China soars past U.S. in total wealth since joining WTO, study finds

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China has overtaken the U.S. as the world leader in total wealth, vastly increasing its national net worth since joining the World Trade Organization nearly 20 years ago, according to a new study.

China‘s net worth has soared to $120 trillion, up from $7 trillion in 2000, the year before Beijing joined the WTO, Bloomberg reported, citing a report by consultants McKinsey & Co.

Wealth in the U.S. more than doubled during the same period to $90 trillion, the report found. China‘s population of 1.44 billion people is also more than four times as large as that of the United States.

Beijing still enjoys preferential developing-nation status in the WTO, amid increasing complaints by other nations that China engages in unfair trade practices. The status gives China certain developing country privileges, including the right to restrict imports to protect key domestic industries.

During their first virtual summit on Monday night, President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the “importance of managing competition responsibly,” the White House said.

Mr. Biden “was clear about the need to protect American workers and industries from the PRC’s unfair trade and economic practices,” the statement said.

Analysts say China is not on track to meet its commitment for purchasing U.S. products under a trade agreement forged during the Trump administration. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said before the virtual summit that Mr. Biden would “express areas where he feels China should be taking additional action,” but she said the president is largely delegating trade issues to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

“It’s really under her purview. He entrusts her to do that,” Ms. Psaki said.

Since joining the WTO, China has increased its foreign trade by ninefold, jumping ahead of the U.S. to become the global leader, Nikkei Asia reported last month. Beijing’s exports jumped 870% and imports rose 740% from 2001 to 2020, according to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.

China‘s total trade value skyrocketed 810%, far higher than the overall global average increase of 180%, the report stated.

At a WTO review last month in Geneva, China came under heavy criticism from other industrialized nations that it has benefited significantly from its trade status even as it flouted global trading rules and rose to a status as an economic superpower.

China has increasingly tested global trade rules and norms by engaging in practices that are inconsistent with its WTO commitments,” the Australian government said in a statement. It cited new Chinese restrictions on numerous Australian exports, including beef, coal and sugar.

A top U.S. official at the review also criticized China for unfair trade practices, including preferential treatment for state enterprises and cyber theft of American intellectual property.

China in turn has complained about a tariff war initiated by the Trump administration against its exporters. Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao said China “has stayed committed to deepening reform, expanding, opening up and growing its open economy at a higher level.”

U.S. GDP on a per capita basis remains nearly six times higher than for China.

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