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Durham University

Durham Law School

Staff profile

Publication details for Professor Ming Du

Du M. & Kong Q.J. (2020). Explaining the Limits of the WTO in Shaping the Rule of Law in China. Journal of International Economic Law 23(4).

Author(s) from Durham


When China acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2001, pundits were enthusiastic about the prospect that China’s World Trade Organization membership would boost international trade, encourage China’s restructuring toward a market economy, discipline the domestic legal system, and strengthen the rule of law in China. More recently, however, serious concerns have been raised regarding China’s record on the rule of law. The first National Security Strategy report issued by the Trump Administration in December 2017 claimed that China’s increased participation in the liberal international economic system had not effectuated China’s deeper engagement with, or respect for, the rule of law.

The purpose of this article is to take a critical look at the two contrasting narratives on the impact of the World Trade Organization on China’s rule of law construction over the past two decades. It concludes that, although the World Trade Organization has played a positive role in advancing the rule of law in China, such a role has long been exaggerated. Accordingly, we provide an account of why the World Trade Organization has failed to play a catalyst role in instituting the rule of law in China widely expected in the western world.