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A clash between Asia's giants

China and Japan’s relations are strained. American Pols interested in high-speed rail. China shoots for the moon. Gates and Buffet look for Chinese charity cash. Apple conquers the mainland. Iverson heading to the CBA?

Chinese students hold flag


Top News:Relations between Asia’s two largest powers, China and Japan, are fraying, after a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japanese coast guard boats near a disputed group of islands. Japan arrested the Chinese captain, which sparked a wave of anti-Japanese sentiment throughout China, including the canceling of several bilateral diplomatic talks and widespread state-sponsored street protests. In Japan, the right wing also used the incident as an excuse to bash the government for eventually releasing the captain. With thousands of travelers between the two countries canceling flights, the pressure for a diplomatic solution is growing.

After years of rumor and debate, the National People’s Congress finally approved a plan for construction of a maglev high-speed train line between Hangzhou and Shanghai, two of eastern China’s most important business centers. The train is expected to reach speeds of about 270 mph, making it the fastest train in the world. The project will cost about $3.22 billion and will make Hangzhou essentially a Shanghai suburb.

China’s push for high-speed railway is attracting the attention of American politicians. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visited China as part of a fact-finding mission to build high-speed rail in his state. While Chicago mayor Daley also visited and is now pushing for a high-speed railway between O’Hare Airport and downtown Chicago.

After years of government seizures of farmland, the inevitable is finally happening — vegetable prices are soaring, according to state-owned paper Global Times. Transport and storage costs, after veggies are shuttled in from rural provinces, are adding nearly $2 to every kilogram of produce. Some governments are now trying to designate new land for growing vegetables, but with many farmers switching professions, it is probably too late.

China’s Public Security Bureau, Supreme Court, Ministry of Justice and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate jointly announced that those violating food protection laws and standards would face the death penalty. After years of highly publicized food contamination scandals, the government hopes that it can deter food makers from poisoning their customers for a quick buck.

The Public Security Bureau’s crackdown on human trafficking is showing results. Since April, when the crackdown began, Chinese police have freed a staggering 10,621 women and 5,896 children who had been abducted. Authorities also arrested 15,673 suspects, and, through its DNA database, reunited 813 children with their parents.

Perhaps in celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival, where Chinese families get together to gaze at the year’s brightest moon, China’s rocket scientists have announced a timetable for the country’s first manned moon landing. In addition, officials said that they would launch a space station and probes to Venus and Mars. They hope to have a man on the moon by 2025.

On the other hand, China does not hope to have a Nobel prize winner anytime soon. China’s Deputy Foreign Minster threatened Nobel Institute Director Geir Lundestad that if the famed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the prize, relations between China and Norway would be severely hurt. Lundestad responded that the committee’s decisions are completely independent and that the threat will not affect the outcome of the prize.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China, however, is not as bold in the face of Chinese threats to freedom. Richard McGregor, the author of “The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers,” wrote in the Financial Times that Amcham refused to publish an interview with him and an article he wrote for their magazine, after Chinese government officials pressured the Americans. A quasi-U.S. government agency bowing down to Chinese censorship is a real disgrace, but then again keeping a magazine running in China is tough.

Money:Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are coming to China in an effort to get more Chinese billionaires involved in philanthropy. Unfortunately, rumors say that of the 50 billionaires invited only two have accepted. The others are worried that they will be pressured into giving to charity. The lack of generosity among China’s rich is nothing new. Out of the country’s 50 wealthiest in the last decade 17 are now in jail for corruption or fraud. In addition, China’s philanthropic donations were $8 billion last year compared to $308 billion in the U.S.

Chinese are willing to spend on luxury goods, even in small cities. A new survey by China Market Research Group says that Chinese living in Tier 5 cities, the smallest with populations under 600,000, spend just as much on food, clothes, entertainment and health as their big city peers. Many luxury brands, like Louis Vuitton and Swarovski, are already expanding to smaller Chinese cities.

Apple is hoping to capitalize on China’s new spending binge, as it opened two new stores in September. Both the Beijing and Shanghai openings, which were the second stores in each city, drew long lines of Apple fans looking to buy the new iPhone 4. The company hopes to have 25 stores opened by the end of 2011.

Elsewhere: Following in the footsteps of Stephon Marbury, aging superstar basketball player Allen Iverson is looking to play in China. Marbury is all for the move, but Iverson hasn’t signed anything yet.

Walmart has really taken to the local market. Check out these pictures of shark meat being sold at a megastore somewhere in China. Disclaimer: the photos might be a bit unsettling for animal lovers.

If you are headed to Shanghai and are looking for some recommendations for good food, check out these great blogs: Life on Nanchang Lu, From Dumplings to Donuts, Shanghai Foodist.