In many ways, the discourses of the China Model, the Washington Consensus, Western culture, Chinese tradition and so on are set out as groups of notions for divisions and comparisons. Comparison is merely a matter of judging and choosing, which means it is impossible to compare without assuming some sense of judgement with which the comparator affirms his or her identity and differences from the other. Thus, as Wang argues, comparative consciousness is conditioned, influenced and shaped by the “operational infrastructure” of colonial modernity (2012: 756). Thus, the origin of knowledge is impure; it resides in the construction of objects that are the fruits of technologies of power that, in fact, isolate a certain number of entities, and separate them as specific objects that call for a particular science (Lagasnerie 2015: 116). “Culture” is produced in and through (and not outside of) the confrontations of world peoples and powers, and all the world’s peoples are implicated in one way or another in each other’s “culture,” when there are no longer any “pure” cultures in the context of peoples’ lives and cultures becoming profoundly implicated in each other’s lives and cultures (McCarthy 2005: 57).
For example, there might be some features that can make the China Model universal and attractive to those in search of a less individualist, less self-interested and less adversarial approach to modernity (Wei-Ming 2008: 65). In this sense, China may have offered a different path to modernization. But the China Model is basically suigeneris, in that the country is too diverse and not easily imitable (Chin and Thakur 2010: 123). Thus, as Kennedy argues, “if one views China’s record as embodying the new dogma of what works, or what could be perceived as such, the likelihood of achieving agreement is incredibly low” (2010: 467).
We would argue that this comparison between the China Model and the Washington Consensus would inevitably lead to the assessment of the forms of state governance of the economy that are successful and therefore legitimate, and which ones are not and should be replaced by a superior alternative (Ferchen 2013: 391-392). Similar to human rights discourses that transform problems of power into moral problems (Mills 1959: 77), the Model discourses could also transform problems of power into economic and political problems. According to Kavalski, this is the struggle for normative power between China and the West (Kavalski 2013). As Neitz argues, those clear-cut distinctions which we thought we knew (such as between men and women or between the religious and the secular) turn out to be abstractions that often obscure how they actually work in the world (2014: 521). In Chap. 3, we will discuss our research approach and research questions.