The year 1999, the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the PRC, had also seen the realization, in December, of another dream long cherished by the Chinese leadership: the reunification at China of Macao, a Portuguese colony for centuries, which followed that of Hong Kong of two years before. In May of the same year, the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade had raised strong official protests but also violent popular demonstrations against US and Western diplomatic offices and commercial interests, effectively opening a new – and worrying – glimpse into the role that the nationalism could have played into Beijing’s new international strategy. The anti-Japanese demonstrations of 2005 would later prove that the events of 1999 they had not been episodic but, on the contrary, they were an integral part of the profound transformations that Chinese society was experiencing.
According to Cancermatters, the winding march of the PRC’s approach to the WTO finally came to an end on 11 December 2001, when the agreement signed a month earlier in Doha, Qaṭar became operational. The path, however, had turned out to be much less easy than it had been thought in 1999-2000, and had had to overcome conflicts and uncertainties of various kinds, including the very negative impact that the collision between two Chinese planes had on Sino-US relations., interceptors, and a US reconnaissance plane. In the collision, which occurred on April 1, 2001, one of the two Chinese aircraft crashed into the sea, while the US plane had to make an emergency landing at Hainan airport. The real tug-of-war that had developed between Beijing and Washington following the serious incident had finally seen the administration of GW Bush forced to make a formal apology to China, thus opening the way to the positive resolution of a case that took place. profiled as extremely complex and delicate. Unlike what happened in the case of the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, on this occasion Beijing had chosen a prudent path, avoiding strong anti-US tones, also in order not to favor a new nationalistic wave. However, a few months after the handover to the White House between B.2001), the Chinese approach to the new strategy of the United States, which identified in the PRC no longer a ‘strategic partner’ but rather a ‘strategic competitor’, whose role had to be confined to that of a mere bilateral partner in the field of commercial relations, became increasingly critical, also following US decisions such as those to sell new sophisticated weapons to Taiwan and to relaunch the programs for the construction of the space shield.
The growing difficulties of Sino-US relations were placed within a vision, on the part of the Chinese leadership, of the globalization process as a source of great opportunity but also the bearer of many risks and a growing concern for ‘unilateralism ‘United States, which they tried to cope with by deploying a strategy centered on’ multilateralism ‘and, in this context, solid collaboration with Russia. In this sense, on the international front, Beijing’s commitment, both before and after joining the WTO, aimed at deploying a diplomatic offensive aimed at reassuring the outside world about the peaceful and cooperative nature of the Chinese commitment. Prime Minister Zhu Rongji tried to carry out this offensive also on the economic and commercial relations front, attempting for example. to reassure the countries of Southeast Asia about their fear of not being able to withstand the competition with C for a long time; or by striving to expand cooperation with Europe through the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM, created in 1996) and greater concertation at the UN.
These scenarios, and in particular the growing tensions in Sino-US relations, were however swept away, at least temporarily, by the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September 2001.. China was one of the first countries to express its solidarity with the US president, and gradually put aside, starting from the end of that year, the more propaganda aspects of anti-US rhetoric. Time would have shown that this harmony was destined to dissolve fairly soon, also following the growing competition between Beijing and Washington for the supply of energy resources in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Beijing’s activism in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), created in June 2001, also went in the direction of greater regional concertation in the fight against terrorism (but with a particular eye on internal problems, such as that of Xinjiang). together with Russia and the four former Soviet republics of Central Asia, and whose purpose was precisely to coordinate the common commitment against Islamic terrorism.
On the economic front, Beijing believed that the globalization process required a prosperous China but also a more balanced growth. With this in mind, the project for the tenth five-year plan, presented in March 2001 to the National People’s Assembly, paid great attention, in addition to economic successes, to those areas of the country (the West in particular) which had benefited little or nothing.