Back to overview

China and India’s insertion in the intellectual property rights regime: sustaining or disrupting the rules?

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2016
Author Serrano Omar,
Project Understanding Power Transitions in the Global Economy. Regulatory Politics in Flux
Show all

Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal New Political Economy
Volume (Issue) 21(4)
Page(s) 343 - 362
Title of proceedings New Political Economy


This paper looks at the insertion of China and India in the contested and highly legalised regime of intellectual property rights (IP). In doing so it pays particular attention at two dimensions, the internal adoption of this regime and external endorsement/contestation of international IP norms. Much has been written about whether emerging countries will challenge or support the maintenance of an open rules-based multilateral trade system. In this context, the differentiated integration of these two countries in the IP regime is notable. Domestically, China despite much criticism for widespread IP infringement has followed a maximalist interpretation of TRIPS. India, on the contrary has followed other emerging countries in pursuing a more critical, minimalist understanding. These positions have also been visible at the multilateral arena. This empirical finding runs contrary to the assumption that defiance results from market power. The divergence is the more surprising given a recent explosion of patent filings in both countries. From a political economy perspective, this should translate into support for stricter rules under TRIPS. In explanaining the two countries’ divertent insertion this paper looks beyond economic (market) power and domestic interests and underlines the role of ideational legacies, domestic interests and regulatory capacity. The paper thus stresses the need to look deep into domestic politics and ideational cleavages, as well as at their evolution over time, in order to better understand the international behaviour of emerging countries.