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  William Vocke    Special to The China Post
At the beginning of every year, countries around the world issue figures for economic growth, trade, immigration and so forth for the previous year.
The deterioration in Sino-Japanese political relations, which saw bilateral trade drop in 2012 after Tokyo nationalized three tiny islands also claimed by Beijing, resulted in another drop last year, despite an uptick in Japanese auto sales toward the end of the year.
China has made a revised bid to join the Government Procurement Agreement of the World Trade Organization, less than three weeks after promising the United States that it would do so some time this year.
In an example of China flexing its economic muscles in Europe, the Spanish Government has decided to intervene and block a special court from proceeding with a lawsuit against several Chinese political figures, including former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
For the first time since it came into existence in 1995, the World Trade Organization last month finally achieved a breakthrough, reaching a series of agreements to streamline trade that are expected to boost the world economy by up to a trillion U.S. dollars a year.
Checkbook diplomacy as an instrument of policy between Taiwan and mainland China hasn't been used in at least five years, but a somewhat similar type of diplomacy is now emerging as China and Japan both seek to win the support of the countries of Southeast Asia.
The world's trade structure has changed dramatically over the last decade, with China having replaced the United States last year as the biggest trading nation.
British Prime Minister David Cameron was feted by China's leaders during his three-day trip to the country but much of his diet consisted of humble pie, which he manfully swallowed, pointing to "a visit that has delivered almost 6 billion pounds worth of deals" (about US$9 billion), including one to export pig semen to raise the quality of Chinese pork.
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China's announcement of an East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ) has effectively taken the world's multibillion-dollar airline industry hostage.
More than three decades ago, Deng Xiaoping, who later became known as the chief architect of China's reforms, decided to focus on economic development through pragmatic experimentation, with the country moving forward cautiously by "crossing the river by feeling the stones."
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