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2013 World News: China

Geopolitical Maritime Dispute Shares Headlines with Change of Leadership

by Beth Rowen

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping

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Four months after being named chairman of the Central Military Commission and general secretary of the Communist Party, Vice President Xi Jinping became president of China. It was only the second time since the party was established in 1949 that power transferred from one leader to another without violence or protest. Xi was expected to propose several changes to China's social and economic policies, and in November the party announced it was relaxing its one-child policy to allow urban parents who were both only children to have two children and was abolishing its system of "re-education through labor."

Chinese Hackers Attack the New York Times

For four months in late 2012 and early 2013, hackers in China attacked The New York Times. Hackers gained access to the paper's computer systems and employee's passwords. The attacks came at the same time that the New York Times reported on an investigation that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's relatives had acquired a several billion dollar fortune through business dealings. Security experts suggested that the attack was part of a wider computer espionage mission against U.S. news media outlets that report on Chinese leaders and business dealings. In fact, a day after The New York Times reported the incident, The Wall Street Journal revealed in a statement that hackers had infiltrated it, too, "for the apparent purpose of monitoring the newspaper's China coverage."

A 60-page study released in Feb. 2013 by Mandiant, a U.S. computer security firm, showed evidence linking Unit 61398, a Chinese military unit, to the groups responsible for a large portion of the recent hacking in the United States. The study, which included digital forensic evidence, didn't prove that the hackers were inside the military unit's headquarters, but did show evidence that they were either inside or very close to Unit 61398.

Bo Xilai Sentenced to Life in Prison

On Sep. 22, 2013, prominent Chinese politician Bo Xilai was sentenced to life in prison. He had been found guilty of embezzlement, accepting bribes, and abuses of power, including a failed attempt to stifle the murder allegations against his wife. His request for an appeal was later rejected.

The son of Bo Yibo, a Communist revolutionary leader, Bo Xilai served as mayor of Dalian, governor of Liaoning, minister of commerce and secretary of the Communist Party's Chongqing branch. Heading into 2012, Bo was considered a strong candidate for the elite Politburo Standing Committee in the 18th National Congress. However, in early 2012, Bo's former police chief, Wang Lijun, went to the U.S. Consulate with information that implicated Bo's wife in the murder of Neil Heywood, a British businessman. Heywood was poisoned in a Chongqing hotel in November 2011. By August 2012, Gu Kailai, Bo's wife, was convicted and given a suspended death sentence, the equivalent of life in prison.

China Declares New Air Defense Zone

In November 2013, China announced a new air defense zone in an area over disputed islands in the East China Sea that have been the source of a dispute between Japan and China for years. The new air defense zone overlapped with an air zone declared by Japan decades ago. China's announcement included a warning that it would take "relevant measures according to different air threats" against any aircraft flying through the zone without first notifying the country.

The United States challenged the new military action threat by sending two unarmed B-52 bombers into the new air defense zone. Soon after, Japan and South Korea announced that they had also flown military planes over the zone and that the flights had been uninterrupted by China. China responded by sending fighter jets into the airspace.

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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