Max Rebol

Document Type



When the United States emerged as the victorious nation in the Cold War the “Washington Consensus” became the only remaining credible sociopolitical model. With the financial crisis in 2008, continued African underdevelopment and China’s economic success, it lost this status again. The result is a welcome debate about a “China Model”, referring to the economic and political system that led to sustained growth in China, while many African countries continue to struggle with the effects of “structural adjustment” policies. While the term “Chinese Model” is misleading, because it implies a certain transferability of the Chinese experience, it is clear that some aspects of it are highly relevant for Africa.

This paper describes why China does not refer to a “Beijing Consensus”, and argues that this has to be seen as a good thing for African development. Especially, it questions the universality and, in a second step, the transferability that both terms imply. Rather than finding a consensus on a single model put forward, Beijing recognizes the coexistence of commonality and difference. Africa is a continent that has been told for centuries by foreign powers which model to follow. In contemporary China–Africa relations, it is therefore not the successful “China Model”, but the absence of a single “Beijing Consensus” that makes China so attractive.