Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Politics and International Relations

Reader 1

Owen Brown

Reader 2

Pam Bromley

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Rights Information

2024 Lillian M Ellis


This paper explores flaws of the China Model of economic development, a model formed by western scholars to explain China’s economic and political rise. The use of the model within American political circles, however, has led to unfounded anxieties surrounding China’s rise as a non-neoliberal superpower. According to the China Model, China’s development has been traditionally defined by elements of gradualism and economic experimentation, managed globalization, and a strong state. The National Systems Approach - a new developmental approach which advocates for analysis of history, leadership, and crisis response - exposes these elements as inconsistent. An application of the National Systems Approach reveals China’s similarities to American development, policy differences of Chinese leaders, and shifting economic policies within isolationist responses to COVID-19 and Keynesian solutions to the 2008 financial crisis - all of which violate China Model pillars. The holistic analysis the National Systems Approach provides additionally opens the door for an application of queer theory to China’s rise. Specifically, I apply Judith Butler’s concept of heteronormativity to explain how both China and the U.S. use heterosexual norms to promote economic growth. The application of queer theory exposes both the U.S. and China as replicating heteronormativity - within economic history, leadership, and crisis responses - to advance economic production. While the China Model is presented as unique and foreign, the application of queer theory provides yet another similarity between developmental patterns of both the U.S. and China. The China Model fails to explain China’s recent economic downturns following President Xi’s Zero-COVID policies, revealing further flaws within not only the model but the anxieties the model encourages. The holistic approach provided by both a queer analysis and application of the National Systems Approach to the case of China provides a more holistic, reliable explanation for the nation’s rise than the China Model. Overall, I encourage American leaders to rethink the China Model and limit anxieties the model encourages surrounding China’s development. I advocate instead for the effectiveness of the National Systems Approach and use of queer analysis, arguing for the value of holistic approaches and inclusion of queer narratives in assessing national development.

Available for download on Sunday, November 23, 2025

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.