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Rule of Law or Tit for Tat? Examining U.S.-China Trade War from the Perspectives of International Law and International Relations
Dr. Jiangyu WANG
School of Law
City University of Hong Kong
The China-United States trade war has lasted for two years since 2018 and punitive tariffs have been imposed by both countries on almost all goods flowing between them. A trade war on such massive scale requires an interdisciplinary understanding from international law and international relations. International law, including both treaties – the WTO agreements in particular – and customary international law, has already provided a legalistic solution to such trade wars. Unfortunately, the WTO-centered international institutions, rules and procedures have been largely ignored by the trading nations involved in this gigantic trade feud. A possible explanation is, from the angle of international relations, Tit for Tat is probably a more effective strategy which may lead to a compromise to develop better rules governing bilateral and even global economic relations. This paper critically examines the measures and responses by the United States and China in the trade war from legal and international relations perspectives, and attempts to reconcile the conflicts between the two disciplines with a view to proposing a framework for practically developing new generation of multilateral principles and rules governing trade relations between China and the United States.
Wang Jiangyu is Professor and Director of the Centre for Chinese and Comparative Law (CCCL) at the City University of Hong Kong School of Law. Prior to joining CityU, he held a tenured appointment at the Faculty of Law of the National University of Singapore for more than a decade, where he served as the Director of the Asian Law Institute (ASLI) and was the founding Deputy Director of the Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS) of NUS Law. He is presently an Editor-in-Chief of The Chinese Journal of Comparative Law (CJCL) published by Oxford University Press and was a Joint Editor-in-Chief for the Asian Journal of Comparative Law (AsJCL), published by Cambridge University Press from 2012 to 2016. His teaching and research interests include international law and international relations, international economic law, comparative law, company law, securities regulation, and law and development in China. He is qualified to practice law in China and New York and worked in the Legal Department of Bank of China and Chinese and American law firms. He served as a member of the Chinese delegation at the annual conference of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Conference in 1999. He is also a member on the Governing Council of the WTO Institute of the China Law Society and that of the Chinese Society of International Economic Law. He has been an invited expert/speaker for the WTO, International Trade Centre (UNCTAD/WTO), United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). Professor Wang has authored and edited several books and published extensively in English and Chinese academic journals on a variety of law and politics related topics, and is a regular contributor to leading newspapers and magazines in Singapore, Hong Kong, and China.