Once considered an awkward, unsustainable blend of authoritarian politics and capitalist economics, China's growth "model" has shown impressive resilience in recent years. In this excerpt from his new book Democracy in Retreat, Joshua Kurlantzick explores why the "Beijing Consensus" has attracted so many admirers in recent years.
The attendees of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos are not exactly used to being told what to do. The Swiss resort draws the global elite: the highest-powered investment bankers, the top government officials and leaders, the biggest philanthropists, and the most famous celebrities, who gather each year to solve the world's most pressing problems and still have time for evening cocktails.
But in January 2009, the Davos crowd had to listen to a blistering lecture from a most unlikely source. The first senior Chinese leader to attend the World Economic Forum, premier Wen Jiabao, some thought, might take a low-key approach to his speech to the Forum. But at Davos, that genial grandpa was not in evidence. Months after Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering the global economic crisis, Wen told the Davos attendees that the West was squarely to blame for the meltdown roiling the entire world. An "excessive expansion of financial institutions in blind pursuit of profit," a failure of government supervision of the financial sector, and an "unsustainable model of development, characterized by prolonged low savings and high consumption" caused the crisis, said an angry Wen.