May 17, 2018
The idea of a “China Model,” referring to the People Republic of China’s (PRC) distinctive developmental path as a fast track to economic growth, continues to attract attention from both the public and scholars. More recently, the term has been used to channel general anxiety in the West about China’s global rise and its possible negative implications for the liberal order.

In the past decade, China appears to have become the main advocate of globalization, even though Beijing does not share the liberal values that usually accompany globalization’s proponents. Despite its integration with the global economy, China’s attitude towards established international institutions and practices appears ambivalent, and for various authors and policy makers the emergence of an authoritarian China Model is a challenge to the rule of law, democracy, and human rights.

Discussions of the China Model can be disorienting, however, as they can refer to disparate aspects rather than a single, coherent concept. This is not surprising, as what constitutes the China Model is largely in the eye of the beholder, and it can perhaps be better explained as a form of constructed discourse.

Even if a China Model does not really exist, however, how it is characterized can shape and potentially limit the interpretation of Chinese foreign policy and the available policy options. This is why it is important to understand the origins and motivations behind current discourses of the China Model.