The China Model






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”In Western countries it would normally be anathema even to question the one-person-one vote rule. But Daniel Bel does just that. In a Confucian spirit, he argues vigorously for meritocratic governance, and believes that popular democracies cannot solve our most vexing problems. There is much to learn from this deeply provocative book.”

Mathias Risse, Harvard University

Daniel Bell has written a controversial book, The China Model, hard to digest for many Western readers, as he is questioning what most people in our part of the world see as fundamental truths. For all those who are interested in the rise of China, and interested in trying to understand society and politics in the Middle Kingdom, Bell is providing ideas that are timely, relevant, highly original, and hugely important to consider. He is furthermore among the few scholars who are able to present complicated issues in a plain and fascinating way, easy to follow and thus interesting, also for non-specialists.

Daniel Bell har skrevet en kontroversiel bog, The China Model, som vil være svær at fordøje for mange læsere i vest, da han stiller spørgsmålstegn ved  det de fleste mennesker i vor del af verden opfatter som fundamentale sandheder.  For alle som er interesserede i Kinas aktuelle udvikling, og som er interesserede i at forstå samfund og politik i Midtens Rige, er Daniel Bells ideer relevante, originale og vigtige at tage i betragtning. Desuden erDaniel Bell blandt de få lærde  som er  i stand til at formidle komplicerede forhold på en ligefrem og fascinerende måde, som gør det muligt og interessant for ikke-specialister at ”være med”.


Westerners tend to divide the political world into “good” democracies and “bad” authoritarian regimes. But the Chinese political model does not fit neatly in either category. Over the past three decades, China has evolved a political system that can best be described as “political meritocracy.” The China Model seeks to understand the ideals and the reality of this unique political system. How do the ideals of political meritocracy set the standard for evaluating political progress (and regress) in China? How can China avoid the disadvantages of political meritocracy? And how can political meritocracy best be combined with democracy? Daniel Bell answers these questions and more.

Opening with a critique of “one person, one vote” as a way of choosing top leaders, Bell argues that Chinese-style political meritocracy can help to remedy the key flaws of electoral democracy. He discusses the advantages and pitfalls of political meritocracy, distinguishes between different ways of combining meritocracy and democracy, and argues that China has evolved a model of democratic meritocracy that is morally desirable and politically stable. Bell summarizes and evaluates the “China model”—meritocracy at the top, experimentation in the middle, and democracy at the bottom—and its implications for the rest of the world.

A timely and original book that will stir up interest and debate, The China Model looks at a political system that not only has had a long history in China, but could prove to be the most important political development of the twenty-first century.

Daniel A. Bell is Chair Professor of the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua 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.

Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy