15-year wait ends as historic day hits front pages
Jasper Becker in Beijing
With front-page stories, China's press heralded the end of a 15-year wait to join the World Trade Organisation - but the event sparked none of the public celebrations held for events such as the mainland's qualification for the World Cup finals.
The China Business Times termed the event 'China's second opening and reform', while the People's Daily praised globalisation and said China was right to 'plunge itself into the roaring waters of world economic development'.
'An Eastern people, strengthening and marching forward, a great nation more prosperous by the day, with courage, foresight, tolerance and open-mindedness, has made a strategic decision of profound significance,' the People's Daily editorial crowed.
Pages of commentary and analysis omitted any mention of Taiwan, which also joined the WTO yesterday, although the event will have a huge impact on their relationship.
On Saturday night, Tiananmen Square was quiet and there were no fireworks when the events in Doha were broadcast live on television. A long pre-recorded history of China's negotiations was aired, interspersed with interviews with the leaders of Guangdong, Sichuan and Shandong provinces about how the accession would affect them.
Many people switched channels to watch an interview with Serb football coach Bora Milutinovic, who led China's football team to qualify for its first World Cup. The event brought thousands on to the streets, as did the July celebrations when Beijing was selected to host the 2008 Olympic Games.
The People's Daily said joining the WTO was essential for pushing on with China's own reforms.
'We dare to and are good at participating in global economic co-operation,' it said. The party mouthpiece expressed certainty that China would 'grab the benefits and avoid the detrimental effects and risks'.
The China Business Times said that if, as some people said, the 21st century belonged to the Chinese people, then the century could be said to have started on Saturday and not on January 1.
'Today's beginning is the beginning of change in Chinese people's lives, a change in China and in the world,' it said.
Like most papers, the People's Daily also voiced a note of caution. 'Globalisation is a double-edged knife - if you use it well, you profit, if you don't, you suffer losses,' it warned.
'As more foreign products and services enter the domestic market, some of our industries will face more intense competition,' it said. 'In particular, those enterprises with high production costs, a low level of technology and backwards management will come under definite attack and pressure.'
Xinhua warned that 'with openness comes conflict and risk. There are opportunities and serious challenges'.