Will China change international development as we know it?

Arjan de Haan

Research output: Working paperAcademic

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What do China’s dramatic transformations over the last 30 years imply for
development studies and practice? China has lifted a record number of people
out of poverty, and has had sustained levels of economic growth close to ten
per cent per annum, albeit at well-documented environmental and social costs.
China now appears to be developing effective responses to the global financial
crisis, and fairly recently China’s global role has seen an enormous surge. It is
making these transformations with institutions that continue to surprise
international observers, while China experts usually merely emphasise the
pragmatic nature of its post-1978 reforms. The “rise of China”, thus, is
challenging our perspectives and practices in international development.

While China’s experience has largely remained outside the mainstream
development debate, an increasing number of studies and essays have started
to articulate the lessons from China’s development path for the international
development community, and particularly for Africa. This paper reflects on the
different interpretations of these lessons, as well as the process of lesson
learning, which so far has been strongly supply-driven. It further discusses
China’s new global economic and political role, and the position of China’s aid
as “soft power” within the new global structures. These new trends make it
essential to reflect on how we understand development and globalisation. To
do so we need better mutual understanding and particularly a better
understanding of how and why China achieved what it did over the last 30
years, and its remaining challenges. This essay is a modest attempt to promote
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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