By Jing Gu
Is China's development strategy really very new? Scholars (including Gordon White, Tian Yu Cao, and Pan Wei) have for more than a decade explained a 'model' based on China’s development experiences. The ‘Chinese Model’ is said to be characterised by China’s experiences of high levels of foreign direct investment, industrial exports orientation, and state funding of high-level infrastructure.
Some scholars also equate a Chinese model with a 'Beijing Consensus' (such as Joshua Cooper Ramo, Scott Kennedy (2010) and Suisheng Zhao (2010)). This holds that China’s development strategy represents an 'alternative model' distinct from that of the club of advanced industrial economies. China, as a strong developmental state that rejects a US-led ‘Washington Consensus’, welcomes multilateralism and focuses on globalisation and development, but from an avowedly South-South perspective.
The current debate highlights that the alternative model offers a potentially attractive example to governments drawn to a more neo-authoritarian style, with questionable commitments to civil and human rights, political accountability, or Western-style political cultures advocating, at least in declaratory terms, values of political 'good governance'. However, China appears as a rather unitary agency and perhaps some further breakdown of internal governmental differences over development policy might add to the debate.
China’s 'Opening Up and Reform' has been very successful over the last 33 years. Yet China’s development focused exclusively upon economic growth. The result was a rapidly growing economy, but one where social development lagged behind.
Domestically, the phenomenon that China’s cities are like Europe and its villages like Africa needs tackling. The Chinese people still face transition challenges. But by increasing social expenditures in an effective development strategy, it’s time for China to reward its own people.
Now Chinese Government attention is focusing on harmonious and scientific development. One important agenda during the March sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliament, was to review and approve the outline for the nation’s 12th five-year plan covering the period for 2011 to 2015. It prioritised improvement in people’s livelihoods and quality of life through 'human-centred' development.
China needs to elaborate a coherent sustainable development strategy and actively promote it. China’s development challenges are international. The implications of China’s new role in Africa are the subject of sharp debate. Indeed, the implications of China’s role are critical for implementing sustainable development policies. We live in a world of complex interdependency. China must develop its own development policies dealing with global issues. Time is pressing; it is opportune to act. China has become a significant global development actor with all the associated responsibilities.