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  William Vocke    Special to The China Post
In 2008, after Ma Ying-jeou was elected president, he halted the political war over sovereignty between Taiwan and mainland China and focused on improving cross-strait relations. Dialogue with the mainland since then has resulted in more than a dozen agreements, primarily on economic issues.
Business leaders, it seems, are increasingly worried about the continuing hostility between China and Japan. The New York Times reported that at the World Economic Forum in Davos, despite general optimism about the global economy, there was growing concern that the Sino-Japanese dispute "may be close to boiling over."
Last month, China disclosed figures for 2013 confirming that it had replaced the United States as the world's largest trading nation, passing another milestone in its march towards superpower status.
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.
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