Fraying of the Free-Trade Consensus

National Security has its own logic

Ken Briggs
Current History

--

Recently, a cross-party House Select Committee focused on the Chinese Communist Party unveiled a strategy for economic competition. The strategy, endorsed by both Republican and Democratic members, advocates for a shift in the U.S. approach to economic relations established in 1999, suggesting the People’s Republic of China (PRC) be viewed as a strategic competitor.

A scale balancing locks and money supported by a globe divided between the United States and China
Balancing security and growth in a bifurcated global system. Generated by Dall-E.

Background

China was admitted into the WTO in 2001 with the expectation that its trend toward market-oriented reform would continue a process begun by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. His market reforms throughout the 1980s led to the creation of China’s hybrid system of a market economy overseen by an authoritarian, one-party state.

The assumption in the West was that political reform would follow economic reform. Instead, it has taken advantage of access to Western markets while often flouting even the tenets of free trade:

  1. The Chinese government uses non-market strategies, such as subsidies and dumping, market access denial for political leverage, and opaque auditing practices.
  2. Dispute resolutions against China within the WTO framework have not led to significant alterations in Beijing’s economic behaviors.

--

--

Ken Briggs
Current History

Engineer, tech co-founder, writer, and student of foreign policy. Talks about the intersection of technology, politics, business, foreign affairs, and history