Comradely comparisons: China, Vietnam and the limits of learning

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of International Relations and Development, 2021, 24, (3), pp. 753-780
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China’s unprecedented economic rise has generated great interest, not least because it seems to have occurred by studiously ignoring the ‘lessons’ of the Western experience and the advice of hitherto influential external agencies. On the contrary, the ‘China model’ owes more to an East Asian developmental model in which the state has played a large role. As a consequence, we argue that China is proving to be a more attractive role model for other rising economies such as Vietnam, which is also a notionally ‘communist’ state. This paper considers the Chinese experience and its possible implications for Vietnam. The key questions in this context are how China managed its integration with the global capitalist economy and whether other states such as Vietnam will also be able to manage their development according to distinctive national priorities, rather than the sort of international ‘best practice’ that has been urged upon its leaders by external actors. We argue that not only is Vietnam learning from China, but much of the Eurocentric literature in this area overlooks the importance of contingency and path dependence.
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