Since its accession to the WTO on 11 December 2001, China has been involved in eight cases as complainant, 23 as respondent, and 89 as a third party. Against all pre-entry predictions, the China-related cases have not overburdened the WTO dispute settlement system, as if all parties were implicitly respecting a latent period before engaging in commercial hostilities. Often portrayed as a “passive rule taker” in the immediate aftermath of its accession, China was not only learning by attentively watching other members’ strategies, but also benefiting from the benevolent attitude of its main trading partners, the US and the EU. Moreover, its participation in 89 WTO disputes as third party is not a trivial detail nor is it a sign of passivity, but rather one of cautious preparation that corresponded to the time needed to properly apprehend its new legal tools and all rights thereunder.
While there are many ways of approaching such an already vast body of decisions and related legal and economic literature, this article tries to reflect the uniqueness of the Chinese trade regime and the impact of such a peculiar mix between economic libreralisation and maintenance of the state on other WTO Members in addressing the following questions: the transitional product-specific safeguard measures adopted in reaction to a market disruption caused by Chinese imports, the antidumping and countervailing duties issue, and the restrictions on exportations or importations imposed by China for economic, but also societal and political reasons.