In November, China's Communist rulers announced an easing of the controversial one-child policy amid a raft of sweeping pledges unveiled including the abolition of 're-education' labor camps and loosening economic controls. STR/AFP/Getty Images
China has more Internet users than any other country, with more than 500 million people online, and an estimated 300 million microblog users. Although the services are censored -- with sensitive terms blocked and posts deleted -- the speed with which information can be disseminated has proven a headache for Beijing. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Image/FILE
Chinese consumers overtook Americans in December 2012 as the biggest buyers of luxury goods in the world -- accounting for 25% of global sales through purchases at home and overseas. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/GettyImages
China is pushing to become a global space power, and experts say its ambitions go well beyond a symbolic moon landing, to satellite observation and a global positioning system to rival that of the United States. PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on August 14, 2013 shows smoke rising from a chimney at a coal chemical factory in Huaibei, east China's Anhui province. China has soared almost to the top of the world's economic league tables, but whether the official data underpinning its status can be trusted is a constant headache, analysts say.
Villagers stand in front of a "money wall" in Sichuan, China waiting to collect their year-end bonus from their investments in January 2014. Imaginechina via AP Images