Can Other Countries Replicate the China Model?
In this week’s podcast, Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way refer to China as among the most notable revolutionary regimes. They argue its revolutionary origins produced what they describe as durable authoritarianism. Most autocracies fail to provide long-term political stability. They hold together fragile coalitions that collapse during moments of political crisis or leadership transitions. China, however, is among the most durable authoritarian regimes. It has lasted multiple generations and institutionalized the transfer of power between political leaders. Naturally, China offers an attractive political system for skeptics of liberal democracy. But few nations have come close to replicating the elusive China Model.
Still, for many the China Model refers to a state-led form of capitalism. However, China’s economic system is tied closely to its political form of government. Some even believe China’s record of economic performance proves authoritarian governments produce better economic outcomes. Critics of liberal democracy argue popular opinion interferes with policies necessary for high levels of economic growth. Still, it helps to remember how few dictators manage their economies well. Indeed, most autocracies continue to rely on democratic governments for foreign aid. Even China struggled economically for decades before it began to produce double digit growth.
The China Model though is about more than economic growth. It also refers to its ability to provide long-term political stability. However, Levitsky and Way argue its revolutionary origins made durable authoritarianism possible. Indeed, the price of the China Model was not just its current repressive state, but also the recklessness of its first decades under Mao. China survived many tragedies before they began a period of sustained economic growth. Yet despite its economic accomplishments, it remains a highly repressive regime. So, it’s not clear whether other countries really can replicate the China Model or that they’d really want to either.