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4.6 Challenges Adopting the Chinese Development model to Ethiopian Situation
The China model is also contributing to the power and dominant status of the ruling party in
Ethiopia with the impact on the political space of the country, i.e., if the party become
unchallenged it may not worry to respond to public interests quickly with the possibility of
threatening the democratic competition and multi-party system. This is because of the EPRDF’s
gaining of some political experiences from the Chinese authoritarian party and government40.
The fusion of government and party without clear boundary resulting in tight administrative
control and politicization of different sectors including the military are some of the dangers of
the China model which are not advisable to Ethiopia41. The lack of public participation in the
political system is another challenge of the China model by which Ethiopia can incur negative
lessons from China42.
In sum, the Chinese development model can have both the positive and negative lessons but, the
task of selectively learning experiences which can match to the foot of the learner is the key
mechanism to achieve success. The lesson drawing from the Chinese development model could
be effective if the Ethiopian Government neutrally tries to absorb lessons which are compatible
to the country’s domestic contexts. However, if the use of Chinese experiences for the political
purpose continues the challenges of the Chinese development model to Ethiopia overrides the
Interview with Fantu Cheru,ibid
Interview with Tiruneh Gamta, ibid
Interview with Wasihun,ibid
The post-1991 Ethio-China partnership is underpinned by economic and political factors. In
addition to material and financial supports, the demand for policy or the non-material supports
namely, gaining valuable experiences from China are among the motives for Ethiopia’s
cooperation with China. This study reveals that the post -1991- Ethio-China partnership is one of
the strong relations in Africa despite the fact that Ethiopia is not as such a source of abundant
natural resources that China needs. China comes to Africa to access the market and benefits from
investment opportunities along with cheap labor. Moreover, the political motive expressed in
terms of China’s need for the diplomatic relevance of Ethiopia to deal with African countries and
Ethiopian Government and the ruling party’s aspiration to learn from the Chinese political
experiences also play a significant role for the development of the Ethio-China partnership.
Although, in reality the Ethiopian Government is engaged in implicitly drawing political lessons
and reforms from China, it declares China cannot be a role model in the political sphere to
Ethiopia. This is due to the government’s emphasis on some cognitive factors in its lesson
drawing from the Chinese development model. However, it is important to consider the rational
theory of learning by taking other factors into account. Therefore, if the lesson–drawing from
China is applied by giving equal weight to the bounded and rational methods of learning, the
Chinese development model could help Ethiopia to draw lessons from its success story only in
the economic sphere not in the political ones, because the internal context of the country does not
allow the application of political lesson from China as a democratic government should not learn
from authoritarian one. Regardless of the ruling party and government elite’s admiration of the
China model, it cannot be simply copied. Rather, there are different factors that determine the
applicability of the Chinese development model to Ethiopia. Nevertheless, the Ethiopian
Government’s use of China as sources of policy lessons and experiences in political aspect
remained unquestioned as far as the government backed it with economic growth and optimistic
poverty reduction results. However, the relevance of the Chinese development model to Ethiopia
will cease if the Ethiopian Government fails to achieve the economic growth to convince the
public like China did and the demise will rise especially, if the learning of political lessons from
China is continued and used for political purposes, since the domestic political landscape of
Ethiopia does not allow this. Contrary to the contribution of China model to the power of the
ruling party to become a kind of electoral authoritarian government with the use of Chinese
censorship software and dissent control system, it has also added value to the fastest economic
growth the Ethiopia has achieved using the role of state.
The findings of this study imply that since following other countries as a model is not sufficient
in itself, it should be substantiated with strong commitment to transform the lessons learned to
practice. The success of the Ethiopian Government‘s lesson drawing from China model depends
on the effectiveness of the government. Therefore, the government needs to enhance its effort to
take advantage of its late developer status with lots of potential to achieve success in the
economic sphere in shorter period than its forerunner China.
In learning from the Chinese development trajectory, Ethiopia should never try to apply all
experiences, which led to success in China, because Ethiopia and China are different countries.
Therefore, Ethiopian Government should first pinpoint the lessons which could be contextualized
to the country's domestic environment. Second, it is also important to avoid the negative lessons
of China model such as political rigidity, inequality between rural and urban(specially
economic), as well as the forced control of rural –urban migration, which contributed to the
remarkable disparity and which is anti-freedom of movement . However, unless the government
benevolently draws the lessons which can match with the local context, the interest -driven
policy making could dominate the policy making landscape of the country and policy
dependence could be a danger for Ethiopia making it policy dependent on China.
The findings of this study also imply that unless the Ethiopian Government handles the issue of
learning political lessons from China, it is difficult to achieve fully fledged development and the
government’s power could be challenged as the politics of the country may fail to satisfy the
people. To solve this problem, the rational theory of lesson drawing should be emphasized along
with bounded theory to draw lessons which the local context of the country allows with the
alternative of diversifying countries from which lessons can be drawn as a possible lesson that
can be learned from the Chinese development model.
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