But it has emerged that the coalition’s “Big Society not Big Government” slogan was originally devised by the heirs to Chairman Mao over a decade ago.
The initiative by the Communist Party of China in 1997 even echoed Mr Cameron’s Big Society flagship theme in its promise to encourage civil society and cut back the role of the state.
Chinese officials said their desire for “small government and big society” should mean less bureaucracy, with civic organisations taking a bigger role in society as the “bridges and belts linking the party and government with the mass”.
Steve Hilton, the Downing Street blue-sky thinker credited with coining the Big Society concept, is treated with suspicion by many on the right of the Tory party given his small-l liberal tendencies.
It is even thought that Mr Hilton voted for the Green Party in 2001, before going on to help Mr Cameron rebrand the Tories in a more modern and cuddly image.
News that the coalition’s main concept was first coined in Beijing could prompt bemused reaction in Westminster and beyond.
“Maybe we should be copying China when it comes to economic growth rather than its political reforms,” said Douglas Carswell, a Tory backbencher.
Tessa Jowell, shadow Cabinet Office minister, said she was “astonished” to hear that the Chinese communist party may have been the inspiration for the concept.
“When I heard members of the government had described their programme as Maoist I didn’t realise that this was what they meant,” she said.