The Evolution of China’s Regional Trade Agreements: Power Dynamics and the Future of the Asia-Pacific

There is a widespread consensus that China’s growing network of regional trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific has crucial strategic and economic implications for states in the region. Yet despite the recognition that China’s agreements are initially limited and then expanded substantially over time, few accounts explore the strategic and economic implications of this aspect of China’s approach. This article addresses this flaw by drawing attention to the relation between regional power dynamics and China’s gradualist approach to negotiating regional trade agreements. It presents a new framework which suggests that due to China’s steadily improving economic position vis-à-vis its regional counterparts and the growing economic dependence of these partners on it, China’s negotiating approach increases opportunities to maximize its growing bargaining leverage and influence over time and thereby improve its regional position still further. This article concludes by drawing out the implications of this for the region.

Licence Information:

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

Sampson, M. (2019) 'The Evolution of China’s Regional Trade Agreements: Power Dynamics and the Future of the Asia-Pacific', Pacific Review 34.2

Subscribe to CGDKN

Stay informed with our regular email updates.