This article complicates existing portrayals of the China developmental "'model" from two angles. First, it problematises the historical basis of what many in the advanced "First World", particularly in America, used to see as their superior model of governance. In the final analysis, the current enthusiasm in these countries about the "China model" may have nothing to do with China per se but more to do with the decline of self-celebrated Western models that are themselves ideal-typical abstractions. Second, upon re-examining its historical record, it posits the alternative "China model" as similarly problematic. Triumphant portrayals of Chinese exceptionalism by China-based scholars have been predicated on a troubled Mao-era legacy, the implications of which remain unclear for understanding the increasingly fragmented and globally involved Chinese economy. Building on this double complication, the article concludes with a call for more historically grounded and geographically variegated examinations of Chinese political-economic evolution.