HONG KONG -- Barely three years after joining the World Trade Organization, China has emerged as a major trading power, with total trade last year exceeding $1 trillion, an increase of more than 30 percent over 2003, making China the world's third-largest trading power. This is an astonishing performance for a country that a quarter of a century ago was an insignificant player.

The economy as a whole was expected to have grown by 9.2 percent by the end of the year, with the projection for this year at about 8.5 percent, slightly slower but still extremely impressive.

The International Monetary Fund has predicted that average growth in 2005 will drop to 4.3 percent from 5 percent in 2004, but the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has predicted that the Chinese economy will grow 8 percent in 2005, a significantly higher rate. It said China remains competitive due to its stable exchange rate, flat unit labor costs and the removal of textile quotas in 2005.