How and under what conditions do issues of fairness affect a state’s behaviour? This article argues, through the study of China’s behaviour in antidumping (AD) disputes, that there is utility in analysing economic conflict resolution by means of the capacity-based concept of asymmetrical fairness. This study seeks to develop theoretical hypotheses (‘systemic stability’ and ‘deterrence signal’) on the causal mechanism through which asymmetrical fairness can affect the policy choices of trade disputants. This study also presents some conjectures about conditions conducive to the elevation of fairness concerns within government: (1) the availability of punitive mechanisms; (2) unclear distributional implications; (3) domestic norms; and (4) in-group identity. The article concludes by discussing some implications of China’s fairness concern for global economic governance in today’s turbulent international system.