China refrained from much pomps and shows to mark its formal entry into in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Tuesday after 15 years of marathon negotiations, but solid steps to address imminent challenges ahead continued.
Among the few official celebrations is a stamp issued by the State Post Bureau, depicting traditional ornamental columns erected in front of imperial palaces in ancient China, the WTO sign and the China World Trade Tower in Beijing, a symbol of China 's opening-up policy.
In a similar development, the pen used by Chinese trade minister Shi Guangsheng to sign the protocol on China's accession to the WTO at the Doha meeting was donated to the Museum of the Chinese Revolution as a historical relic.
Amid the low-tone celebrations, solid steps to meet the challenges ahead were going on.
Continuing a nationwide campaign to clean up obsolete laws and regulations contradictory to WTO rules and government pledges, the People's Bank of China, the nation's central bank, announced Tuesday the abolishment of a number of financial rules and regulations it issued between 1999 and 2001.
On the same day, while addressing 180 officials in charge of legislative affairs from nationwide in Beijing, state councilor Wu Yi said the cleaning up of outdated laws, regulations and policies shall be a priority for governments at all levels in the coming time.
While urging local governments officials to study WTO rules, she charged them to allocate all necessary resources for the revision and abolishment of laws and regulations against WTO rules. News laws and rules to address post-WTO issues are also coming. The State Council Tuesday publicized an anti-subsidy statute which will be effective from January 1, 2002.
The statute, approved by the State Council on October 31, 2001, includes regulations concerning subsidies and damages, anti- subsidy investigations, anti-subsidy measures, time limits and reviews of countervailing measures and commitments, and a list of export products to which subsidy is provided.
Preparations in industries took a major step Tuesday, as the government announced the breakup of China Telecom into two companies: the northern and the southern firms.
According to the official announcement, the northern company will take over the assets of branches in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Henan and Shandong, while branches in the rest of the country will go to the southern company. Both companies will be licensed to operate local fixed-phone services.
The move is widely regarded a major step to end China Telecom's monopoly in local fixed-phone service in preparation for the entry of foreign competitors.
Keeping to its pledges, the government announced Tuesday that the country's general level of tariff duties will be cut from 15.3 percent to 12 percent, starting from January 1, 2002.
In making the announcement, a spokesman for the tariff committee of the State Council reaffirmed that the Chinese government will abide by its commitment and will continue to lower its tariff in the years ahead.
While the government has been prudent in describing the gains from China's WTO membership, a senior economist from Nomura International (Hong Kong) Limited predicted Tuesday that China's entry into WTO will give additional boost for its GDP growth.
"We see joining the WTO enabling the economy to add an extra 0. 5 percentage points to GDP growth until 2006, while exports should grow by 16 percent per annum in 2002-06," said Pu Yonghao in a report published Tuesday.
Also optimistic about the prospect of China's WTO entry is Yiping Huang, a senior economist for Salomon Smith Barney, who believed that this move will on average add about one percentage point to China's GDP growth in each of the next five years.
"Given its current income level and reform momentum, we believe China can achieve an average growth rate at around 7.5 percent for the next 10 years," compared to average growth of over 10 percent in the past decade, Huang said.
China's common citizens are also preparing themselves for the gains and challenges with the country's WTO entry.
This could be reflected by the fact that books on China's WTO membership have become best sellers in bookstores in Beijing
At the Xidan Book Emporium, the largest book shop in Beijing, a WTO lecture was given Tuesday morning by Prof. Zhang Hanlin, a renowned economist, to mark the release of his book "Zhang Hanlin Deciphering China's WTO Entry."
Over 300 different books on the WTO occupied the prime position in the downtown bookstore, which is selling 7,000 to 8,000 such books monthly, according to the store's sales staff.
(China Daily December 12, 2001)