Current revolutionary activities in the Middle East and Northern Africa have led analysts divided over the existing models of social development, with others pointing disapprovingly to the Beijing Consensus.
What may now become the ideological battle of the century revolves around two views: an effective central government that plays a crucial role in the economy of the country versus the Western free enterprise concept of capitalism.
The first model is known nowadays as Beijing consensus. It was defined by a former senior editor and foreign editor of Time magazine Joshua Cooper Ramo.
Ramo wrote: “What is happening in China at the moment is not only a model for China, but has begun to remake the whole landscape of international development, economics, society and, by extension, politics…China is marking a path for other nations around the world who are trying to figure out not simply how to develop their countries, but also how to fit into the international order in a way that allows them to be truly independent, to protect their way of life and political choices in a world with a single massively powerful centre of gravity… The Beijing Consensus is as much about social change as economic change. It is about using economics and governance to improve society, an original goal of development economics thatsomehow got lost in the Washington-consensus driven 1990s.”
Hence this model was seen by many as the best solution for developing countries, the recipe for economic and social recovery and integration into the globalized economy. And China has always been a great example of this system’s application.
Although Chinese have always refrained from “exporting” their model, and as Joshua Cooper Ramo pointed “China’s path to development and power is, of course, unrepeatable by any other nation,” the “Beijing Consensus” won the admiration of several governments especially in the developing countries.
According to a French newspaper Le Monde, in Egypt, “Beijing Consensus” was copied into the country’s system as Capitalism and “Mukhabarat” (intelligence dominance).
The recent events in the Middle East and Northern Africa somehow pushed many analysts to search for similar features between China and Egypt in terms of governance, especially as Egypt is one of the fastest growing economies in that region.
Le Monde published an article titled: The Revolt on the Tahrir Square and the crash of Beijing Consensus. And the Economist asked its readers: “Does China’s government, so unlike Egypt’s in so many striking respects, have reason to watch in worry?”
Thus the events in Northern Africa were interpreted as signs of a possible future collapse of China’s governing system.
However, such interpretations of the uprising in Egypt may just as well be malicious, but the people of China are not bothered. China is too strong for such petty ideological games from the outside.
A vast majority of the Chinese population are very proud of the current leadership and what they have done for China. There are obviously some social and economic problems in the country. But there is no country in the world that doesn’t have its own worries. And unlike the Egyptian government, the Chinese government is aware of the things that should be changed and the government always takes measures to cater for the needs of its people.
The income gap between the rich and the poor is usually shown as one of the major problems in China. One of the goals of the country’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) will be to make middle class the largest group of the society.
“Three decades ago, Deng Xiaoping said: “Let one part of the people get rich first. Today might we make a similar statement for the 12th Five-Year Plan period – let one third of the Chinese people become middle class first,” Tang Jun, a researcher and secretary general of the Social Policy Research Center of the China Academy of Social Sciences, wrote for China Daily.
For many Chinese, life is better now than at any time over the past few hundred years. Three decades of rapid economic development have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and the Communist Party has presided over a resurgence in national pride following centuries of domestic chaos and humiliation at the hands of foreigners.
“China has put men in space, built a high-speed rail network which is the envy of many developed nations and edged past Japan to become the second biggest economy in the world… Many Chinese people today enjoy prosperity that their grandparents could not have imagined,” Guy Faulconbridge, Chris Buckley and Ben Blancha wrote in their special report to Reuters, titled After Mideast, should Russia and China worry?
Revolutions don’t come from nowhere. There are always underlying causes of discontent.