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Purpose - To assess the impact of China's WTO commitments on foreign investment flows, domestic regulation and industry performance in the telecommunications services sector. Design/methodology/approach - Situates GATS disciplines in telecommunications in their historical context, then reviews China's specific commitments, and finally reviews available data on developments in China since accession. Findings - China's commitments on market access and national treatment in telecommunications services are rather modest, and China is lagging in the implementation of regulatory disciplines. Nevertheless, China has gone a long distance toward a complete transformation of the telecommunications sector with little outside influence and no outside ownership or control. It is mainly because the prospect of joining the WTO and opening to the world galvanized government and industry into action. The overall thrust of those actions, however, has been to ensure that telecommunications plays its full role as a strategic economic sector and helps deliver economic benefits to the Chinese people in order to legitimize Communist Party leadership. Research limitations/implications - Up-to-date and coherent data on industry performance (e.g. penetration rates, productivity increases, etc.) are lacking. Practical implications - Very useful background and analysis relating to: relationship between, on the one hand, international trade commitments and, on the other hand, domestic reforms and industry performance; and on-going issues in China's efforts to implement its WTO obligations and to create a statutory, regulatory and institutional framework supportive of continued growth of the telecommunications sector in China. Originality/value - Responds to an identified information need with information and analysis of practical value.