China Wihtin a Liberal Trading Order

Jeppe Mulvad Jensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


With a diagnostic research purpose and a retroductive mode of reasoning, the thesis undertakes a single case study of what the implications are of China’s rise for the World Trade Organization (WTO). In doing so, the thesis draws on the discipline of international political economy with particular attention to comparative capitalism and the discipline of international relations. By integrating these two disciplines, the thesis develops an approach that on one hand directs attention to divergences between China’s domestic political economy and the WTO and, on the other hand, highlights dynamics of how states interact in and with the international system. On the basis of the assumption that states’ preferences are based upon their domestic structures and that states attempt to externalize these structures onto the international system, the thesis analyses the extent to which China’s domestic structures – insofar as they pertain to trade policy – are compatible with those domestic structures that have been externalized onto the WTO. Moreover, the thesis analyses how such a conflict between domestic structures plays out in the context of the WTO. In doing so, the thesis focuses on three areas. Firstly, the thesis investigates divergences in the trade regimes of China and the “established powers” as it is argued that the latter have been successful in externalizing their preferences – as derived from their domestic structures – onto the WTO. Secondly, the thesis analyses how such divergences play out in the context of the WTO’s mechanism for arbitrating trade disputes. Thirdly, the thesis analyses China in the context of trade negotiations. Ultimately, the thesis concludes that China poses a “within-system challenge” to the WTO whereby China seeks to preserve its fundamental domestic structures that breed conflict with the established powers and, in so doing, opposes the WTO’s most liberal ambitions while refraining from attempting to overturn or fundamentally disrupt the WTO.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages101
SupervisorsMorten Ougaard