The success of China's first manned space flight was just one of many dramatic events in China in 2003-2004, a year that Chinese themselves might remember most for the way China's newly-elected government leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, took charge in mobilizing the country's battle against the SARS epidemic in Spring 2003. The Central Government adopted a series of measures that both proved effective and won the praise of the World Health Organization: Special SARS hospitals and fever clinics were set up nationwide; the Ministry of Health began a daily SARS situation release; reporting systems were established; quarantines were enforced; and meanwhile, scientists worked round the clock to find a treatment for SARS. On the afternoon of June 24, 2003, WHO removed Beijing from its list of SARS-infected areas and lifted its travel advisory against the city. After the defeat of SARS, life returned as normal to China. The country did face other natural disasters and many other problems but in the main enjoyed steady social and economic progress that saw the GDP grow by a record-breaking 9.1 percent.
Besides the success of the Shenzhou-5 space flight, the election in March 2003 of China's new leaders, the SARS epidemic, and continued economic growth despite SARS, China's other top ten news stories of 2003 as selected by Xinhua News Agency were:
- On July 1, a symposium was held in Beijing to study the important thought of "Three Represents". Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Communist Party of China ("CPC") Central Committee, delivered a speech at the symposium, calling on all the CPC members to study "Three Represents."
- On October 11-14, China held the Third Plenary Session of the 16th CPC Central Committee. The session deliberated and approved a decision of the CPC Central Committee on issues regarding the improvement of the socialist market economic system, outlining the economic reform tasks for China in the new century.
- The Chinese mainland signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macao Special Administrative Region, respectively on June 29 and October 17, in a bid to forge closer economic ties between China's mainland and the two special administrative regions. This is considered a new start and marks a milestone for the trade relationship development between Chinese mainland and Hong Kong and Macao.
- During the later half year of 2003, Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan repeatedly proposed staging a so-called "defensive referendum" to split Taiwan from China, arousing strong opposition and condemnation from Chinese government and its people.
- On December 19-20, China held a national conference to bolster human resources development. The conference, sponsored by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, was the first of its kind since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
- A gas field blowout in December 2003 in a remote area of Chongqing Municipality in southwest China took 243 lives and forced the evacuation of some 60,000 residents. It was the worst accident of its kind ever in China.