After years of negotiation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive new trade agreement, was signed in February this year by 12 nations. If it is ratified — a big “if” — it will bring important economic benefits to member nations, which include the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru — but not China. At first glance, it may seem surprising that the world’s second-largest economy isn’t participating. But if you take a deeper look at the pact and its requirements, the reasons become clear. They also shed light on China’s ambitions and the other initiatives it is pursuing to support them, even as the future of the TPP itself becomes increasingly cloudy.