What is the unique model behind China's rapid rise?
Zhang Weiwei

Editor's note: Zhang Weiwei is a Chinese professor of international relations at Fudan University and a senior research fellow at the Chunqiu Institute. He is the author of "The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State." As July 1, 2021, which marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, is approaching, we've re-posted an episode of Professor Zhang's The Chinese Way series, in which he identifies merits and flaws in the Chinese system and contrasts the China model with Western equivalents in a series of short films. Opinions expressed in this video are his and not necessarily those of CGTN.

- China has rejected democratic and market fundamentalism

- Four aspects of the "China model" have underpinned success

China's economic and political models are quite different from those of the West, and the country is prospering. Chinese scholar Zhang Weiwei insists that those who suggest that the Western model is superior need only look at recent history.

China is controversial in the West because it differs greatly from Western countries in terms of its political system and economic model, which actually makes China unique in today's context. After all, it's not China that has fallen into a financial crisis, but the United States and many Western countries. It's not the Chinese model that has fallen out of favor, but the neoliberal model of the West.

China is doing fine, and it's already the world's largest economy by purchasing power parity, and we're very proud of it.

So the question is, how did China do it? The answer is very simple. It can be described in three words: The China Model. 

What exactly is it? I will try to identify four features.

First, its guiding philosophy is called "seeking truth from facts," not from dogmas, whether from the East or West. From examining the facts, the late leader Deng Xiaoping concluded in the late 1970s that neither the Soviet model nor the Western model really worked for a vast developing country in need of modernization. Hence, Beijing decided to explore its own way of development, appropriate to China's situation.

Second, the model is focused on the individual's livelihood. Whether reforms are economic, social or political, they must all be down-to-earth and produce tangible benefits for the Chinese people in material, cultural and other terms. This is why China has succeeded in lifting over 700 million people out of poverty since the 1980s, accounting for nearly 80 percent of the world's poverty eradication. This fact alone has changed China and the world forever.

A town in a poverty alleviation resettlement area in Anlong County, Guizhou Province, China, July 27, 2020. /Getty

A town in a poverty alleviation resettlement area in Anlong County, Guizhou Province, China, July 27, 2020. /Getty

A mixed economy is the third characteristic of the Chinese model. China has tried to combine the strength of the invisible hand of market forces with the visible hand of the state. China's economic system is thus called a "socialist market economy."

The Chinese state has shown its competence in mapping out strategic plans and ensuring political and economic stability at the macro level. China is proud that it can plan for the next decades and future generations rather than only for the next 100 days, like the West.

The fourth characteristic is the belief in gradual reform and a trial-and-error approach. Given the size and complexity of the country, China has encouraged various experiments, exemplified by China's special economic zones, where new ideas and practices are tested, such as the sale of land, wholly foreign-owned enterprises, high-tech joint ventures and creative start-ups. Only when new initiatives are shown to work are they extended to the rest of the country.

Thanks to this model, China has rejected both "democracy fundamentalism" and "market fundamentalism," both advocated by the West for so many years. China also rejected the end-of-history thesis advocated by Francis Fukuyama, the renowned Japanese-American political scientist.

China has thus avoided many pitfalls, such as the financial crisis of 2008 and the Soviet-style breakups, giving way for the country to achieve the dramatic rise we see today. Given all the crises faced by the West, if some still think the Western model is the best in the world, we will only say this to him or her, "Please stay with your model; we don't envy you."

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