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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: April 2017

1 - Dialogus de Beijing Consensus

from PART I - Deconstructing the Beijing Consensus



Beijing Consensus was a term initially coined by Joshua Cooper Ramo in 2004, as a superior, and distinctly Asian, developmental model. Ramo's claim of a “Beijing Consensus” triggered much academic interest and resistance in the West, as some questioned whether the developmental policies Ramo's model prescribed accurately described China's path to economic development. In 2007, Randall Peerenboom, in a book titled China Modernizes: Threat to the West or Model for the Rest?, advanced what he termed an “East Asian Model,” which prioritizes economic reforms over liberal political reforms and is characterized by a distinctively gradualist approach to development. A couple years later, Dani Rodrik advanced a similar model – “New Development Economics.” Similar to the East Asian Model, it emphasizes pragmatism and experimentation and considers China's post-Mao development as its principal exemplar.

In this chapter, Pessimo (Dowdle) and Optimo (Prado) debate the merits and pitfalls of each of these instantiations of the idea of a consensus. We conclude – somewhat surprisingly – that it is in the discussion they generate, rather than in their substantive prescriptions, that the real value of these models lies.

On Joshua Ramo's Original Idea of a “Beijing Consensus”

Joshua Ramo introduced the term Beijing Consensus as a particular developmental strategy that was superior to the then still popular, but increasingly discredited, “Washington Consensus.” According to Ramo, the Beijing Consensus consists of “three theorems about how to organize the place of a developing country in the world.” We examine each theorem in turn.

On Ramo's First Theorem

“The first theorem repositions the value of innovation. Rather than the ‘old-physics’ argument that developing countries must start development with trailing-edge technology (copper wires), it insists that on [sic] the necessity of bleeding-edge innovation (fiber optic) to create change that moves faster than the problems change creates. In physics terms, it is about using innovation to reduce the friction losses of reform.”

Pessimo on Development as “Bleeding-Edge” Innovation

To me, this is just a buzzword salad. What does it mean to “create change that moves faster than the problems change creates”? What problems do copper wires cause that immediate transition to fiber optics outruns?

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