Foreign powers operate in treaty ports located throughout much of coastal and Eastern China. These ports are open to foreign commerce and are foreign-administered by the Chinese Maritime Customs office. The United States, England, France, Germany, and Japan are China's main trading partners. More treaty ports open in the early 20th century, facilitating the growth and spread of trade.
China has a largely closed economy with little trade. U.S.-led trade sanctions, imposed on China for its support of North Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War, push Beijing towards Moscow.
Within the scope of broad economic reforms under Deng Xiaoping, an open-door trade and investment policy is introduced. Special Economic Zones along the coast are set up for foreign investment.
Foreign trade operations are decentralized. By 1985 trade represents 20 percent of China's gross national product. Textiles are the nation's leading export, with petroleum and food also strong. Leading imports are machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, and chemicals. Japan is China's dominant trading partner, followed by Hong Kong and the U.S.
Trade becomes increasingly decentralized as China strives to integrate itself into the world trade system.
Foreign investment grows tenfold between 1990 and 1995. Despite unwieldy contractual and legal framework, China's billion-plus customers lure many investors, especially from ethnic Chinese in areas near Hong Kong and Taiwan.
China's global trade totals $353 billion; its trade surplus is $36 billion. China's primary trading partners are Japan, Taiwan, the United States, South Korea, Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore, Russia, and the Netherlands. In November, the United States and China arrive at a bilateral market-access agreement that paves the way for China's accession to the World Trade Organization.
China reaches a bilateral WTO agreement with the European Union and other trade partners and begins work on a multilateral WTO accession package. To increase exports, China encourages the formation of factories that assemble imported components into consumer goods for export. The U.S. approves permanent trade relations with China, and President Clinton signs the China Trade Relations Act of 2000.
In 2001 China serves as the Asia Pacific Economic Group's (APEC) chair; Shanghai hosts the annual APEC leaders meeting. After the 2001 World Trade Organization summit in Qatar, China becomes a full member of the WTO. Many tariffs and regulations are streamlined or ended, but foreign investors still face procedural obstacles. Trading partners complain that the Chinese currency is undervalued.
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