Table: The Long March

1972

U.S. President Richard Nixon visits Mao Zedong, setting the stage for eventual normal diplomatic contacts with the West.

1978

Two years after Mao's death, Deng Xiaoping rises to power and ushers in economic reforms that include stepped-up foreign trade. Government establishes 12 state companies to control imports and exports.

1979

Beijing authorizes four Special Economic Zones on China's eastern coast. China emerges as a new low-wage manufacturing base for Hong Kong-based companies.

1982

Communes are dismantled in the countryside, making it easier for peasants to grow and sell their own produce.

1985

Beijing slashes average tariffs from 56% to 43%, beginning a long, gradual reduction of import barriers.

MID-1980s

Chrysler and Coca-Cola are among the first foreign joint ventures to begin production for the Chinese market.

1989

Bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square freezes relations with the world. Foreign investment plunges, and market reforms are put on hold.

1992

Deng Xiaoping reignites economic reform, sparking new boom in exports and investment. State enterprises are given wider latitude to deal with foreigners; stock markets boom in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

1993

Shanghai Mayor Zhu Rongji, a favorite of foreign companies, becomes economic czar and starts urging faster reforms of state enterprises and the financial system. He is now premier.

1996

After years of angry negotiations and trade-war threats, Beijing signs deal with U.S. to strengthen protection of intellectual-property rights.

1997

Beijing leadership's 15th Party Congress opens the way for a sell-off of state enterprises and gives more rights to private entrepreneurs. China Mobile lists in Hong Kong and New York, setting the stage for wave of overseas listings.

1999

China and U.S. initial agreement spelling out terms for China's entry into the World Trade Organization. Beijing to dramatically lower barriers to foreign goods and services. U.S. agrees to halt annual reviews of China's trade status.

2001

On Sept. 17, last barriers fall to China's entry into WTO, likely to be finalized by yearend.

Data: BusinessWeek

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