It has always been difficult to make an analysis of the Chinese development model without falling back on the rigidity of the side one has chosen. China’s economic success is often met with quick criticism, skepticism over the authenticity of the process, and catastrophic predictions for the future of the country. Similarly, when faced with the undeniable injustices and limits of the experiment, China’s supporters ascribe those mistakes to mishaps as a matter of course, the collateral effects of a historic outcome. The same sterile dilemma applies to the question of whether China’s model can be exported, particularly in Europe’s western democracies. Can they learn something from Beijing’s experiment, or will the radical antagonism between the two sides make it impossible that it will be passed on? As it were, there are many aspects of China that ought to be admired – or even absorbed – without giving up on the fundamentals of European economic development.
The culture of merit is dominant. There are exceptions, shortcuts for the privileged, but the idea that one’s ability is essential is widespread. Those in China who hold positions of authority for the most part are qualified for the job. It has been a long process for a country that was crippled by underdevelopment for centuries, but the harmony between the requirements and the talents needed to satisfy them is much stronger now. Connected to merit is the importance of education. Students and their families are focused on going to the best schools from a very young age, with the logical presumption that they will be a passport to important, high-paying jobs. But education in China is difficult and competitive: they require sacrifice, commitment, and tradeoffs, all during the stage in life when the students are still young and full of energy. At the same time it is also a matter of personal growth and the progress of society. The most qualified are put at the service of society, both in the public administration and the private sector.
China’s achievements in the industrial sector have also been impressive. An ancient agricultural society transformed itself into a manufacturing superpower in just a few decades. Previously unknown methods were first introduced and then accepted: factory life, working in shifts, manufacturing applied to a massive society. The assembly line has replaced the connection with the earth. Such a complex operation required adaptability to new things, mastery of the factors of production, the acceptance of a new and different way to use your time. After mechanics, electronics then entered China’s socio-economic aspect. This cut all of the phases of production horizontally, and gave access to modern telecommunications. It is impressive to note how the transition from landline to mobile communications was practically nonexistent: cellular phones were the first phones many Chinese ever had. None of this would have been possible without discipline, hard work, and the desire to rid oneself of a past of deprivation. Europe is the standard bearer of other values and the winner of different battles, but China’s way presents aspects that can be admired by everyone.