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From Pirates to Partners: Protecting Intellectual Property in China in the Twenty-First Century
American University Law Review
  • Peter K. Yu, Texas A&M University School of Law
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During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the United States repeatedly threatened China with a series of economic sanctions, trade wars, non-renewal of most-favored-nation status, and opposition to entry into the World Trade Organization. Such threats eventually led to compromises by the Chinese government and the signing of intellectual property agreements in 1992, 1995, and 1996. Despite these agreements, intellectual property piracy remains rampant in China.

Although China initially had serious concerns about the United States's threats of trade sanctions, the constant use of such threats by the U.S. government has led China to change its reaction and approach. By 1996, it had become obvious that the existing American foreign intellectual property policy was ineffective, misguided, and self-deluding. The United States not only lost its credibility, but its constant use of trade threats helped China improve its ability to resist American demands. Such threats and bullying also created hostility among the Chinese people, making the government more reluctant to adopt Western intellectual property law reforms. Thus, scholars, policymakers, and commentators have called for a critical assessment and reformulation of the existing ineffective policy.

While many commentators have criticized the wrong-headed U.S.-China intellectual property policy, so far no scholarship has utilized the constructive strategic partnership model pronounced in the Joint Statement issued after the 1997 U.S.-China Summit. This Article argues that this partnership model not only presents a new model upon which the two countries are to build their diplomatic relations, but also provides a conceptual framework under which a new bilateral intellectual property policy is to be developed. This Article traces the breakdown of the American intellectual property policy toward China and examines the constructive strategic partnership model. To help policymakers formulate a new policy, this Article develops a twelve-step action plan that aims to cultivate a more stable and harmonious relationship of the two countries, to foster better mutual understanding between each other, and to promote a self-sustainable intellectual property regime in China.

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American University (Washington College of Law)
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Citation Information
Peter K. Yu. "From Pirates to Partners: Protecting Intellectual Property in China in the Twenty-First Century" American University Law Review Vol. 50 Iss. 1 (2000) p. 131 - 243
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