To join the World Trade Organization (WTO), nations must commit to supporting and implementing “open, market-oriented policies” based on the principles of market access, non-discrimination, reciprocity, and national treatment. Yet China has failed to fulfill the vast majority of those pledges. In fact, as it nears the 20th anniversary of its accession to the WTO on December 11, 2021, China gladly accepts its WTO rights and benefits while largely rejecting its responsibilities and commitments. Instead, it embraces a state-directed version of capitalism that is predicated on aggressively applying mercantilist practices to gain strategic advantage in innovation-driven industries: It maintains strict preferences for state-owned enterprises; showers its industries with subsidies without timely or transparent notification; forces foreign firms into joint ventures with local counterparts; encourages intellectual property theft; fails to open government procurement on a reciprocal basis; and otherwise restricts access to its domestic markets across a number of industries.
ITIF hosted a discussion assessing China’s first 20 years in the WTO and exploring what policy measures like-minded nations can pursue in response to this pattern of deceit and dysfunction between China and the global trading system.