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Top 5 most insightful stories of 2011

Why won't the Arab Spring spread to China and Cuba? How long has China been engaged with Africa?

Kim jong un heir kim jong il north korea 12 19 2011Enlarge
A man watches a TV showing a close-up of Kim Jong Un, in Seoul, South Korea, September 30, 2010. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — What makes a good story?

Sometimes we cover a story because it is tragic. Other times it's scandalous, heartwarming or even -- if we're lucky -- groundbreaking. And then there are times when a story is just too wild and wacky to pass up.

And sometimes a story gives a deeper understanding, not just of a single event but all stories in the region. The story makes you think and makes you look at things differently. Here are GlobalPost's Top 5 most insightful stories of 2011.

1) Sea hunt for ancient Chinese ship off East African coast

Europe's sailing explorers were not the first to ply the unknown oceans around Africa. In the early 1400s, China sent a fleet of huge junk-rigged ships around the world and developed its trade with Africa. So China has been engaged with Africa for centuries, not just in recent years on a hunt for resources to fuel its industrial boom. Interesting.

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2) Zambian election results check Chinese influence

Which brings us to China's current involvement in Africa. It's controversial. Some say that China is setting up a new rapacious trading system with Africa. African dictators like China because Beijing does not ask any pesky questions about human rights or free and fair elections, like Western countries tend to do. Zambian miners complain that new Chinese mine owners are worse than British or South African miner owners. Chinese mine owners do exploit Zambian miners, according to charges in a report by Human Rights Watch.

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3) Was Egypt's revolution just a military coup?

When Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down from power on Feb. 11 the nation’s new, self-appointed military leaders pledged a swift transition to civilian rule within six months. But those elections have taken place but the results are inconclusive. Many charge that the army is still in control and is not allowing a full democracy. Many Egyptian women are protesting, especially after the incident in which a woman protester was stripped half naked and badly beaten by army men.

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4) Why China won't revolt

The Arab Spring was the biggest game changing event of 2011, and its shock waves were felt around the world. But will the sweep of popular unrest and demands for more responsive government reach China? No, because China's youths are too financially comfortable to start a groundswell of revolt, writes GlobalPost senior correspondent Kathleen McLaughlin.

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5) Why no Cuban Autumn?

The Arab Spring did not reach Cuba. Although some protesters demonstrate against the Castros' regime in Havana, they have not been followed by a popular wave of people gathering in the streets. Many Cubans remain committed to socialist goals and the recent reforms implemented by Raul Castro have achieved some improvements. But according to some experts a major reason that a popular revolt has not hit Cuba is the island's shortage of technology like access to the internet and social media tools like Twitter and Facebook.

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Bonus insight! Will North Korea change for the better?

The death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il may bring change to that country. Or will it? And will change improve things for the country's poor and hungry people? Not necessarily, according to the Korea Policy Institute's Christine Ahn. She says that a shift in figureheads doesn't necessarily signal any larger or corresponding shifts for North Korea. She said it is notable how confident North Korea's political elite is in the continuation of the Kim dynasty, with the emergence of Kim Jong Un into the spotlight.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/111222/top-5-most-insightful-stories-2011