AFP: Evidence of China's rise everywhere in 2007

From the depths of Earth's oil fields to the rarefied atmosphere of space, evidence of China's modernisation seemed to be everywhere in 2007 - a rise set to be enshrined with next year's Olympics.

China will soon overtake Germany as having the world's third biggest economy after a fifth straight year of double-digit growth, and its expanding wealth had huge impacts at home and abroad over the past year.

In Shanghai, the value of China's stock market climbed spectacularly as investors continued to plough in their new riches, while around the country the building of skyscrapers and new factories pushed ahead at a frantic pace.

But while the rest of the world enjoyed the countless cheap products exported from China and the increasing economic opportunities offered inside the country, its growing influence in world trade also caused problems.

The United States and Europe hauled China before the World Trade Organisation over a range of what they alleged were unfair trade practices, with one of the complaints from the US side being about rampant copyright abuse.

China's tight control over its currency remained one of the biggest points of tension with its major trading partners, who believe the yuan is being kept artificially weak and thereby giving Chinese exporters an unfair advantage.

The "Made in China" reputation also took a battering throughout the year as a wide range of exports to the United States, Europe and elsewhere failed to meet safety and quality standards.

But China's export juggernaut withstood all these problems, and the nation's trade surplus is on track for a record annual total of well over $US200 billion ($A231.12 billion).

China's rise in other spheres generated many other concerns around the world.

But the increasingly confident Asian power - led by President Hu Jintao who was installed in October as ruling Communist Party chief for another five years - shrugged off the criticism and ploughed ahead.

One of the most contentious issues was China's determination to deal with so-called pariah regimes to secure resources to fuel its booming economy.

Western critics lambasted China for not taking into account human rights and geopolitical considerations when signing oil contracts with governments such as the one in Sudan, which the US administration has accused of genocide.

Highlighting its determination to go its own way, China this month signed a $US2 billion ($A2.3 billion) contract to develop a major oil field in Iran, which the United States claims is a nuclear threat and sponsor of terrorism.

One other high-profile act from China was its successful shooting down of a satellite in January - becoming only the third nation to do so - in a test that raised global concerns of a renewed arms race to weaponise outer space.

While the United States and others expressed concern, China pressed on with what it insisted was its peaceful space program and in October sent its first lunar probe into orbit.

One undeniably negative impact of China's economic rise was the consequences for the environment.

The International Energy Agency said in November that China would this year overtake the United States as the world's biggest polluter of greenhouse gases, which are blamed for global warming.

The Chinese capital's polluted skies were a particular concern for the organisers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

International Olympic Commission chief Jacques Rogge warned events at the Games may be postponed if the pollution was too severe.

The Olympics also offered a platform for critics of China's human rights record, and they offered a hint of their intentions for the August Games during the one-year countdown with a series of protests.

But preparations for the Olympics were otherwise almost perfect and China's hopes to use the Games as a global coming-of-age party remained well on track.

"The Olympics are all about China being accepted as a major power in the global system and that they are capable of hosting a major global event," said Brian Bridges, a political professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

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