This article views China's economic reform in a comparative perspective. It sets out with the significant phenomenon of China's rise and Russia's fall in the 1990s. The literature is reviewed. Two main approaches are identified: the non-institutional and the institutional, with the latter holding sway. Culture, stage of economic development, international environment, and pre-reform system are the four non-institutional factors; all are found wanting in terms of explaining the performance difference between Asian and European transition economies. The institutional factors are reform philosophy, speed of reform, property rights restructuring, and role of the state-the last two of which constitute an effective analytical framework. It is argued that China's de facto privatization and active developmental state have proven more effective than Russia's de jure privatization and weak democracy in promoting growth and achieving stability. China and Russia are treated as representing two modes of exit from state socialism and two distinct development patterns. The duel between the two harks back to the competition between East Asia's capitalist developmental model and the West's neoclassic economics. China's better transition performance proves the effectiveness of the East Asian model.