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WTO Entry Brings About Changes in China
January and February used to be a slack season for driving schools, but this year is different, and there are long queues at the driving schools in the suburbs of Beijing where people waiting to get behind the wheel.

The falling prices in China's auto markets have enabled more people to realize their dream--owning a family car.

Since China officially became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 11, 2001, all economic and social fields have been experiencing unprecedented reforms and changes, and the sharp fall in auto prices is one of the most noticeable.

The status of WTO membership has an enormous impact on China. Decision-making government departments, enterprises and even laypeople are all striving to change and adapt to this new identity.

A centralized check-up of laws, regulations and administrative files is going on in all government departments, some of the laws and regulations are being revised, some abolished.

Various WTO-related books, which are being produced in hundreds of versions, have become the favorite reading matter of corporate managers, and many of the managers have returned to school for training, to study WTO rules and their competitors from overseas.

The Pudong Development Bank, headquartered in Shanghai, announced this week that it intends to accept overseas investment. Other medium-sized and small commercial banks have realized their inferior position in the face of competition from foreign financial institutions, and are planning to list on the stock exchange or to absorb foreign capital, in a bid to reinforce their power.

For ordinary people, the WT0 was no more than a buzzword for many years, and not many people understood what was behind it. Now they have begun to taste the changes, and find that some are sweet and some sour.

To bring the capital market closer to international practices, the Chinese government has been trying to put State-owned and corporate shares in listed companies into circulation. However, because these shares exist in such huge quantities, investors' fear of the sharp expansion of market capacity has led to continuous diving of market indices.

China's "big four" state-owned commercial banks are streamlining their overstaffed systems to raise operational efficiency, and many of their employees are having to retire early or find other jobs.

Foreign giants in retailing, insurance, financial and other sectors are coming in greater numbers since China's WTO entry, bringing not only capital, technology, management experience and job opportunities, but also a strong influence on life styles and consumer habits.

The media's analysis of the favorable and unfavorable aspects of WTO membership is helping people to change their ideas. Not many people complain about the changes resulting from entry to the WTO, what they care more about is how related departments and decision makers direct these changes, so as to turn the " unfavorable" into "favorable".

More deep-level WTO-related changes are expected to emerge in the future. After more than 20 years' opening-up and reform, the Chinese people are increasingly more capable of accepting new things, which will help them to adjust to the changes arising from the country's entry into the WTO.

(Xinhua News Agency February 7, 2002)

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