Of course, scholars agree that all commitments haven’t been respected. For example, Sun Qingyi agrees that in many sectors, such as research and development, mining, telecommunications, the markets are only partially opened. But in their opinion, what matters is that the work is already well advanced, and "on time" regarding its WTO commitment. When it comes to defending China’s work and contribution to the WTO and the world, it is striking that dozens of articles use the same figures (tariffs, global imports share) and examples to make their point, with sometimes entire articles being a simple list of "realizations."
Yet, "China is still targeted and some countries by some countries for not having fulfilled the agreements’ commitment, which is unfair." Indeed, according to Li Wei, "the anti-dumping measures taken by some countries are in contradiction to their own commitment to the WTO." This is especially interesting as the country tries to brand itself as a "contributor" (贡献者) to the world, and not only a promoter (推动者). This semantic shift matters in Xi Jinping’s "new era" when China wants to edict its own rules and engage with the world on its own terms. The trade war and increased confrontation with the United States fits into this narrative, as China tries to portray itself as a champion of free trade and multilateralism. If we look back at some articles from 2011, published to celebrate ten years of "entering the world", the narrative is similar with two major differences. First, the language is now much less assertive and self-assured. Of course, the "developed countries" are still blamed for setting the rules, but, and here comes the second difference: it is stressed that China needs to continue its reform. Indeed, in an article, Wang Xinkui, professor affiliated with the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, defends China’s efforts to fulfill its commitments, but stresses the need to pursue reform, to pay attention to the sustainability of the country’s exports-based economic model, and the dangerous isolation of China when it comes to trade disputes.
To summarize, it makes no doubt that joining the WTO was a crucial historical decision, encapsulated by the abbreviation "entering the world" (入世). Joining the WTO is indeed portrayed as an historical landmark, which paved the way for China’s role as a "contributor" to world. However, the official narrative makes it clear that the transition period that started with China’s admission in the WTO has ended, and that a “new era” has started with Xi Jinping and his BRI, portrayed as a new step of China’s involvement in the global economy.
(1) Philip Levy, "Was Letting China Into the WTO a Mistake?", Foreign Affairs, 2 April 2018.
(2) Wang Yu, "WTO influence on China – 20 years after joining the organization: assessment and perspective" ( WTO 对中国的影响———入世十二年后的回顾及展望), Harbin University of Commerce, Duiwai Jingmao, Vol. 4 No. 226, 2013
(3) Ibid, « 许多外资纷纷进入中国，带来了充足的资金和先进的科学技术以及现代化的思想理念和管理经验，与充裕资源相结合， 使中国经济爆发出巨大的能量 » Wang Yu, "WTO influence on China – 20 years after joining the organization: assessment and perspective" ( WTO 对中国的影响———入世十二年后的回顾及展望), Harbin University of Commerce, Duiwai Jingmao, Vol. 4 No. 226, 2013
(4) Ibid, Zhang Huai Shui and Zhao Qiao, "Interview with Chen Fengying, Researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations: after joining the WTO, building a new platform for global economic prosperity" (每经专访中国现代国际关系研究院原所长陈凤英：中国入世后为全球经济繁荣搭建新平台), Daily Economic News, 17 August 2018.
(5) Ibid, Wang Yu, (三二一的产业结构) - referring to an economy in which the services sector is the most important, followed by the industrial one and finally agriculture.
(6) Ibid, Wang Yu, « […] 逐渐成为规则的适应者和制定者 »
(7) Wang Yu, "WTO influence on China – 20 years after joining the organization: assessment and perspective" ( WTO 对中国的影响———入世十二年后的回顾及展望), Harbin University of Commerce, Duiwai Jingmao, Vol. 4 No. 226, 2013