China has lifted a record number of people out of poverty, has had sustained levels of economic growth—at environmental and social costs—started a global economic and political rise and is developing effective responses to the global financial crisis. It is making these transformations with institutions that continue to surprise international observers. An increasing number of studies have started to articulate the lessons from China's development. This paper reviews the different interpretations of these lessons, and the process of lesson learning, and the question what China's dramatic transformations over the last 30 years imply for development studies and practice. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.