Google stops censoring its search engine in China

Google announced Monday that it has stopped censoring its Chinese-language search engine Google.cn.

“Earlier today we stopped censoring our search services — Google Search, Google News, and Google Images — on Google.cn,” Google chief legal officer David Drummond said in a blog post.

“Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong,” he said.

However, the Internet giant said it plans to continue research and development work in China and maintain a sales presence there.

“In terms of Google’s wider business operations, we intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there, though the size of the sales team will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk,” Google chief legal officer David Drummond said in a blog post.

Google’s move came a little over two months after the Internet giant said it had been the victim of sophisticated cyberattacks originating from China.

China could overtake US by 2020: PWC

AFP – China could overtake the United States to become the world’s largest economy as early as 2020, a top business consultancy said on Thursday, underlining the “seismic change” in global economic power.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) also said in its report that by 2030 the top 10 world economies could be China, followed by the United States, India, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Germany, Mexico, France and Britain.

The current 10 largest economies, according to 2008 data from the International Monetary Fund, are the United States, Japan, China, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Russia, Spain and Brazil.

“These projects suggest that China could be the largest economy in the world as early as 2020 and is likely to be some way ahead of the US by 2030,” John Hawksworth, head of macroeconomics at PWC, said in the report.

“India could grow even faster than China after 2020, however, and will also move rapidly up the global GDP (gross domestic product) rankings” because of its younger and faster growing population as opposed to China, he added.

The report also pointed to an increasing share of global GDP taken up by China and India, compared to the United States and the European Union.

The proportion in 2010 will be 20 percent for the US, 21 percent for the EU, 13 percent for China and five percent for India, PWC said.

But by 2030 that will have changed to 16 percent for the US, 15 percent for the EU, 19 percent for China and nine percent for India, it added.

Jim O’Neill, chief global economist for US investment bank Goldman Sachs, forecast last November that China will overtake the United States by 2027 — 14 years earlier than a previous Goldman Sachs forecast of 2041 made in 2003.

O’Neill coined the term “BRICs” to refer to the four emerging market powerhouses Brazil, Russia, India and China, which have since formed an informal grouping to discuss global issues and economic policies.

The Group of 20 (G20) developed and emerging economies last year took over from the traditional Group of Seven (G7) — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — as the main forum for economic talks.

China executes British national accused of drug trafficking

A British man convicted of drug smuggling in China has been executed, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

Akmal Shaikh, 53, of London, had denied any wrongdoing and his family said he was mentally ill.

The execution took place despite repeated calls from his family and the British government for clemency.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was appalled and condemned the execution “in the strongest terms”.

Mr Shaikh is the first EU national to be executed in China in 50 years.

Pyongyang considers resuming nuclear talks

North Korea is ready to resume six-nation talks on condition of prior bilateral talks with the United States to improve their relations. The announcement came during a visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to North Korea.

AFP – North Korea said Tuesday it is willing to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament negotiations but only on condition it first holds talks with the United States to improve relations.

Leader Kim Jong-Il gave the commitment at a meeting late Monday in Pyongyang with visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the North’s official news agency reported.

Highlighting the need to restart negotiations, a South Korean source said the North appears to be in the final stages of restoring plutonium-producing plants which it had shut down before abandoning the six-party process.

“The hostile relations between the DPRK (North Korea) and the United States should be converted into peaceful ties through the bilateral talks without fail,” the Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying.

“We expressed our readiness to hold multilateral talks, depending on the outcome of the DPRK-US talks. The six-party talks are also included in the multilateral talks,” the agency paraphrased Kim as saying.

Kim said the North’s efforts to denuclearise the Korean peninsula remain unchanged. China’s official Xinhua news agency said the two leaders reached “vital consensus” on the issue.

The North quit the six-nation forum in April after the United Nations condemned its long-range rocket launch.

In May it staged its second nuclear test, incurring tougher UN sanctions supported even by close ally China. The United States has been leading a drive to enforce the sanctions.

The North has long been pressing for bilateral talks with the United States to end the nuclear standoff.

The US State Department reiterated it is ready for discussions aimed at bringing the North back to the six-nation talks, but the goal must be a complete end to Pyongyang’s nuclear programmes.

“We and our six-party partners want North Korea to engage in a dialogue that leads to complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula through irreversible steps,” said spokesman Ian Kelly in response to the announcement in Pyongyang.

The six-party talks which began in 2003 group the two Koreas, host nation China, the United States, Russia and Japan. The forum reached deals in 2005 and 2007 under which the North shut down its plants at Yongbyon and began disabling them.

After quitting the talks the North vowed to reverse the process.

“There are signs that the restoration of the Yongbyon facility is in its final stage,” the South Korean defence source told Yonhap news agency, citing intelligence reports presented at a parliamentary hearing this week.

Wen’s high-profile three-day visit which ended Tuesday was officially described as a goodwill trip to attend celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

But Beijing is eager to bring Pyongyang back to negotiations. And analysts said Pyongyang cannot afford to snub its sole major ally, biggest trade partner and chief energy supplier.

Kim Jong-Il personally hosted an elaborate red-carpet airport welcome for Wen on Sunday and greeted him with a hug.

The North Koreans “are clearly trying to mend relations with China and show appreciation for its economic assistance,” said Peter Beck, senior researcher at Stanford University in the United States.

“But the North has left itself a lot of wiggle room to back out of the talks if feels it’s not getting what it wants,” he told AFP.

“Given the North’s recent strong statements about the need for its nuclear  programmes, I find it hard to believe it’s ready to give them up any time soon.”

The North has linked denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula to the pace of global atomic disarmament efforts, and claimed it needs atomic weapons as a shield against US hostility.

It also seeks formal recognition as a nuclear-armed state, something Washington and Seoul have adamantly rejected.

Chinese premier visits North Korea

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (photo) is expected to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during his three-day trip to the reclusive Communist nation amid hopes that Pyongyang will return to nuclear disarmament talks.

AFP – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao left for North Korea on Sunday, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said, on a trip that comes amid growing international pressure on Pyongyang to return to disarmament talks.
Wen was due to visit China’s isolated neighbour until Tuesday, according to previous state media reports.

The trip has been portrayed as a goodwill visit by China, but it has also added to expectations of a possible resumption in stalled six-nation denuclearisation talks.

Wen was accompanied on his departure from Beijing by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and by China’s envoy to the six-party talks, Wu Dawei, Xinhua said.

The talks group the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan. Pyongyang quit the forum in protest at United Nations censure of its long-range rocket launch on April 5.

It staged a second atomic weapons test in May, incurring stronger United Nations sanctions supported even by its closest ally and trading partner China.

Xinjiang tense as officials are axed

It is still a far cry from normality. But, amid heavy security after days of ethnic unrest left at least five people dead, China’s restive city of Urumqi has resumed its daily routine. The sacking of two senior officials seems to have partly addressed public complaints about a lack of protection after a spate of mystery syringe attacks. But some Han Chinese think more heads should roll.

One woman in Urumqi demanded the dismissal of the regional Communist Party Secretary Wang Lequan. “We are scared wherever we go and live in fear,” she complained.

“For Wang Lequan to go, it would have to be up to the government,” a Han Chinese man added.

More alleged syringe attacks prompted scenes of panic today. The authorities say hundreds of people have reported needle stabbings which are being blamed on the Xinjiang region’s Uighur community. Ethnic riots in July saw nearly 200 people killed and tension has been simmering between Han Chinese, the country’s majority ethnic group and Uighurs, a largely Muslim people culturally tied to Central Asia and Turkey.