At a time when China's relations with the world are better than they have been for many years, the issue of World Trade Organisation membership stands out as a rare source of acrimony. Beijing's anger this week at the speed with which its latest package of 5,600 tariff concessions was dismissed as inadequate was evident from the unusually strongly worded attack by its chief negotiator, Long Yongtu, on the 'unfair' and 'excessive requests' being made by other countries. China clearly feels that, having shown itself ready to bear the consequences of not devaluing the yuan, it is entitled to a little more leeway over the criteria for WTO entry. Mr Long explicitly linked the two issues for the first time. In the light of the recent regional financial turmoil, it is scarcely surprising that Beijing should have become more cautious about responding to WTO demands to open up its financial services sector to outsiders. Given that the current restrictions have played a key part in preventing foreign speculators from attacking China's currency and stock markets, it would be unrealistic to expect any movement on this at present. To that extent, Mr Long's frustration is understandable. For the United States and Europe were clearly taking little account of the present economic realities in Asia when they attacked the latest Chinese tariff reductions for failing to include any concessions in the financial services field. China's offer to proceed on a sector-by-sector basis offers an alternative route to move forward on the crucial issue of how to open up the mainland's lucrative services sector to foreign competition. Indeed, the European Union has already indicated that it is prepared to accept such an approach in principle. But Beijing will have to make far more concessions than it has so far if such discussions are to stand any chance of success. While concerns over the liberalisation of financial services are understandable, its similar reluctance to open its telecommunications industry to outsiders can only be ascribed to protectionism. In many respects, it is ridiculous that 11 years of negotiations have still been unable to resolve the issues preventing the world's emerging economic superpower from entering the WTO. President Bill Clinton's forthcoming trip to China will offer another opportunity to move the issue forward. Momentum must not be allowed to drain away in endless argument on detail. But, without more willingness to compromise on each side, an early breakthrough looks unlikely.