How not to see there a symbol? Exactly twenty years ago, on December 11, 2001, China became the 143e member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Far from commemorating this anniversary, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, is organizing a summit of democracies widely perceived as “anti-Chinese” on December 9 and 10.
How can we better illustrate the change in the world that has occurred over the past twenty years? China, one of the poorest countries on the planet less than half a century ago, is now seen as the main threat by the world’s leading power.
At the beginning of the XXIe century, the Chinese gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was less than 1,000 dollars (889 euros), thirty-six times less than its American equivalent (36,334 dollars). Today, the first is $ 10,500, and the gap is only one to six. Another edifying comparison: when China joined the WTO, its economic weight was comparable to that of France. Today, it weighs more than the entire euro zone and should overtake the United States before the end of the decade.
As a result, while the democratization of the country hoped for by the West has not taken place, the relationship between the two leading world powers is now less economics than geopolitics. With a major consequence: for economists, cooperation between countries increases the share of the pie. Everyone can find their account. On the other hand, for experts in geopolitics, if a country sees its power increase, it is to the detriment of its rivals. We no longer blow on candles but on embers.
No one, twenty years ago, had foreseen such a development, unprecedented in the history of mankind. Noting that, since 1978 and the opening of its economy by Deng Xiaoping, China was already developing at a good pace and attracting foreign investors, the American economist Nicholas Lardy, considered one of the best specialists of the Chinese economy, wondered in May 2001, in a note from the Brookings Institution, on China’s interest in joining the WTO: “Given the apparent success of what we could call the“ light ”integration [de l’économie chinoise], why the leaders [chinois] have they decided to bear the costs of opening up their economy much more to international trade and investment? ” Because this membership supposes, in particular, for China, to drastically reduce its customs duties and to stop supporting its public enterprises.
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