The 20th anniversary of China’s WTO membership requires a reality check

China celebrated the 20th anniversary of its admission to the World Trade Organization on December 11. While the mission of the WTO is to ensure that world trade is as smooth, predictable and free as possible, China today remains economically and politically non-free.

As BBC economics editor underline,

China’s admission to the World Trade Organization was a game-changer for America, Europe and most of Asia… The promise, suggested by former US President Bill Clinton, was that “ importing one of the values ​​most dear to democracy, economic freedom, ”would allow the world’s most populous nation to also follow the path of political freedom. “When individuals have the power not only to dream, but to make their dreams come true, they will demand a bigger voice,” he said. But this strategy failed.

Pascal Lamy, European Union Trade Commissioner at the time of China’s accession and former Director General of the WTO from 2005 to 2013, declared that China’s accession was a “defining moment” for the WTO and the multilateral trading system, which required “the political intelligence, technical knowledge and, of course, a good (accession) team” of China.

However, it has in addition suggested that in the future, China must do more in fulfilling its “WTO commitment”.

To be fair, China’s economic development has been notable since it opened up more to the world in the late 1970s and allowed for the success of a more capitalist economic model.

Entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 further opened the Chinese market to foreign trade and investment, enabling China to lift millions out of abject poverty and empower more Chinese citizens. access to a better quality of life and leisure.

Beijing has long claimed China’s economic success and wishes to make it so.

However, the the Chinese Communist Party has never abandoned its socialist ideology and authoritarian approach. Chinese President Xi Jinping has succeeded in injecting the party’s new paradox between seeking greater control that puts the party above all else and pursuing much-needed positive economic results, which is increasingly difficult.

China has often pretended to reform its bloated and inefficient state-owned enterprises and dominant economic structure. Unfortunately, recently announced reforms have rarely succeeded, with pro-market reforms having slowed down and even derailed in some sectors.

According to the Index of Economic Freedom, the Chinese economy remains a predominantly non-free country with weak property rights and a protectionist financial system. China’s economic freedom has increased slightly over the past few decades, but at a snail’s pace. The Chinese economy remains “largely non-free” and ranks 107th (out of 179) in the 2021 index, lagging behind the majority of other countries in maximizing opportunities for greater economic dynamism .

The Heritage Foundation’s annual “China Transparency Report” highlights:

The United States now faces a different China from ten years ago. Beijing’s bold leadership has become increasingly aggressive, and in many ways it poses a threat to America, its interests and its role in the world … With greater transparency on Chinese issues, the United States United can create policies to maintain the [Chinese Communist Party] in check, to neutralize its various threats, and to build a better future for America, for the world, and perhaps even for the Chinese people.

Without further ado, Washington needs to understand China’s economy more realistically and expose its grave lack of transparency and accountability, especially as U.S. policymakers and other like-minded partners around the world are focusing more than ever on the challenges China poses. Countering China’s growing illiberalism must remain a priority for Congress and the administration.

To this end, the WTO must be a necessary and renewed tool with which the United States and its like-minded countries willing to the partners must use better to treat China.

This piece originally appeared in The daily signal

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