TWO THOUSAND AND NINE has been a momentous year for the world, but especially for China. Late last year, with the Olympics barely over, the global financial crisis delivered a body blow to its economy. Facing the disastrous decline of export markets and the jobs they supported, the government engineered a major stimulus package, and the country now seems to have staged a miraculous recovery. And while economists continue to debate the dimensions and downstream costs of the policies behind the upturn, China has been taking a great propaganda windfall from the financial embarrassment of many western states, not least the United States. Even Australia, which suffered less than most, has owed its resilience primarily to China and – if you believe the media – has found itself on the back foot in a whole series of its dealings with that country.

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