World trade: China’s rise to become a high-tech country


Status: 11.12.2021 8:36 a.m.

China joined the World Trade Organization 20 years ago. The West associated it with the hope that pirated copies would disappear and that the People’s Republic would dismantle trade barriers. What has become of it?

Astrid Freyeisen, ARD-Studio Shanghai

It is December 11, 2001 at the WTO summit in Doha. The session president utters the all-important sentences: The People’s Republic of China is accepted into the World Trade Organization. Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng thanks on behalf of his government: The entry of the People’s Republic into the World Trade Organization benefits China, but also benefits the whole world.

“Europe lost its role model function”

What happened to that hope? If you look at the bare figures, China in particular has benefited enormously from 20 years of the WTO: its gross domestic product has doubled every seven years, the People’s Republic has been the world’s export champion since 2009 and the second largest economy since 2010.

Jörg Wuttke, President of the European Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, says: The western nations also benefit because they do good business in China and have grown with China. “The first seven or eight years after China joined were very, very good,” said Wuttke. “China has opened up.” But then the break: “You saw the collapse of the international financial system in 2008 and 2009, and Europe lost its role model function.”

China’s state economy pumped huge sums of money into its own market and thus came out of the crisis more quickly. At the same time, the Chinese began to do the math. So said the director of the Shanghai WTO Center Feng Jun in one place ARD-Interview from 2011: “Take a Finnish mobile phone, for example. The Chinese share of the added value does not even reach ten percent of the sales price. In Europe, however, half remains. Unfortunately, the statistics never show anything like that. Most people think but that the place of export benefits the most. “

Chinese wages soared

China has long been considered a workbench where you could produce cheaply – and still sees itself as a developing country today. But wages have risen enormously in factories, offices and on construction sites. China is now a high-tech country with digital corporations, some of which are larger than the US.

Has China kept its commitments to the WTO? Since 2001 there have been almost 50 lawsuits against China at the WTO. It was about pirated copies, it was about dumping prices through state-supported products.

With the pirated copies, the situation has improved significantly, says Chamber of Commerce President Wuttke. Nevertheless, he sees very high hurdles in the China business: “It was certainly depressing for us too to see that in many areas we were only allowed to enter the market after the market had developed so much that we no longer had a chance Now you can see, after 20 years, that the share of European banks in China is a whopping 0.2 percent, with insurance I think it is two percent. ” China has set up global champions – in wind turbines, in the solar industry, in trains, said Wuttke. China has sucked off Western technology and is now selling “our trains with a different suit to Saudi Arabia or Africa”.

State corporations as global champions

Beijing wants to see its national champions at the top by 2025. Most of them are state corporations with almost inexhaustible sources of money. The Federation of German Industries BDI sees its hope for free entrepreneurial action in China as largely disappointed. And although Chamber of Commerce President Wuttke believes that the People’s Republic still needs its Western partners, he sees massive problems: “Whether someone steals the shampoo recipe for my thicker Chinese hair is one thing. But if I make a product that does Company for the next 30 years, I definitely do not want the Chinese government to look in. So from there: We want to do more basic research in China. But the security law situation is de facto such that it is becoming increasingly difficult. ”

Wuttke calls for support from politicians on a European level: “I believe that they have shown us that industrial policy is important after all and that we cannot leave everything to the markets.” Trade through change was the watchword. “Now you have to realize that China is indeed transforming us. We imagined it to be different: that we would influence China.”

20 years of global player: China in the World Trade Organization

Astrid Freyeisen, ARD Shanghai, December 10th, 2021 8:34 am


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