Paper Compliance: How China Implements WTO Decisions

53 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2013 Last revised: 19 Sep 2013

See all articles by Timothy Webster

Timothy Webster

Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Date Written: August 19, 2013


China is frequently singled out for defying international law and disregarding international institutions. This paper examines one key stratum of China’s compliance: its implementation of World Trade Organization rulings. China shows a strong record of compliance, and has reformed its domestic legal system to accommodate the WTO. Ultimately, however, I argue these efforts amount to paper compliance. The mere phenomenon of legislative change does not guarantee compliance. First, China has not fully implemented several rulings, leaving in place many inconsistent regulations. Second, China’s political and legal systems permit various manners of non-compliance. Paper compliance captures the contradictions between stated behavior and demonstrated conduct, and shows that regulatory revision, even if impressive on paper, imperfectly reflects the broader context of compliance.

Keywords: China, international law, compliance, WTO, implementation

Suggested Citation

Webster, Timothy, Paper Compliance: How China Implements WTO Decisions (August 19, 2013). Michigan Journal of International Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

Timothy Webster (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )

11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106-7148
United States

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