Five years on, nation rises to WTO challenge

By Qin Xiaoying (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-11 09:06

On December 11, 2001, China formally joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). Some were overjoyed, others harboured misgivings about the impact it may have, and still others cried wolf.

Five years have passed, which enables us to take stock of the country's WTO membership to date.

It can be summed up in this way: To begin with, China's WTO entry has promoted the country's economic reform, boosted the growth of the Chinese economy and made China's integration into the world irreversible. In addition, China's WTO entry has helped power the world economy, helping put the economies on its periphery on the fast track, bringing benefits to the developing world and also helping the stagnant Western economies get out of difficult straits.

Five years ago, some Chinese worried that the influx of foreign commodities could ruin the domestic industry once China became a WTO member. Today, however, they find that a win-win situation has been brought by the country's WTO membership: The price of imported cars keeps going down; the Chinese-made vehicles are gaining bigger and bigger market share; more big-buck foreign films are being screened; more Chinese movies are becoming box-office hits and are targeting European and US audiences; telecommunications costs show signs of going down; banking reform is picking up speed; and the insurance sector is improving.

People have come to know that competition from outside only serves to make domestic players more hardworking and smarter.

In the past five years, a set of new strategic ideas has been conceived by the Chinese authorities, involving Chinese industries going overseas for development, bringing about sustainable development, shifting the traditional GDP-oriented growth model to a balanced-growth model, quickening the process of urbanization, promoting regional economies, building the new countryside and so on.

Partly, these ideas are the product of necessity in the wake of China's WTO entry. For example, China must abolish 3,000 outdated rules, regulations and laws that fail to keep up with WTO requirements.

On the other hand, however, the new ideas also reflect the initiatives taken by the Chinese Government to meet these challenges.

It is these new ideas and their implementation that have helped bring about significant changes in China.

Internationally, China has become one of the dynamos powering the world economy. In the past five years, for example, overseas investors have remitted a total of US$57.94 billion in profits out of China. At the same time, China has imported commodities worth a total of US$2.4 trillion. The country's tariff on imported industrial products has dropped from 42.9 per cent before China joined the WTO to 9 per cent now. The tariff on imported farm produce has gone down from 54 per cent to 15.3 per cent. These are record tariff cuts for any WTO member in such a short period of time.

Meanwhile, the commerce, telecommunications, construction, retail sales, education, environment, financial, tourism and transport sectors have all been opened to the outside world.

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