"Since the initiation of economic reforms in 1979, China has become one of the world's fastest growing economies. From 1979-2002, China's real annual GDP [Gross Domestic Product] averaged 9.3%; it rose by 8.0% in 2002. Many economists speculate that China could become the world's largest economy at some point in the near future, provided that the government is able to continue and deepen economic reforms, particularly in regards to its efficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and state banking system. Progress in reforming these sectors in recent years has been somewhat mixed. […] China's economy remained relatively healthy in 2002, despite economic slowdowns in other parts of the world. Foreign investment continued to pour into China, and the Chinese government effectively used public spending to boost the economy. However, painful economic reforms will be necessary to keep the economic strong in 2003 and beyond. In addition, the recent outbreak of a very contagious virus called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in China (which has subsequently spread to other countries as well) has raised serious health concerns over travel to and from China, and therefore could potentially have a negative short-term impact on the Chinese economy."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB98014
United States. Department of State, Foreign Press Centers, Bureau of Public Affairs: http://www.fpc.state.gov/