China's Foreign Trade Policy: The New Constituencies

Article excerpt

China's Foreign Trade Policy: The New Constituencies, edited by Ka Zeng. London and New York: Routledge, 2007. xii + 183 pp. £70.00/US$125.00 (hardcover).

This collection of essays is the result of a conference on Chinese Foreign Trade Policy in 2006 sponsored by the University of California, San Diego. The book is very nicely edited by Ka Zeng, who also wrote (with Andrew Mertha) the introductory chapter, as well as a chapter on the use of legal trade remedies by various business actors in China and a concluding chapter. The book is less focused on the substance of China's trade policies than on domestic institutional changes and decision-making processes (especially concerning the implementation of trade and investment policies) before and after WTO accession. It includes several case studies which should be as interesting for political scientists as for economists. Being rather slim (175 pages plus index), the book is inevitably very selective in the choice of topics covered. Its discussion of international trade relations and conflicts is focused on China's bilateral relations with the US and, to a lesser extent, Japan. China's even larger trade and investment relations with the EU (which have also generated many conflicts) do not feature, nor is there reference to the increasingly important relations with Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, or its intensifying efforts to negotiate bilateral Free Trade Agreements around the globe.

Limited in scope though it is, the book nonetheless clearly demonstrates that China's trade policies and the processes by which they are formulated and implemented have changed significantly as a result of China's opening-up in general and WTO membership in particular. Almost all changes noted in the book point to the sharply increased importance of legal remedies in China's arsenal for dealing with bilateral trade disputes and to the growing influence of non-state actors in China on the formulation and implementation of trade and investment policies.

A theme that recurs in several chapters is that trade- and investment-related decision-making processes in China have become considerably more open and subject to the influence of non-state actors, including NGOs. Chapter 2 shows convincingly that China's wish to join WTO was founded on several major longterm development considerations and on the government's desire to constrain the unilateral exercise of power by the US under national trade laws, through the use of impartial WTO-sponsored rules and regulations. The chapter fails to mention the deep disillusionment in China when it became evident to its negotiators in the mid-1990s that the deeply resented Cold-War-era Jackson Vanik Amendment of 1974 would not automatically be lifted once China joined WTO. …