Beijing - China will mark its first five years in
the World Trade Organization with 16 hours of live television broadcasts Monday.
Given the global impact of Chinese membership, perhaps the whole world should be
watching, analysts say.
moved to a position as the world's third-largest trading nation, up from sixth
when it entered the WTO in 2001, embedding the nation seemingly irrevocably in
the global economic system.
"Because China's economy is more open, and China's economic size is much
bigger, the world is more sensitive to what's happening in China," said Long
Yongtu, China's former WTO chief negotiator. "I think in that way China is
really changing the world."
Long's counterpart during months and years of arduous negotiations, former US
trade representative Charlene Barshefsky, agreed.
"China is no longer a bystander in the world economy," she told China's
Xinhua news agency in an interview. "It has become an important hub in the
Much attention has been paid to cheap Chinese shoes and textiles flooding
Europe and the United States, and the way underpaid Chinese labor may threaten
to wipe out entire industries abroad.
Roughly one third of all anti-dumping cases in the world currently target
"There are many products where China is dramatically increasing its market
share in major overseas markets, and the industries there are under pressure,"
said Cliff Stevenson, a British expert on anti-dumping issues.
"For the next four or five years, at least, China will have to be resigned to
the fact that other countries are going to use protectionist instruments to ease
the transition of the domestic industries," he said.
Chinese researchers acknowledge the growing backlash that the nation's
hyper-efficient producers trigger abroad, but many also seem mildly puzzled by
"China's growing exports have improved the lives of people abroad, because
our products are so cheap," said Hu Xingdou, an economist at the Beijing
Institute of Technology.
Others put the motives for the foreign backlash down to a mixture of real
anxiety and political calculation.
"Most people who say China in the WTO is a threat come from countries that
have industrial structures very similar to China's," said Deng Shurong, a
researcher with the Beijing WTO Affairs Center, a government-linked think tank.
"China's labor costs are very low, and that poses a huge challenge to them.
But of course, in the United States, politicians also use this for tactical
purposes," he said.
But foreigners also tend to underestimate the price China itself has paid for
WTO membership, observers said.
Chinese import tariffs on beef are down to 12 percent from 50 percent, on
barley from 114 percent to just three. On automobiles, they used to be as high
as 100 percent, and now they are 25 percent. The list goes on.
"WTO is less about China's exports and more about China's imports. It's more
about China lowering its barriers," said David Zweig, an expert on China's
transnational relations at Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology.
Foreign companies also do not sufficiently take into account the beneficial
impact of cheaper Chinese products in an increasingly interdependent global
economy, some analysts argued.
"Chinese suppliers are fantastic for European and US industry. They provide
cheap components, cheap raw materials. They allow European and American
industries to be much more competitive themselves," said Stevenson.
"Cheap imports from China are not only a threat. They are also an