China has established itself as a global economic presence in the past ten years. This article explains one important but overlooked aspect of this rise, China’s newfound interest in free trade agreements (FTAs). This paper situates the FTA boom within a framework of international political economy and China’s recent regional rise. This paper probes the question of how China selects its FTA partners, referencing US trade practice and policy as a framework by which to analyze China’s own preferences. This paper then explores the main features of China’s FTAs, finding that it has adopted a flexible FTA strategy that attends closely to China’s own unique social and economic prerogatives at this time, and also matches well with partner expectations. This paper concludes with a discussion of both guiding principles and concrete proposals for China’s future FTA strategy.


China, Free Trade Agreements, Economic Diplomacy, International Relations

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Place of Original Publication

University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law

Publication Information

33 University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 65 (2011)


COinS Jun Zhao Faculty Bio