China and the WTO: New Kid in the Developing Bloc?

76 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2007 Last revised: 18 Nov 2008

Date Written: February 1, 2007


This paper explores China's initial participation in the WTO from a development perspective. The analysis starts by examining whether China was recognized as a developing country in its accession through a comparison of its rules commitments with those of other countries acceding during the same time period, and then proceeds to look at whether China has emerged as a developing country actor in the first four years of its WTO membership. Even though China argued for recognition as a developing country throughout its accession process, from a legal perspective the study finds that China, for the most part, was not accorded the special treatment permitted by developing country status. Moreover, China made commitments beyond the standard WTO rules and agreed to reduce the rights it would normally be entitled to as a WTO member, despite the notion of the 'single undertaking' whereby all Members are bound by the same rules. The possible systemic implications this has for developing countries in the multilateral trading system are discussed briefly.

On a political level, the paper analyzes China's early participation in the policymaking process of the WTO vis-a-vis development, through an examination of China's positions in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations and some other topics presently under discussion in the WTO. Based on criteria such as China's use of pro-development rhetoric, support for developing country positions, leadership of developing country groups, submission of independent proposals, and adoption of opposing positions, the analysis shows that while China portrays itself as a developing country and often uses pro-development rhetoric, in contrast to countries such as India and Brazil, it has not taken a clear-cut leadership role in the developing bloc. At times, China differentiates itself from other developing countries, and has even gone so far as to block developing country proposals. Hence, in answer to the question raised in the title, the paper concludes that China is not the new kid in the developing bloc, and suggests a number of factors that may be contributing to its ambivalence regarding its place among the developing countries.

Keywords: China, WTO, Developing Countries, single undertaking, Doha Development Agenda

Suggested Citation

Harpaz, Marcia Don, China and the WTO: New Kid in the Developing Bloc? (February 1, 2007). Hebrew University International Law Research Paper No. 2-07, Available at SSRN: or

Marcia Don Harpaz (Contact Author)

Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91905

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