Financial TimesFinancial Times

The real reasons for the West’s protectionism

By Gideon Rachman

18 Sep 2023 · 4 min read

“Trade freely with China and time is on our side.” That was the confident view of George W Bush, the former US president, in the run-up to China joining the World Trade Organization in 2001. A generation later, many in the west have come to the conclusion that time was, in fact, on China’s side.

Bush was making a political judgment. He believed that a China that integrated deeply with the global economy would become more open and more democratic. But under Xi Jinping China has become more closed and authoritarian. It is also more overtly hostile to the US. Meanwhile, China’s rapid economic growth has funded a massive military build-up.

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