Home Nonmilitary action Lessons from China’s accession to the WTO, 20 years on

Lessons from China’s accession to the WTO, 20 years on


With the end of the first calendar year of the Biden administration, efforts to curb China’s pernicious behavior have borne little fruit. In recent months, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has increases its military capabilities and aggressive behavior. PLA activities include increasingly provocative actions towards Taiwan, the successful test of a hypersonic missile – which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marc MilleyMark Milley The Lessons of China’s WTO Membership, 20 Years Later Defense and National Security Overnight – Thousands Denied Religious Exemptions Milley speaks with her Russian counterpart amid fears of ‘an invasion of Ukraine MORE called a “moment close to SputnikFor the United States – and the construction of military bases around the world, including locations in the United Arab Emirates and now, apparently, in Equatorial Guinea.

Beijing’s ubiquitous and unauthorized data collection efforts, widespread intellectual property theft and currency manipulation, among other indiscretions, have not failed. These are sharp reminders that the Chinese Communist Party’s path to replace the United States as the world’s leading power is accelerating – and this can be attributed in large part to China’s admission to the World Organization. trade (WTO) 20 years ago this month. Understanding the sources and missteps of US foreign policy that enabled China’s autocratic rise can offer fertile lessons for calibrating current and future postures. Beijing’s admission to the WTO and its uncontrolled non-market practices that precipitated its rise offer insight into the current China-U.S. Relationship and important lessons to be learned.

World leaders – especially presidents Bill clintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton How job demands untangled the threads of our social safety net Lessons from China’s WTO accession, 20 years later Democratic critics link party issues to bad messages MORE and George W. Bush – hailed Beijing’s entry into the WTO as a transformative event orienting China towards responsible membership in the international trading community.

There was reason to hope. With nearly 15 years of difficult negotiations and far-reaching commitments, Beijing had accepted some of the toughest terms of any candidate in WTO history, which included sweeping domestic reforms focused on promoting a more transparent, fairer and more competitive Chinese market. The removal of tariffs on Chinese imports, the relaxation of state control over trade affairs, and the strengthening of judicial and financial institutions responsible for enforcing trade practices, such as infringement of intellectual property (IP ), were the key to this transition.

But the Chinese market’s transition has faced headwinds, exacerbated by faltering US commitments, distracted by wars in the Middle East and subsequent aversions to expensive global companies in the wake of the 2008 global recession. .

However, despite vastly expanded market access through the WTO, Chinese officials have often conditioned market entry on the disclosure of sensitive intellectual property and heightened barriers for international companies. Widespread intellectual property theft, cheap labor, state-sponsored subsidies, and forced technology transfer have had devastating effects on the United States and the global economy. In 2019, estimated ratios China’s theft of US intellectual property amounts to $ 600 billion a year, representing nearly 3% of US GDP that year.

The arrival in 2012 of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who understood how Beijing’s trade tactics could be extended to catalyze its military modernization, launched the infamous Belt and Road Initiative (BIS). The massive global infrastructure finance and development project has involved nearly 140 countries and 30 international organizations, providing a justifiable reason to deepen global economic and security ties to house the burgeoning naval and air fleets of the world. ‘APL in Africa, the Middle East and South America.

In the absence of global resistance, spin-off initiatives, such as the “Digital Silk Road” and “Information corridor on the “Belt and Road” area“, provided a timely conduit to plunder, develop and proliferate Chinese dual-purpose or” civil-military fusion “technologies. These include telecommunications systems (eg Huawei), port construction and technological innovation that could serve both economic and security objectives.Despite assurances from the Chinese Communist Party that the projects were peaceful and non-military in nature, China’s defense spending rose by nearly 900% from 1999 to 2019. National legislation, including that of China in 2016 National Defense transport law, even required that BRI projects be configurable with PLA requirements.

Today, China’s non-market practices are worse than ever. Xi continues to adopt global measures that increase dependence on Beijing and disadvantage the global military and business community. As a result, 20 years later, China’s accession to the WTO offers key information for the Biden administration to heed.

First and foremost, Biden must learn from the mistakes made by his predecessors. This includes resisting inducements to present tough talks in exchange for victories in environmental cooperation. Anxious to avoid an escalation or disruptive action in the configuration of world trade, Bush and Obama have chosen to express their doubts quietly and to move on to bilateral “fruits at hand” in other spheres. By bypassing difficult topics, China’s economic indiscretions have now metastasized into an existential threat to the competitiveness and national security of the United States.

Second, the United States must draw clear and easily enforceable “red lines” in the trading space and not give up on protecting these principles. Washington does not need to be provocative or bombastic in its approach, but must be determined to keep trade rules out of the way and a broader rules-based order, even if doing so is financially damaging.

In the wake of the strong supply chain weaponry stemming from COVID-19, the United States must work with clearly articulated “rules of war” in commercial and public health spaces. This includes export controls for certain rare earth minerals necessary to produce advanced weapons and technology; embargoes; or malicious cyber scanning of our critical infrastructure.

The same goes for the systematic genocide and forced labor against Chinese minorities, including Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang. Given the intertwining of the United States and China in banking, retail, and tech, it won’t be easy, but it requires swift and decisive leadership from the U.S. government. Without a doubt, this will require a response from the whole of society to the detriment of the profits of the business, enterprise or university.

Third, Washington must maintain the continuity of its policy on China, regardless of changing political trends and currents of foreign policy. Few subjects in Washington are immune to the hyper-political environment. Despite some nuances, China has occupied this sacred space. Both sides must resist the temptation to use Beijing as political football.

Finally, although the WTO has been ill-equipped to stem the Chinese threat, the forum must be overhauled and not abandoned. The United States continues to derive enormous economic and strategic benefits from its membership in the WTO. Washington must work multilaterally to expand openness and sanctions involving intellectual property infringements and unauthorized technology transfers.

Given Xi’s interest in leveraging illicit economic behavior for the propagation of the nation-state, the too narrow and trade-oriented WTO cannot be the only tool to ensure the stability of the international trade regime. , but it must be able to hold China accountable for its abusive practices. , gross human rights violations and the use of forced labor. More importantly, trade cannot be separated from the US power to safeguard the WTO for years to come.

Adam Stahl is a national security professional with stints on the Senate Trade and Foreign Relations committees and the Department of Homeland Security. A former Deputy Chief of Staff in the DHS Strategy, Policy and Planning Office, he led the department’s strategy development for China and the Arctic. He now works for an energy company.

Bradley A. Thayer is co-author of “How China sees the world: Han centrism and the balance of power in international politics. “