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• Worker Protest in Chengdu, China
• US Deputy Secretary of State Visits China
• China is Officially World’s Fourth Largest Economy
• “Googling” Chinese Censorship

Worker Protest in Chengdu, China

1-23: Chinese workers clashed with Chinese police over the sale of military factory No. 354 in Chengdu. Boxun.com reported that the factory was to be sold for 80 million yuan (US $9.9 million) with a worth of 300 million yuan (US $37 million). Moreover, worker did not receive their due compensation of 200 million yuan (US $24 million).

With tension and unrest running high, the workers, opposing the sale, trapped the manager in the factory. 1,300 military police came to free the manager, and a violent conflict ensued with the police wielding clubs and electric batons. Details of the struggle are not known, because witnesses, fearful of retribution, keep quiet. At the core of these clashes are issues of corruption, the widening gap between social classes, and poorly compensated land seizures by the government.

US Deputy Secretary of State Visits China

1-24 American Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick began a three day visit to China on Tuesday, the second stop on his three nation tour. During his visit to Beijing, Zoellick met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, using the meetings to voice continued US concerns over Chinese currency and the record trade imbalance. Other topics of discussion included Iranian nuclear plans, North Korean nuclear talks, as well as preparations for an upcoming state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the United States.

North Korea was an especially hot topic for discussion as a result of a recent trip to China by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. Since China plays host to the North Korean Nuclear talks, Zoellick was keen to discuss what Kim’s recent visit signified in terms of North Korea’s continued nuclear negotiations.

Zoellick later traveled to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, where he met with officials and visited a panda reserve.

China is Officially World’s Fourth Largest Economy

1-25 Thanks to economic growth of 9.9% in 2005, China announced Wednesday that it has overtaken Great Britain and France as the world’s fourth largest economy. Spurred by strong export growth and foreign investment, China’s gross domestic product totaled $2.26 trillion. Furthermore per capita income for China’s 1.3 billion people increased to approximately $240, surpassing Morocco. This growth comes despite government measures to cool the economy such as credit curbs, tough planning laws, and a currency revaluation.

Chinese economic data are notoriously unreliable, however, and some experts question if the figures were understating real growth considering a recent surge in exports and domestic spending. According to experts, 9.9% is politically convenient number because although stunning, it lacks the politically eye-catching significance of double-digit economic growth, which risks exacerbating American grievances on the trade surplus.

Baring additional policy missteps and considering its current trajectory, China is anticipated to become the world’s top economy one day.

“Googling” Chinese Censorship

1-25 On Wednesday, Google relaunched the Chinese language version of its popular search engine after a minor, yet controversial, tweaking. In order to operate in China, Google was forced to censor controversial search topics such as Falun Gong, Tibet, and Taiwan. Media watchdog Reporters without Borders was less than impressed and immediately condemned the move, saying Google had kowtowed to China’s oppressive censorship regime. Google countered the accusation by asserting that by restricting a handful of searches, Google was able to make its services more accessible to a wider range of Chinese. Previously, Google’s website was frequently disrupted and blocked by Chinese censors. After the change, Google is able to operate without interference and the website functions without the delays it had experienced before. As a result, uncontroversial information is much easier procured.

Google hopes the move will shore up its competitiveness in the face of rivals Yahoo and Baidu.com.

China currently has more than 100 million web surfers and this figure is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years.

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