The Real China Model

It's Not What You Think It Is

The financial district in Shanghai, July 2017 Aly Song / Reuters

In 2016, the South Sudanese politician Anthony Kpandu led a delegation to China. What he saw there blew him away: modern industrial parks, high-speed trains, gleaming infrastructure, dazzling skylines. “It was magnificent,” he enthused. “You can’t believe it, but it’s there. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Such reactions contribute to a growing fear in the West that developing countries are finding the so-called "China model" more appealing than liberal democracy. The Chinese leadership has inadvertently exacerbated these fears. At the 19th Party Congress in 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping confidently declared that other states should learn from “the Chinese solution for tackling the problems facing mankind.” In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, the journalist Richard McGregor wrote that Xi is promoting the idea that “authoritarian political systems are not only legitimate but can outperform Western democracies.” Beijing’s real goal, he warned, “is encouraging the spread

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