Actually, Taiwan and Hong Kong (too) have been trading with China for a very long time, because of its close proximity and cultural similarities. However, you must admit though that the Chinese government was a little hesitant about opening up its market, because it has many inefficiencies in its market (i.e. state-owned enterprises) and because it doesn't have a very developed system of law or economic infrastructure (i.e. banks) to handle free trade yet. Do you think the Chinese would want to open up its market so quickly to the outside without the U.S.'s role in the WTO and without the U.S.'s insistence on trading with China? The U.S. after all is China's number 1 trading partner. If the U.S. weren't so powerful, the Chinese wouldn't have as great a desire as now to liberalize. I would argue that that is too simple of an argument even, because globalization is shrinking our world economy, and the drive for greater liberalization is already in place because of it, but I would argue that a hegemon, no less, has some influence on trade liberalization throughout the world.
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