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China and the WTO, Redux: Making sense of two decades of membership

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James Scott, Rorden Wilkinson

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of World Trade
Volume56
Issue number1
Accepted/In press10 Jul 2021

King's Authors

Abstract

2021 marks the twentieth anniversary of China entering the WTO. Those two decades have been far from smooth with multiple trade tensions arising between China and other members, both within the WTO and beyond. This article uses the twenty-year milestone as an opportunity to understand China’s role within the global trade system and the impact it has had on broader trade relations. We argue that while there are areas of China’s trade-related practices that are worrying and present severe challenges to the system, claims that it is recurrently behaving outside of the WTO’s established rules and norms are exaggerated. While China is certainly using all the latitude available within the rules and is at times transgressing WTO law, its behaviour remains similar to that of other great powers within the system and is consistent with what is expected within any inherently competitive system wherein conflict and contestation are normal features of engagement.

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