China\'s Development: A New Development Paradigm?

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China’s Development: A New Development Paradigm? Jennifer Y. J. Hsu University of Alberta [email protected] Forthcoming, Third World Quarterly,

The emergence of China as a development actor across the Global South has raised significant questions regarding the extent to which China presents new development opportunities to its compatriots in the South. My aim is to reflect and to parse out the experiences and policies that have shaped China’s development to assess how it can inform the field of development studies. I argue that we need to critically engage in China’s development process, as China’s own development has led to the emergence of many more problems than solutions, ranging from increasing inequality to exclusionary development practices pertaining to ethnic minorities.

Keywords: China, Global South, development model, development studies, growth, state

Introduction The emergence of China as a development actor across the Global South has raised significant questions regarding the extent to which China presents new development opportunities to its compatriots in the South. The state, having gone out of fashion in development theory as a result of ‘neoliberal triumphalism,’1 has lurked in the background. Yet unprecedented economic growth in China over the last four decades, with much state intervention, has brought the state back into the limelight. The 2008 global economic crisis reinforced policy and institutional failures, largely in the neoliberal mould. The 1

Schuurman, “Critical Development Theory.” 1

confluence of these events gives reason to examine the potential impact of China on the study of development. China’s remarkable growth paired with its relative social stability has generated significant excitement and discussion for many developing countries. Questions across the spectrum from academic to policy circles are raised with regards to the ‘China model’ of development. This paper is an exploration into China’s development ‘model’ and what it means for this ‘new development era’.2 Much of the recent development literature has focused on China’s role as a development actor in Africa in providing aid and trade opportunities, but much less literature exists on China’s own development experience. Hence, my aim here is to reflect and to parse out the experiences and policies that have shaped China’s development to make sense not only of its Global South compatriots but to assess how it can inform and enrich the field of development studies. China’s rapid development is treated with both caution and praise. The alternative development model that China seemingly provides to market capitalism, leads to some optimism in the search for an alternative for the Global South. Yet, the domestic challenges that have emerged from China’s development warrants caution in our praise for its success. These substantial challenges range from environmental damage to misappropriation of power and resources by government officials. Whether we heed caution or optimism, I argue we need to assess China’s development ‘model’ on the basis of whether it seeks to redistribute power and transform social relations.3 The purpose of this paper is thus three-fold. First, I will outline the different conceptions of China’s development model. Second, I will delineate some of the major lessons from China’s development with an eye on its social development. Third, I shall consider the limitations of the model and what this means for a new development era. These three items are framed within the broader perspective of the development studies field, essentially to reconsider whether China is an ‘exceptional’ case because of its circumstances, large population, history and state socialism (Chen and Goodman

2 3

Pieterse, “Twenty-First Century Globalization.” Banks and Hulme, “New Development Alternatives” 2

2012). Whether China presents an alternative or not, there are lessons to be drawn from its 35 years of development that may inform future development.

A Changing Development Landscape The emergence of China and other non-OECD countries as notable aid donors is one of the primary characteristics shaping the current development landscape today. Kilby observed amongst other trends, the role of remittances and securitisation of aid as important elements to consider from aid donors.4 In Australia’s case, he argues that the Australian government has continued roughly along the same lines of ‘managing’ Australian interests despite the changes occurring in recipient countries. With regards to migration and remittances, donor aid has remained largely silent, despite evidence to show the developmental benefits of remittances, because of political and public sensitivity to liberal migration policies. The role of ‘new actors’ in development such as philanthropists, disaporas and businesses have also attracted scholarly attention.5 Whether these new actors contribute to reduction of poverty and challenge existing structural inequalities is the question.6 The involvement of well-known philanthropists in development, such as Bill Gates, has not reduced states’ inputs in aid responsibility, as McGoey argues.7 In fact, the state is diverting more aid money to incentivise private foundations to generate innovation in solving a range of issues, including affordable vaccines.8 Celebrities, consumers, and businesses—whether seen together from the perspective of cause-related marketing or as separate entities involved in ‘development’—have begun to reshape and redefine how the public and businesses can engage ‘ethically’ through the power of consumption.9 Celebrity endorsements and celebrity philanthropy have attracted both enthusiasm10 over the increasing public awareness of development

Kilby, “The Changing Development Landscape.” See Third World Quarterly 35, no. 1 (2014) 6 Banks and Hulme, “New Development Alternatives.” 7 McGoey, “The Philanthropic State” 8 Ibid. 9 Pontey and Richey, “Buying into Development?” 10 Bishop and Green, Philanthrocapitalism. 4 5


issues and anxiety over whether it reinforces global inequality.11 However, recent research by Hassid and Jefferys shows that celebrity endorsements have little to no impact on press coverage of charities in China.12 The development space today is abundant with a variety of different actors and partnerships, but as Banks and Hulme observe: ‘The creativity that capitalism encourages has meant that the unleashing of market forces has led different actors to evolve in new ways, extending their roles to become legitimate development actors’. Without challenging the structural dynamics that produce inequality or poverty, new and old actors alike will be unable to address such problems, and thus can only find temporary solutions. Within the broader context of development trends, consideration of China’s development ‘model’ is one of these trends. Considering China as a new and emerging development actor, I question the extent to which China and its development model encourages development alternatives. The next section brings together the disparate scholarly discussion on the Chinese model of development.

A “China Model”? There is much debate as to what constitutes a ‘China model’. Furthermore, there is often conflation between China’s development experience, i.e. the ‘China model’, and that of the Beijing Consensus.13 The Beijing Consensus, as Dirlik notes,14 serves as an alternate global order. Thus, the geo-political debate of whether there is a new global order is far beyond the depths of this paper. Consequently, I shall stick to examining China’s development lessons and ascertain whether these lessons form a ‘model’.


Kapoor, Celebrity Humanitarianism Hassid and Jefferys, “Doing Good or Doing Nothing?” 13 Ramo, The Beijing Consensus. 14 Dirlik, “Beijing Consensus.” 12


There are different conceptions of what constitutes a ‘China model’. In this section I outline and analyse the corpus of literature. Bruce Dickson15 is perhaps clearest in defining what forms a China model. According to Dickson, China is approaching development in three inter-related ways: 1) advocating for ‘national champions’; 2) encouraging the growth of the middle class and; 3) devoting more resources to the provision of public goods.

The creation of national ‘champions’ to rival those of its global competitors, whether in the field of electronics or natural resources, is clearly intended to keep a larger proportion of corporate profits in Chinese hands. The goal was clearly enunciated in the 15th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress and reiterated in subsequent policies. The 15th CCP Congress outlined three major policies with regards to enterprise reforms for large and medium state-owned enterprises (SOEs). First, it aimed to create three to five large firms that would feature in the world’s top 500. The second strategy focused on the development of core systems. Large-scale SOEs were encouraged and supported to develop into modern enterprise systems. The third strategy sought to target strategic enterprise groups. Large Chinese state-owned companies are proactively seeking to compete in the global market through joint venture schemes and more recently company take-overs. As Nolan and Wang16 suggest, China’s SOEs, through institutional reform, government policy, localised action and relations with international investment, present an alternative development path.

Since the early 2000s, the Party-state has encouraged discourse on the middle class. President Xi Jinping’s rhetoric on the ‘Chinese Dream’ is seen as a blueprint for the Party-state’s support to expand the middle-class.17 The State Council’s joint report with the World Bank highlighted the necessity of the

Dickson, “Updating the China Model.” Nolan and Wang, “Beyond Privatization,” 170. 17 Pan, “Chinese Dream.” 15 16


middle class in maintaining social stability. 18 The state’s activeness in leading the labour wage bargaining process between 2001 and 200619 demonstrate a state that is seeking to respond to social changes. Yet simultaneously, the state’s commitment to wage bargaining and supporting the growth of the middle class is intricately tied to its pursuit of legitimising its rule. By supporting the middle class the CCP is establishing a new a support base for its rule. Despite the prospects for CCP, Goodman argues that the middle class is less heterogeneous than the Party-state discourse would assume. That is, the middle class is found more in the public sector rather than across a number of professions, as his research demonstrates.20

The potential social and political destabilising forces within China threaten not only the reform process but also the CCP’s reign. The challenge for China in its next phase of development is to maintain social stability. For this reason some have argued that a strong control of society is needed.21 For Dickson, the third piece in the model is the Chinese state’s provision of public goods to ensure the Party-state’s hold on power and thus to pre-empt demands for political change. Rising inequality, regional and intraregional, may increase sentiments of discontent aimed at the state. The provision of public goods is therefore a major tool for mitigating social instability. The move towards the provision of public goods includes greater medical coverage for Chinese citizens; the central government announced in April 2009 additional spending of 850 billion RMB (US $125 billion) on health care. Additionally, the introduction of the New Medical Cooperative System (NMCS) will ensure that greater numbers of rural residents have medical insurance.22


World Bank and Development Research Center of the State Council, China 2030, 13. Huang, “Collective Wage Bargaining.” 20 Goodman, Class in Contemporary China. 21 Shutt, “Global Capitalism in Crisis”; Nolan, China at the Crossroads. 22 Brown, de Brauw and Du, “Understanding Variation.” 19


While Dickson notes political control in passing, Zhao23 has argued that state control is the central component of China’s successful development. Zhao believes the success and subsequent appeal of China’s development model stems from its focus on material economic and political benefits.24 Drawing on Zhao’s and Dickson’s arguments, we can infer that the success of China’s development is due to the ability of the state to control and steer China in certain policy directions. For Pan Wei, the discussion on the China model is perhaps more philosophical.25 Pan believes China’s success is related to the unique way in which the Chinese organise themselves in society, economy, and politics. Pan’s belief in China’s unique form of organisation perhaps stymies any attempt for replication elsewhere.

The notion of uniqueness is also adopted by Naughton who argues that three fundamental principles associated with China’s development makes the Chinese experience difficult to replicate.26 These three principles include China’s size (and thus the potential of the purchasing power of the domestic market), an abundance of labour and the authoritarian system. Despite these three principles, Naughton suggests six conjectures which may evolve into lessons for other nations. Conjecture number one refers to China’s mixed economy, where state-ownership has not hampered China’s development. Conjecture two refers to state-managed market competition. Related to this conjecture is that public ownership can be exploited for maximum profitability, which is the basis for conjecture number three. The fourth conjecture is that investment-led growth is essential, irrespective of whether there is current demand or not. The fifth relates to the aggressive role of the state in creating growth opportunities. And the sixth conjecture which Naughton offers is that managers of publicly-owned company can be motivated by tying their compensation to the company’s performance. Naughton concludes that rather than seeing

Zhao, “The China Model.” Ibid, 434. 25 Pan, “Reflection on the ‘China model’ discussion.” 26 Naughton, “China’s Distinctive System.” 23 24


China as adopting new principles of development, we ought to see it as ‘pragmatic adaption to circumstance’.27

Although there may be disagreement over what constitutes a ‘development model’, there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that China’s development—its pursuit of growth—can be distilled into potential lessons, or at the very least, that we can delineated certain policies that have been instrumental to its growth. Dickson’s assessment of China’s development may perhaps be most instructive in guiding our thinking on a ‘model’. Yet, as we carefully assess the three elements—advocating for national champions, encouraging the growth of the middle class, and devoting more resources to welfare—one cannot but help notice that the last two aspects are directly tied to preserving the Party-state’s reign. Nonetheless, preservation of power has driven the Party-state to utilise its strength to dictate the terms and conditions of China’s reforms. China’s development policies have evolved over time and, as many commentators note, through a series of trial and error,28 selective learning,29 and pragmatism.30 Policies of creating national champions have been in effect since the 1980s, and though the state’s commitment has waxed and waned over time, it has recently been reinforced brought the ‘return of the state’.31 State support for the middle class would not have been possible in the early years of the reform as one would not have existed. Encouragement for the middle class is clearly a recent phenomenon and one that the state sees as an important factor in maintaining a harmonious society.32 Furthermore, it is since the 2011-2015 Five Year Plan that the state has committed significant resources to public welfare. Given these factors, I would argue that there is indeed a ‘China model’, but that there are certain elements of 27

Ibid, 459. Ho, “Beyond Development Orthodoxy.” 29 Zhao, “The China Model.” 30 Naughton, “China’s Distinctive System”; De Haan, “Will China Change.” 31 Wines, “China Fortifies State Businesses.”; The Economist 12 January 2012. The CCP permitted for the first time entrepreneurs into its membership ranks in 2001, since 1921, and under such policy, private entrepreneurs were encouraged and hailed as exemplary members of the Party and society. However, since 2010 the state has reverted back to its support for SOEs at the expense of small and medium private entrepreneurs. There is evidence to indicate that small and medium entrepreneurs have since found it difficult to conduct business, see Yang, “Keep Business to Business.” 32 Minter, “Beijing’s Harmonious Families.” 8 28

the model that have been overlooked, particularly when we consider what lessons can be drawn from China to inform new development paradigms. The model, as seen from the perspective of multiple authors, do not suggest that the model or the Party-state’s development goals are in any way reshaping the way in which development is carried out. Nor, is the model realigning the social relations between state and society in altering the dynamics of development. In fact, as noted above, inequality has grown markedly over the last four decades. The following section will examine some of the earlier development policies that have influenced China’s success.

Local Lessons and Experimentation Clear lessons can be gleaned from China’s experience of the past 35 years, and these can inform the ‘new learning paradigm’33 for the development sector. Moreover, to conclude that China’s development experience is simply a result of a pragmatic and flexible decision-making says nothing about the lessons or policies adopted; China’s success over the last three decades is more than a mind-set or attitude of the Party-state. A 2007 UK Department for International Development (DFID) paper noted the urgent need to understand China’s development trajectory, not just on the ‘observed outcomes but on the institutional arrangements and policy processes which underpin them’.34 Accordingly, while I have drawn extensively on Dickson’s conception of the China model,35 other factors have contributed to the model and deserve greater attention, in order to assess whether China’s development model presents an opportunity to alter the structural inequalities of development.

The early stages of China’s development saw dramatic decrease in poverty. According to Ravallion and Chen,36 two-thirds of the poverty reduction (measured by those living under $1 a day) from 1981-2004

Kremer, van Lisehour and Went, “Towards Development Policies.” DFID, “China.” 35 Dickson, “Updating the China Model.” 36 Chen and Ravallion, “Absolute Poverty Measures.” 33 34


occurred between 1981 and 1987. Furthermore, 40 per cent of the reduction took place in the first three years of the period.37 Much of China’s poverty reduction occurred in the early phase of China’s reform, prior to the influx of foreign direct investment (FDI) and trade reforms—80 per cent of China’s FDI from 1979 to 2005 came after 1995, while only 15 per cent of the numbers in poverty fell after 1995.38 What were the drivers behind China’s impressive achievements in poverty reduction? There is strong evidence to suggest that growth in China’s agricultural sector was an important driver in poverty reduction.39 The move to the household responsibility system in the early 1980s saw not only an increase in grain production by 20 per cent but also a tremendous impact on poverty reduction. Lin (1992) attributes nearly 60 per cent of China’s growth in the early 1980s to the shift to the household responsibility system. Following initial successes at the rural level, further measures were taken, including investments in the development and subsequent wide-spread adoption of improved seed varieties for a range of crops, thereby improving food security and agricultural growth. As a result, between 1978 and 2009, China’s agriculture production grew at an annual average rate of 4.5 per cent, with total grain output at 2.3 per cent compared to population growth at 1.07 per cent.40

The early successes of China’s rural reforms were paralleled by a willingness to experiment, research, and allow for local differences to guide future policies.41 Allowing farmers and local officials room to trial certain agricultural options provided a ‘degree of ownership to the key stakeholders that appears to have been important for the sustainability of the reforms’.42 Moving from a quota system to a contract system, one preferred by farmers, not only allowed greater choice as to what farmers produced but also enabled the accumulation of surplus capital and labour, which have been instrumental in the growth of


Ibid. Ravallion, “Are there Lessons,” 7. 39 Dollar, “Lessons from China” ; Ravallion, “Are there Lessons”; Fan, Nestorova and Olofinbiyi, “China’s Agricultural and Rural Development.” 40 Li et al., “What can Africa Learn.” 41 See Du, “The Course of China’s Reforms.” 42 Ravallion, “Are there Lessons,” 15. 10 38

the non-farm sector. Pairing rural reforms with state investment in rural research has paid dividends for both farmers and the Chinese state. Dollar notes that the combination of such aforementioned factors has seen China’s agricultural production improve, particularly in high value and labour-intensive crops such as tea with an increase of 73 per cent for tea and 741 per cent for fruit between 1991 and 2005.43

Investment in agricultural research combined with local experiments to guide development policy has ensured a level of heterogeneity in China’s development process. The establishment of the China Rural Development Research Group in 1980 played a critical part in providing information and recommendations to China’s leadership with regards to rural reforms. With information asymmetry and legacies of the past relating to policy discussion—political and personal ramifications deterred open discussions—research conducted by the Group was important in depoliticising research and learning. Such research allowed for the assessment of the household contracting system in Anhui in 1981 and the subsequent report convinced the highest levels to adopt it on a larger scale.44 The vertical governing structures of central to local levels and the horizontal structure between organisations served different areas of agricultural policy and thus ensured that policies were developed with consistency and were flexible and adaptable.45 The involvement of the local state—with room to experiment—is a factor in China’s development success.

The local state is a stakeholder to consider not only in economic development but also in the social realm. With greater attention now on the provision of public welfare and services, both central and local levels of the state have started engaging with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as a mechanism to assist in the delivery of social services. While the central state focused on regulations and

Dollar, “Lessons from China,” 14. Luo, “Collective Learning Capacity.” 45 Li et al., “What can Africa Learn,” 34. 43 44


demarcation of the boundaries of NGOs’ work,46 local states have demonstrated various degrees of willingness to engage with NGOs.47 The disposition to experiment as seen above with rural reforms is also reflected with the new NGO sector.48 For example, the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) in conjunction with the Shenzhen government in July 2009 adopted the Cooperative Agreement on Advancing Overall Reforms to Civil Affairs Undertakings, outlining reforms in 34 areas relating to civil affairs.49 Furthermore, in November 2011, the director of Guangdong Civil Affairs declared an easing of registration requirements for social organisations by eliminating the need for a supervisory agency. Since 1 July 2012, cultural, environmental, social services and recreational organisations no longer need a sponsoring agency, which previously included trade and business associations. The Minister of Civil Affairs, Li Liguo, encouraged other provinces to follow the lead of Guangdong.50 Guangdong’s approach has paved the way for other provinces to experiment with NGO registration, including Yunnan.51

In conjunction with the development of NGOs, China is in the process of experimenting with methods of delivering social welfare. Experimentation of different service-delivery models— producer side and consumer-driven models being the primary models—is an area in which different jurisdictions are trialing. Shanghai is at the forefront of developing a viable contract-based model where NGOs are invited to bid for government contracts.52 The Shanghai municipal authorities are increasingly encouraging the contracting of social services to NGOs and thus, present an interesting

See Hildebrandt, Social Organizations; Hsu, “A State Creation?” Hsu, “Layers of the Urban State.” 48 Certain jurisdictions are permitted by the central state to experiment with policies affecting NGO registrations. 49 English translation of the Agreement can be found at: The Chinese version at: 50 Xinhua, “The Minister of Civil Affairs.” 51 China Development Brief, “Yunnan Social Organization.” 52 Simons and Teets, “Revolutionizing Social Service Delivery.” 46 47


case to understand how the state and NGOs will respond to the changes within the sector.53 With 35 million RMB set aside by the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs with 100 per cent matching grants from the District Bureau of Civil Affairs, over 100 non-profits won grants to conduct projects between May 2009 and June 2010; projects ranged from services assisting the elderly to the poor.54 While there were problems with the model, including lack of competition for the bids to difficulties for non-profits engaging in the bidding process, this level of experimentation is clearly in the tradition of China’s development experience, where the model is in part premised on the willingness to investigate and test potential possibilities. The focus on social development is particularly pertinent at this stage of China’s development. This ability to experiment with different models of social development reflects the lessons learnt from the past to inform future policies.

Contextualised within the perspective of broader understanding and the practice of development, a Chinese model of development suggests that local experimentation, such as accounting for local conditions in the area of agricultural reform, was crucial to early success. In particular, changes in agricultural production had tremendous impact in the early phases of poverty reduction. A combination of past and present experiences and lessons thus constitute a Chinese model of development. We can distil six general elements of a China’s model of development that may guide new thinking with regards to development practices: 1) implement agricultural reforms to kick-start poverty reduction, 2) willingness to experiment and conduct research to inform policy, 3) support for national champions, 4) support for the middle-class, 5) focus on the delivery social goods, and 6) the role of the state in development processes. But, clearly there are limitations with any model. Thus the

53 54

Teets, “Civil Society Participation.” Simons and Teets, “Revolutionizing Social Service Delivery,.” 22 13

following section will ponder such challenges for China’s development model and its ability to shape a new development paradigm.55

A New Development Paradigm? China’s development over the last 35 years has no doubt seen success in a number of areas, including poverty reduction in the early phase of its reform and consistent growth in real gross domestic product, albeit much slower today than at the height of its economic growth. These successes have drawn the attention of developing nations, particularly many in Africa. Recent reports from South Africa demonstrate a willingness on the part of the South African government to adopt a ‘China model’ of development, which is largely interpreted by the South Africans as state-directed capitalism.56 However, as we have seen, China’s development entails far more than state-led growth in large scale projects. Moreover, there is ample evidence to indicate that China’s development has encountered significant challenges. The increasing rate of inequality across China between urban and rural areas is now a marked feature of China’s development. Ravallion estimates that China’s Gini co-efficient increases at a rate of seven per cent decade and at such a rate will reach high inequality status by 2015, with a Gini coefficient of 50 per cent. 57 Regional disparities in income as well as other measures of inequality, for example the Human Development Index (HDI), confirm the widening inequality. The absolute income gap per capita between rural and urban areas increased from less than 200 RMB in 1978 to more than 7000 RMB in 2007.58 Incomes aside, significant differences in terms of human development are found across China. For example, China’s most developed areas such as Beijing and Shanghai have a HDI of approximately 0.8, similar to that of Portugal or the Czech Republic. Provinces such as Guizhou or the Tibet Autonomous Regions, the least developed in China, have a HDI of 0.6, comparable with that of Kremer, van Lisehour and Went, “Towards Development Policies.” Jacob Zuma, State of the Nation Speech President of the Republic of South Africa on the occasion of the Joint Sitting of Parliament, Cape Town, 9 February 2012. 57 Ravallion, “Are there Lessons,” 8. 58 Sutherland and Yao, “Income Inequality in China,” 92. 55 56


Tajikistan or Laos.59 The regional variations are a result of various factors including preferential policies aimed at the urban coastal areas, level of foreign direct investment, and others. The regional differences in human development are as Ravallion notes, generating ‘inequality in opportunity’ and ‘[i]n this respect, the emerging inequalities in health and schooling in China have created concerns for future growth and distributional change’.60 Clearly, economic growth has generated new problems which will affect the future of China’s development. Studies have also shown that income inequality—and gender inequality—are closely associated with health epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, where income inequality is an important driver of diseases.61 Income inequality, for example, has prompted the resurgence of commercial sex work in China, where female migrant workers are making choices to enter this industry due to the potential of higher income but with greater risks, in comparison to employment in other nonfarm work. Without actively redistributing the wealth of China’s economic success or address factors driving the growth of inequality, the Chinese state will continue to contend with rising social unrest.62 Although the Chinese state is taking measures by investing in the provision of social services, as discussed earlier, another major concern is how the Chinese state has practiced development within its own borders, particularly with reference to ethnic minority regions of China.

Despite China’s model of development has achieved substantial reductions in absolute poverty, development policies and practices in China’s minority regions have attracted criticisms. The Han dominated and often chauvinistic treatment of ethnic minorities has resulted in frequent unrest in regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang, and more recently Inner Mongolia. The implementation of the Western Development Strategy in 2000 with the aim of bringing greater prosperity to ethnic minority areas,


Ibid, 98. Ravallion, “Are there Lessons,” 10. 61 Barnett and Whiteside, AIDS in the Twenty-First Century; Sutherland and Hsu, HIV/AIDS in China 62 A number of issues can trigger social unrest from unfair land grabs by local officials to ethnic tensions in areas like Xinjiang or Tibet. Data on the number of social unrests as published by the Ministry of Public Security are available up until 2005. The Ministry estimates that 10,000 protests occurred in 1994 and increasing to 74,000 in 2004, involving approximately 3.76 million people. 15 60

involved significant transfer of resources from east to west, including investment and development of large infrastructural projects. The transfer of resources included the migration of Han Chinese into the western regions. For the most part, the beneficiaries of these development policies were not ethnic minorities of the region but Han Chinese. Continuing in-migration of Hans into Xinjiang has altered the demographics of the region, where Uyghurs once accounted for 83 per cent of Xinjiang’s population in 1955 are now at 45 per cent.63 Hastings notes that economic development in Xinjiang have been closely tied to the exploitation of natural resources in the area with ensuing unchecked environmental damages. Moreover, continued migration of Hans into Xinjiang has impacted the employment opportunities of Uyghurs. Discrimination in the labour market has led to marginalisation in employment opportunities for Uyghurs and subsequently, Uyghurs face higher incidences of poverty than Hans in the region.64 Economic and cultural marginalisation of Uyghurs in their own region has created outbreaks of discontent in the region. Despite strong control on the practice of religion—including the ban on wearing Islamic clothing and symbols in Urumqi on 1 February 2015— Islam is thriving in Xinjiang with increasing numbers of mosques and individuals self-identifying as Muslims as a form of resistance to the hegemony of the Chinese state,65 dominated by Han majority. Other regions such as the Tibet Autonomous Region face similar concerns.66 Recent attempts to put down ethnic discontent across Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia by the Chinese state demonstrate the hegemony of Party-state when dealing with religious67 and ethnic minorities.68 The repression of demonstrations and discontent highlights the limitations of China’s model of development with regards to cultural and ethnic diversity and the consequences of such totalising policies have reinforced the inequalities between the Han

Côté, “Political Mobilization,” 1858. Hasmath, “Migration, Labour.”; Hastings, “Charting the Course,” 894. 65 Mackerras, “China’s Ethnic Minorities,” 821. 66 Hasmath and Hsu, “Social Development in Tibet.” 67 Vala, “The State-Religion Relationship.” 68 Groot, “A Self-Defeating Secret Weapon.” 63 64


majority and ethnic minorities. While the Chinese state may have ‘procedural policies’ in addressing the needs of ethnic minorities, the actual implementation is far from the conception of the policies.69

The management of Chinese ethnic minorities exposes another shortcoming of the Chinese development model: the transfer of resources, including the migration of Han Chinese into areas with significant ethnic minorities, fails to deliver inclusive growth. The emerging consensus on development is the need to have people-centred approaches, focus on well-being, and participation.70 Development may be conceived differently between China and the West,71 but there seems to be some convergence on the Chinese idea of development of a ‘harmonious society’.72 To achieve harmony requires more than just economic development, as the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015) noted. The former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao clearly observed that development, where people’s interest are prioritised is necessary (9 July 2007). Thus, people-centred development—whereby the participation of all stakeholders are considered and accounted for in the process of development—should not be considered either ‘Western’ or ‘Chinese’, but a strategy that will elicit the most inclusive and balanced development. The 12th Five Year Plan called for ‘inclusive growth’ (baorongxing zengzhang) where the benefits of economic growth are available across strata and regions—providing affordable housing for 36 million low-income people is one of the measures. Consequently, the lack of inclusive growth in China’s development policies, not only with respect to ethnic minorities, but across China, has engendered volatile situations, as seen in the increasing number of protests. To date, the Chinese model of development, where little differentiation between the needs of the Han majority and ethnic minorities, between urban and rural,


Hasmath, A Comparative Study, 20 Rapley, Understanding Development; Sen, Development as Freedom. 71 Urban, Mohan and Zhang, “The Understanding and Practice of Development.” 72 The term ‘harmonious development’ refers to the current socioeconomic ideology of the Party-state, where equity, justice, rule of law and other such factors are seen as essential to the development of China. See: “Building harmonious society crucial for China‘s progress: Hu” (People’s Daily Online 2005) 70


and other such groups has demonstrated the limitations of the model; that is, increasing social disturbances as a result of unchecked economic growth and development.

What does all this mean for us development scholars and our field? Does China’s development model offer a new development alternative, where it seeks to ‘prioritise civil society’, ‘challenge existing systems’, and transform ‘markets and power distributions’?73 The short answer is ‘No’. While civil society stakeholders such as NGOs are given greater room in social service delivery, other stakeholders in the realm have experienced greater tightening of state control, for example, the close monitoring and jailing of individual activists. Prioritising of civil society stakeholders in the process of China’s development is by no means an even or equal process. Stakeholders are incorporated into the Partystate’s fold for closer management and monitoring, as seen in the establishment of Party branches in NGOs.74 The above section demonstrates that there is a lack of understanding in how to incorporate ethnic minorities into China’s development. Turning Xinjiang into a security issue and framing discontent as acts of ‘terrorism’75 suggests that political motives have far outweighed developmental objectives, such as reducing inter and intra-regional inequalities across all sectors. Society’s discontent is not addressed through a procedural process, as seen in the case of ethnic minorities but through harsh authoritarian methods.

Does China challenge existing systems, most notably, neoliberalism? No. China is not shying away from adopting market driven reforms. Nor does it shy away from the state directing these reforms, as seen above in the development of China’s ‘national champions’. When it comes to the delivery of social services, the contracting out model clearly indicates that the state is comfortable in allowing the market

Banks and Hulme, “New Development Alternatives,”192. Thornton, “The Advance of the Party.” 75 Clarke, “China’s ‘War on Terror’”. 73 74


to dictate these services, where NGOs compete with each other to acquire contracts. Again, this is undertaken with close monitoring of the NGO sector through regulations governing NGOs.

Does China seek to transform the distribution of power? The answer is again, ‘No’. The Party-state has of course evolved to the degree required to remain relevant and retain power. Though the diverse measures taken, outlined above in the name of reform, have opened the Party-state up to questions of legitimacy and expressions of discontent by the citizenry, the state has also sought to placate these disturbances through the reprioritising of welfare in the Five Year Plans. The rhetoric of big society, small government does not seek to diminish the power of the state, but rather to transform the Party-state into a leaner and more efficient machine to govern the country. Efforts to achieve this efficiency are not about the redistribution of power, but are about recentralising power into the hands of the Party-state. If the recent corruption drive, initiated by President Xi Jinping is any indication, the Party-state is reinforcing its mark across all levels of government and society, reminding us that it is still relevant, benevolent and to be feared.

Over the course of nearly four decades, China does indeed offer us lessons about ways of thinking about development. The focus on agriculture in its early phase of development shows us the power of agricultural sector in transforming the lives of the rural poor. But, to think about emulation and as a model of development for other countries, Dirlik’s precision best sums up the problems of the China model:

Divorced from the legacies of the revolution, the Chinese model becomes one more version of authoritarian development, seeking ideological and cultural compliance with the demands of development as a participant in the global capitalist economy, without any concerns beyond success in this economy… In the end, what remains of a ‘Chinese model’ open to 19

emulation by others are authoritarianism, organizational efficiency, and innovativeness (or, more accurately, a willingness to experiment with different models of development).76

Conclusion China’s model of development can guide and inform a new learning paradigm in development practice, but the model does not offer a new paradigm. The prioritisation of the Party-state’s power demonstrates that structural inequalities will continue to persist as long as the Party-state seeks to enforce its will at the cost of inclusion of all citizenry. Nonetheless, we can distil six general elements of a Chinese model of development that may guide new thinking with regards to development practices: 1) implement agricultural reforms to kick-start poverty reduction, 2) willingness to experiment and conduct research to inform policy, 3) support for national champions, 4) support for the middle-class, 5) focus on the delivery of social goods, and 6) the role of the state in development process. But, as noted above, China’s model is significantly hampered by several limitations and thus any attempt to replicate the model is unadvisable. Growing inequality, in terms of income and other factors as measured by HDI, is particularly worrisome, as this is a direct outcome of China’s economic development. Furthermore, the Party-state’s hegemonic practices in developing regions with high concentration of ethnic minorities have resulted in outbreaks of discontent in Xinjiang and Tibet. The strength of the state has certainly helped China’s development but it has also led to the current tensions between minority ethnic groups and the Party-state. Nonetheless, what China’s development experience has taught us is the need to consider local and regional characteristics; the importance of locally derived knowledge was instrumental in the initial phase of China’s reform and poverty reduction. Such local knowledge needs to be encompassed in all aspects of China’s development for it to be inclusive, something so heavily trumpeted by the Party-state in its 12th Five Year Plan. There is a need to engage with development research in relation to China because there is a thirst for understanding China’s development trajectory 76

Dirlik, “The Idea of a ‘Chinese Model’, 283-284. 20

and because of the increasing role of China as a development actor. Future development policies and new development practices will need to engage with not only the successes of China’s development but also its limitations, otherwise the same disappointments and failures of development will ensue. Let us critically engage in China’s development process but do not mistake it as a beacon for solving all our developmental challenges, as China’s own development has led to the emergence of many more problems than it has solutions to offer.


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