development attempts to reach a balance between economic growth and political stability, and between a market- oriented economy and an authoritarian state (Zhao 2010: 419). The emphasis on political stability and centralization as the preconditions for China’s modernization project is reminiscent of the “revisionist” views of modernization theory (Li 2010b: 343). The guiding logic behind the China Model discourse is the protection of sovereign national development or “economic sovereignty” (Chin and Thakur 2010: 124). This is to be achieved through the following ways: (1) the suppression of other possible development paths within China; (2) subsuming Chinese development experiences under those of the generalized West; and (3) thereby restricting development alternatives (Barabantseva 2012: 63).
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