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IndiaInc: Will BRICS continue to stand divided?

Nations search for common ground at BRICS Summit, but grouping promises to remain a venue for negotiations rather than cooperations
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India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, shown here walking with his South Korean counterpart in Seoul, will address India's massive trade deficit with China's Hu Jintao this week. A mutually satisfying solution will be crucial to making the BRICS grouping a viable negotiating force. (Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and now South Africa may have little in common but rapid economic growth. But if Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao can hammer out a solution to India's ever-widening trade deficit, the BRICS could well become a potent force in negotiations on more than climate change.

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Tense times continue in Tibet

Details are scarce, but given China's security crackdown, it's clear the situation is serious.
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Tibetans and supporters of the Tibetan cause stage a hunger strike in The Hague on Nov. 16, 2011. (Valerie Kuypers/AFP/Getty Images)

The tense situation on the Tibetan plateau is not getting any better in the days leading up to when Tibetans traditionally celebrate the new year.

Tibetan rights groups outside of China report that another nun set herself on fire this weekend to protest Chinese rule in the region, where unrest has spread far beyond the borders of what China defines as Tibet.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua confirmed the incident, which took place in Aba, a heavily Tibetan part of Sichuan province.

More from GlobalPost: Tibet is burning

Though China hasn't confirmed all of the self-immolations, Tibetan activists say this case marks the 23rd in two years. Both Free Tibet and Xinhua say the 18-year-old nun has died of her injuries.

The number of deaths and scale of protests, along with the scope of the security response, are all particularly hard to pin down. China has gone to extreme lengths to bar all but official government-run media from reporting in the Tibetan region, making confirmation of the incidents nearly impossible.

But given the massive security response and China's efforts to stymy foreign journalists from entering the area, it's clear that serious problems remain.

More from GlobalPost: Video of Tibet self-immolation (GRAPHIC)

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China's top cop, Wang Lijun, sparks speculation after unusual meeting at a US Consulate

Wang Lijun's mysterious meeting at the US Consulate in Chengdu and rumored fallout with Chongqing's party chief Bo Xilai is sparking speculation.
Political intrigue continues to hover over what's happened in the Chinese city of Chongqing, and those trying to read tea leaves now see trouble in the conspicuous absence of the city's Communist Party leader from newspaper front pages.
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Xi Jinping won't be meeting with strangers in Iowa

China apparently doesn't want any unknowns when the man presumed to be the country's next president visits the US.
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US Vice President Joe Biden (R) and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (L) accompanied by their translators walk across the Dujiangyan Irrigation system in Dujiangyan outside Chengdu in China's southwest province of Sichuan on August 21, 2011. Biden said that the world's biggest economy has never defaulted on its debt and never would, during a visit aimed at boosting Chinese confidence in the US economy. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

China apparently doesn't want to deal with any unknowns when the man presumed to be the country's next president visits the United States next week.

More from GlobalPost: Biden tells China Sino-US friendship vital to global economy

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post is reporting that the advance team for Xi Jinping, who is expected to become the next president of China, have requested that while in Iowa, Xi meet only with people he saw there 27 years ago.

Xi went to Iowa in 1985 as an agricultural official, meeting with residents of Muscatine to talk about farming. He'll return to the city on Wednesday for an hour-long meeting with Muscatine residents — but wants to see only those he met in 1985.

One couple told the newspaper they would return to Iowa from their home in Florida to reunite with China's heir apparent.

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China's political thriller still unfolding

Still no clear answers about what has happened to Wang Lijun, well-known corruption fighter.
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Wang Lijun attends a meeting during the annual National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on March 6, 2011, in Beijing. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

China's riveting case of political intrigue continues to unfold, with no clear answers about what has happened to perhaps the country's best-known corruption fighter.

Following confirmation from the US State Department that former Chongqing police head and Deputy Mayor Wang Lijun turned up for a meeting at the US Consulate in Chengdu this week and left on his own volition, China's news media broke its silence on the matter.

The official Xinhua news agency reported Thursday night that authorities were "investigating the incident in which Chongqing Vice Mayor Wang Lijun entered the US consulate in southwest China and remained there for one day."

Online rumors speculate that Wang, right-hand man to Bo Xilai, the charismatic and controversial Communist Party head of Chongqing who is believed to be gunning for a spot in China's central governing body during the upcoming power transition, had a falling out with Bo and headed to the US Consulate seeking asylum.

More form GlobalPost: China's corruption cop goes missing

Wang rose to national fame as Bo's top cop in a massive anti-corruption drive in the megalopolis of Chongqing.

US officials have refused to confirm or deny that's what happened in Chengdu. Meanwhile, bits of unconfirmed evidence are turning up online, adding to the mystery. On Thursday, a dissidents' website posted a letter purportedly written by Wang, intended to be circulated in the event that he's dead or disappeared. Danwei.org posted a translation, which reads largely as a rant against Bo.

"[Bo] has taken over the Party, the people and the whole city of Chongqing, and turned it into his personal fiefdom. His personality is such that he will not give up the goal of become the top mob boss of China and to achieve this goal he is willing to do anything," the letter says.

"Bo Xilai has the reputation of being honest and upright, but he is actually corrupt to the core, conniving at his family members getting outrageously rich."

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China government pushes for real names online

Shutting down Weibo, which has 300 million users, would be too risky.
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A young man uses a computer at an internet bar in Beijing, China. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

China is getting serious in its push for internet users to tie online identities to their real names, potentially making it easier for the government to track and censor internet users.

More from GlobalPost: China's internet users top 500 million

Regulators have announced that by mid-March all users of the wildly popular social media site Sina Weibo must be registered with their real names.

Weibo, something of a Chinese version of Twitter, has become the go-to platform for people with rumors and opinions. The website fairly often outpaces China's news media on stories of corruption and other topics deemed "sensitive."

On Wednesday, the as-yet unconfirmed tale of a corruption-fighting cop possibly seeking asylum in the United States unfolded on Weibo, while newspapers and other media in China remained silent on the sticky topic.

More from GlobalPost: Meet the most interesting person in China

Amidst a continuing clampdown on criticism leading up to its change in power at the top, China's central government is now eyeing Weibo and onlines sites as targets. Facebook and Twitter are already blocked in China, the government's response to fears over social media stoking social unrest.

Now it has a Weibo problem and the risks of shutting of that service and ticking off more than 300 million users are potentially too great. Instead, regulators want users to register under their verified real names, which could cast a chill on free expression in a country where police have arrested and detained people over Twitter posts.

A Beijing-based internet regulator told the state-run Global Times newspaper that, in fact, the change was being welcomed by internet users.

"The real-name system is welcomed by service providers and has won support from the majority of web users. For the government, the move will promote social, economic and cultural development," the official reportedly said.

"For service providers, the real-name system will help build their credibility, and eliminate the spread of rumors and false information."

More from GlobalPost: Soft power: It's culture war for India and China

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China's corruption cop goes missing in real-time political thriller

Rumor claims Chongqing's Wang Liqun asked for asylum but city government say he's undergoing "vacation-style therapy."
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Chongqing's Wang Liqun answers media questions after a meeting during the annual National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on Mar. 6, 2011 in Beijing, China. (Feng Li/AFP/Getty Images)

A political thriller is playing out in real time in China, with rampant speculation over just what has happened to the man best known for busting triads and corruption in the megalopolis of Chongqing.

The drama sparked off when Wang Liqun, famous as the corruption fighter of Chongqing, was reassigned to a different job about a week ago. Speculation spread across the internet, mostly on Sina Weibo, over what was happening behind the scenes.

More from GlobalPost: China's internet users top 500 million

On Wednesday, the drama ratcheted upward when pictures began emerging on Weibo of armed police troops around and near the US consulate in Chengdu — the nearest US government presence to Chongqing.

The going rumor: That Wang, desperate to save himself from politically motivated punishment for crossing the notoriously ambitious Communist Party chief of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, had turned up at the consulate with incriminating documents, asking for asylum in return. Gossip says Wang's plea was rejected and he walked out of the embassy into the waiting arms of security forces.

More from GlobalPost: Has people power in China gone mainstream?

Wang could not be reached on Wednesday and the US embassy in Beijing wouldn't comment on the matter, so it's been impossible to confirm the reports or find original sources.

But it's apparent something strange is afoot. On its official Weibo account, the Chongqing city government posted that Wang is undergoing "vacation-style medical treatment," for overwork and exhaustion.

More from GlobalPost: Was Chairman Mao a malaria fighter?

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Chinese land rights again proven major source of unrest

A new study outlines the recent increased percentage of land grabs.
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Villagers dismantle a tree barricade on a bridge leading into the village of Wukan, after residents reached an agreement with government officials over illegal land grabs and the death in custody of a local leader in Wukan, Guangdong Province on December 20, 2011. The village of around 13,000 inhabitants accused local officials of stealing communal land without compensating them with anger boiling over with the death in police custody of a village leader tasked with negotiating with authorities over the row. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Almost half of China's farmers have lost their land under shady circumstances to the government and developers, further feeding the country's simmering problem of unrest caused by land losses and forced relocation.

A new study published on Tuesday found that 43 percent of China's farmers have fallen victim to land grabs, often orchestrated by local governments, leaving property holders unfairly compensated and lacking in means to make a living.

Last year, surveys showed that more than half of China's tens of thousands of protests per year are directly related to land loss and forced resettlement.

More from GlobalPost: For development, China moves millions

The survey, which was originally published in the 21st Century Business Herald, found that farmers typically received less than market value in compensation when their land was taken, furthering a sentiment of unhappiness toward the government and potential political turmoil. Almost one-quarter of them got no compensation at all.

The land situation came to a head in Wukan, in the Guangdong province, late last year when villagers took over the town government offices and ran officials out of town. Remarkably, Wukan has been a success story; last week marked the first step to what residents vow will be free elections for a new town leadership.

More from GlobalPost: Democracy in rural China begins to take hold

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Chinese will not pay EU carbon emissions fee

Media outlets claim the tax is aimed at developing countries.
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Passengers watch as a Chinese passenger plane unloads travellers at the airport in Yantai, in eastern China's Shandong province on February 6, 201. China said it has banned its airlines from complying with an EU scheme to impose charges on carbon emissions opposed by more than two dozen countries including India, Russia and the United States. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

China is pushing back against new European Commission carbon curbs, ordering domestic airlines to refuse to pay the carbon emissions charges levied on landing in European Union member countries.

More from GlobalPost: China orders airlines not to pay Europe for carbon emissions

The world's largest producer of carbon emissions has fought longstanding battles against worldwide emissions targets and caps, and is now labeling the EU tax unreasonable. State-run media have taken up the cause, saying the tax penalizes developing countries, a bloc where China has worked hard to tag itself the leader.

More from GlobalPost: China joins US in opposing EU carbon tax on airlines

"In this way the underdevelopment and disadvantage of developing countries, which have been caused, to certain extent, by some European countries' colonization, is feeding the greediness of their former colonizers," the state-run China Daily newspaper said in an editorial on Tuesday about the EU carbon tax. "We must fight against it."

The newspaper said Chinese airlines estimate the tax would force them to raise prices by about $48 per passenger ticket.

More from GlobalPost: Chinese airlines refuse to pay EU carbon tax

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Exiled Tibetan government makes call for help

In the wake of three more reported self-immolations, Tibet's government-in-exile has asked for international assistance in negotiating with China.
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Buddhists attend a candle vigil by the Tibetan Community in memory of self immolations in Tibet during the eighth day of the Kalachakra Festival in Bodhgaya on January 8, 2012. Kalachakra 2012, a festival of teachings and meditations will take place from January 1, 2012 for ten days in the northern Indian state of Bihar and will be attended by Tibetan Spiritual Leader The Dalai Lama. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)

In the wake of three more Tibetans reportedly immolating themselves over the weekend, Tibet's government-in-exile has asked for international assistance in negotiating with China.

In a webcast press conference on Monday, an official with the exiled government in Dharamsala said Tibetans worldwide would hold a vigil on Feb. 8 to draw further international attention to the situation in greater Tibet, which includes the Tibetan autonomous region in China and parts of other provinces.

In the past few months there have been 19 reported cases of Tibetans self-immolating in protest over Chinese rule of the region. The protests are believed to stem from China's tight control on Tibetans' religious practices and their calls to be allowed to recognize the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader.

More from GlobalPost: China cut internet and phone access in Tibet

Radio Free Asia, one of the only international media organizations able to track events in the area because of tight controls on foreign journalists by China, reported that over the weekend, three Tibetan herders set themselves on fire in a Tibetan part of Sichuan province. 

The region is not likely to cool down any time soon. In addition to plans for the vigil on Feb. 8, Tibetan New Year is coming up at the end of February, while March 10 marks the anniversary of a Chinese crackdown in Tibet. That date touched off violent protests in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet in 2008.

More from GlobalPost: Tibetan activists continue protests

“We don’t know which direction it’s going to go. We’re following very closely, but we don’t know,” said Dicki Chhoyang, international relations spokeswoman for international relations. “The Chinese government could put an end to this by listening to the grievances of the people and engaging them through dialogue.” 

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