ChinaFile Presents: Can the China Model Succeed?

(ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images photo)

Red flags fly over Tiananmen Square and the Great Hall of the People during the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, 2013.

How does liberal democracy stack up against what has been called the “China Model”? Daniel A. Bell, a philosopher and political theorist who teaches at China’s Tsinghua University, argues in a new book that China’s “political meritocracy” has been overlooked as a superior system. Bell will discuss his ideas and the comparative merits of different political models with law professor Taisu Zhang, author Mark Danner, political scientist Andrew Nathan, Oxford University Professor of European Studies Timothy Garton Ash, and Asia Society’s Orville Schell.

In The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, published earlier this year, Bell argues that Chinese-style political meritocracy can help to remedy the key flaws of electoral democracy. Defining the “China model” as meritocracy at the top, experimentation in the middle, and democracy at the bottom, he argues that China has evolved a model of democratic meritocracy that is morally desirable and politically stable.

Daniel A. Bell is Chair Professor of the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsing-hua University in Beijing and Director of the Berggruen Institute of Philosophy and Culture. His books include Spirit of Cities, China’s New Confucianism, Beyond Liberal Democracy, and East Meets West (all Princeton), and he is the editor of the Princeton-China series.

Mark Danner has written about foreign affairs and American politics for more than two decades, covering Latin America, Haiti, the Balkans, and the Middle East, among other stories. He was for many years a staff writer at The New Yorker and contributes frequently to The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He teaches at the University of California and at Bard College and speaks and debates widely about America’s role in the world.

Timothy Garton Ash is Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He also directs Free Speech Debate, a multilingual Oxford University project on global free expression in the Internet age. His writing appear regularly in The New York Review of Books and the Guardian, and he is the author of nine books of political writing which have charted the transformation of Europe over the last thirty years.

Andrew J. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. His teaching and research interests include Chinese politics and foreign policy, the comparative study of political participation and political culture, and human rights. He is the regular Asia book reviewer for Foreign Affairs magazine and a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Democracy, The China Quarterly, The Journal of Contemporary China, China Information, and others, and he is the author of numerous books on Chinese politics and history.

Taisu Zhang is an Associate Professor at the Duke University School of Law. He received his Ph.D., J.D., and B.A. from Yale University. He writes in the fields of comparative legal and economic history, property theory, and contemporary Chinese law. His current book project studies the sociocultural origins and economic consequences of land-pawning institutions in early modern China and England.

Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, is a long-time China observer, journalist, and former Dean and Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of numerous books on China, most recently Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century.

Book signing to follow discussion.



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