Chinese economic success is not the product of free market accidental coincidence. Rather, it is orchestrated by the State through a mixture of nationalism (‘big think’) and pragmatic decisions (disjointed incrementalism) in agriculture, finance and industry. Furthermore, these decisions build upon existing institutions (e.g. the Household Responsibility System, Township Village Enterprises, etc), some dating back to pre-revolutionary China (e.g. Special Economic Zones), rather than imported ones from outside China. The article explores the utility (and lack thereof) of the Chinese model in the African context, as well as the possibilities of an Africa-centred ‘big think’ (Pan-Africanism) capable of mobilizing the continent for development.