China-- Your impressions?

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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  eddie on Thu Nov 03, 2011 9:20 pm

Will China Help Europe Out Of The Red?

By Holly Williams, China correspondent
Sky News


The G20 summit will showcase a historical shift in power to the East, with Europe looking to China to rescue it from its financial woes.

Klaus Regling, the head of the European Financial Stability Facility, recently visited Beijing to try to persuade the Chinese to put their money into the European bailout fund.

Thanks to its 30-year boom, and exports that far outstrip what it imports, China has the world's largest foreign currency reserves - around U\$3trn (£1.9trn).

More than one-third of that is already invested in American treasury bonds, and it is estimated China holds another 600bn euro (£517bn) in euro-denominated debt.

If China does stump up some cash for the fund, it will not be out of kindness.

China buys foreign debt because it has an interest in doing so: the US and Europe are its two biggest export markets, so by keeping them afloat it is insuring that its best customers keep on buying.

But China may need some convincing when it comes to the European bailout. After all, with several European economies in crisis, such an investment would not be without risk.

Some believe China will ask for political concessions - like being recognised as a full market economy, which would give Chinese companies greater access to Europe, or an end to the arms embargo that the EU placed on China after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Others think that is unlikely.

"Everything is up for discussion, but the most important thing for the Chinese government is whether the investment is safe," said Li Zhengxin, an editor with Caixin, China's highest-circulation financial magazine.

"If we can gain some favourable policies or symbolic gestures, that's secondary."

Beijing has continued to buy euro-denominated debt over the past few months, and will almost certainly take on more.

Yet, the Chinese government clearly does not want to be seen as an easy source of money for cash-strapped advanced economies.

State-controlled media has said China cannot be "a saviour to the Europeans".

China's role as a potential saviour makes negotiating on other issues more difficult.

For several years, policymakers in both the US and the EU have asked China to allow its currency, the Renminbi, to appreciate in value.

It is widely thought the currency - which is pegged to the US dollar - is undervalued, giving Chinese companies an advantage vis-a-vis their Western competitors.

But Beijing has allowed the Renminbi to rise by only 4% this year, and it is even less likely to be accommodating now that it is being asked for help.

The country's leadership is also annoyed about a US bill that would impose tariffs on China for "manipulating" its currency.

Finally, the Chinese government knows its increasingly nationalistic public takes a dim view of helping out the West.

"It's like a rich man who has wasted all his money coming to a poor man for help," said He Xingyuan, an unemployed migrant worker in Beijing.

"We shouldn't help them."

A man who identified himself only by his surname Han said: "Western countries invaded us in the past.

"We can help them now, but they should give us something in return."
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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  Constance on Wed Nov 09, 2011 1:16 am

China's Great Gender Crisis

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/02/chinas-great-gender-crisis?CMP=EMCGT_031111

China's great gender crisis
Chinese families have long favoured sons over daughters, meaning the country now has a huge surplus of men. Is it also leading to a profound shift in attitudes to women?

Newborn babies in Beijing: some families are beginning to think it may be an advantage to have girls
Photograph: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

His parents knew exactly what they wanted from their son: they called him Famiao, or "produce descendants". Yet when their first grandchild arrived, they refused to step across the courtyard of the family home to see the new baby. Qiaoyue was a girl.
When finally obliged to meet her, "they didn't even wash her face or comb her hair. I was furious," says their daughter-in-law, Chen Xingxiao.
"My father-in-law's friends would ask him, 'How come you haven't brought your grandchild out for a walk?' He would say, 'If it was a boy I would have done. She's a girl, so I won't.'"
Chen's righteous anger is perhaps more surprising than her in-laws' disdain. China's preference for sons stretches back for centuries. Infanticide, the abandonment of girl babies and favourable treatment of boys in terms of food and health has long produced a surplus of men. In the past two decades, the gap at birth has soared: the advent of ultrasound scans has allowed people to abort female foetuses, even though sex-selective abortion is illegal.
In the early 1980s there were 108 male births to every 100 female, only slightly above the natural rate; by 2000 that had soared to 120 males, and in some provinces, such as Anhui, Jiangxi and Shaanxi, to more than 130. The result is that more than 35 million women are "missing". Though China is not the only country affected – India's situation is similar – it has by far the widest gap; its one-child policy has exacerbated the problem.
The effects of the discrepancy are only now emerging in full. The country has tens of millions of men who are destined to die single. Some fear that the excess will lead to increased sexual violence, general crime and social instability. Yet campaigners see the first signs of hope, as more parents come round to Chen's way of thinking. Official statistics released this summer suggest the sex ratio at birth (SRB) has fallen slightly for two years running, to just over 118 males in 2010.
China's population and family planning chief, Dr Li Bin, said it showed the discrepancy "has been preliminarily brought under control"; while experts are more cautious, they agree that the figures offer some hope. The country's new Five Year Plan sets an ambitious target of cutting the ratio to 112 or 113 by 2016. Could China at last be poised to close the sex gap?
No one is claiming victory quite yet: in fact, the government has just pledged to get tougher, launching a new drive against sex-selective abortion. It is increasing safeguards – such as the requirement that two doctors are present at each ultrasound – and toughening punishments. Institutions, as well as individuals, will be held responsible for breaches; the worst offenders risk having their medical licences withdrawn.
"[In the short term] cracking down on illegal foetal sex testing and sex-selective abortions is very important and effective," says Professor Li Shuzhuo, of the Institute for Population and Development Studies at Xi'an Jiaotong University. But he acknowledges medical staff often find ways to indicate a baby's sex, despite the law. They may nod or shake their head; or use a full stop or comma at the end of medical notes – to indicate that parents have achieved their goal or must continue efforts to have a boy.
Other experts fear that cracking down on sex-selective abortion could lead to unsafe, illicit abortions or infanticide if the underlying wishes of the parents remain unchanged. In other words, the battle for China's baby girls will ultimately depend on changing preferences. But as Li points out, that is a long-term struggle, and society pays a high price in the meantime.
The roots of son-preference lie deep in Chinese culture. Traditionally, the bloodline passes through the male side. Women also "marry out", joining their husband's families and looking after their in-laws, not their own parents. For a long time, a son was your pension. Having a girl was wasteful. "Even though son-preference is not rational from the viewpoint of society as a whole, it is a rational choice for an individual," says Li.
Chen's home lies near lush rice paddies, where farmers in wide-brimmed straw hats bend double. The community used to rely on agriculture and believed a boy was necessary for the heaviest work in the fields.
"I can't really blame [my in-laws]; their view was a common one. We have a saying, 'The better sons you have, the better life we can have,' because men have more strength and can carry out more work," says Chen.
In fact, official policy has adapted to these assumptions. China's strict birth-control rules, introduced just over 30 years ago to curb a soaring population, restrict most couples to one birth. But there are several exemptions. Ethnic-minority families are allowed more than one child; couples who are both only children are permitted to have two. The most striking example is the exception made for rural households. While their urban counterparts are generally restricted to one birth, rural couples are allowed a second - if their first is a girl. The statistics show just how important producing at least one son is: the sex ratios for second and third births are vastly more skewed than for first children.
When Chen's daughter was born, a little over 30 years ago, the consequences of the ultrasound had yet to be felt in Shengzhou. But by 1982, 124 boys were being born for every 100 girls. Five years later that figure had risen again, to 129.
Then something striking happened: the ratio dropped steeply. By 1996 it was 109.5. Soon after, according to statistics, it returned to the natural level.
You do not have to look far for part of the explanation. Shengzhou is, it boasts, International Necktie City of the 21st Century, making 350m ties a year – or 40% of the world's supply – as well as huge quantities of gas stoves and cone diaphragms for speakers.
Its factories offer plenty of jobs for daughters, allowing them to make a hefty economic contribution to the household. Across the country, manufacturers have frequently preferred female employees, regarding them as more careful and less troublesome.
Many rural families have less land than they used to; and machinery is available to work the soil, making brute strength less important. China is beginning to develop a welfare system. And development has brought other changes – couples who move into cities have more exposure to new ideas, and less pressure from extended families, say experts.
Old habits and beliefs are eroding. In villages as well as towns, conjugal ties between husband and wife have become more important, while the filial links between parent and child have become less so. Young couples are more likely to live apart from relatives. Few parents can now count on a dutiful daughter-in-law caring for them; and many are noticing that daughters are doing a better job.
Chen admits that she was initially disappointed when her daughter was born. "Of course, I wanted to have a boy. But after giving birth, I thought: 'I don't care. This is my baby,'" she says.
"I looked around me; one of my neighbours had five sons and one daughter. One day, when he was 60 or 70, he wanted some money from his sons for living costs. He cooked a tableful of dishes and bought wine and invited his sons. But none of them agreed to give the money to him. He was furious and smashed the table with his stick. And I thought: 'Well, sons are useless.'"
Meanwhile, she noticed, daughters were returning to visit their parents, bringing gifts and money. Despite strong pressure from her husband and in-laws, she refused to have another child: Qiaoyue was enough for her.
Anthropologist Yunxiang Yan's work suggests that others in China are drawing similar conclusions – and that it is changing their attitude towards girls.
"You can see clearly that a trend of treating sons and daughters equally is slowly emerging in some regions and developing in others," says Yan, of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Some even think that son preference may partially correct itself. The surplus of men has increased competition for brides, meaning families must buy ever more expensive housing to ensure their sons can marry – increasing the economic attractiveness of daughters.
The government has spent an estimated 300 million yuan (£29.5m) trying to precipitate this shift in preferences. Li is the lead consultant in the Care for Girls programme, which combines carrot and stick with educational projects.
There are punishments for sex-selective abortions and extra subsidies for couples who do not use their right to a second child after having a daughter. One county in Fujian has built houses for daughter-only families.
But Ru Xiaomei, deputy director of the international liaison department at the National Population and Family Planning Commission, says the programme is designed to promote female equality in general. So there are roadside signs telling villagers that girls can continue the family line; focus-group discussions for mothers-in-law; help packages for women starting businesses and extra encouragement for girls to enter schools. Officials have even tried to promote the idea of men marrying into women's families, rather than vice versa.
A pilot programme in 24 areas, selected for their very high imbalances, saw the average ratio fall from almost 134 in 2000 to just under 120 in 2005 – still high, as the experts involved acknowledge, but a substantial improvement. It has since been rolled out across China; Li says it is hard to know how exactly how much of a difference it is making, but is confident it has shown results across the country.
Others have concerns: Dr Lisa Eklund of Sweden's Lund University suggests in a recent thesis on son preference that parts of the programme could backfire. Capitalising on gender norms – such as the idea that women are caring – may increase sympathy for girls in the short term, but in the long run reinforce stereotypes – and, thereby, son preference.
Similarly, the social and economic incentives "are partially based on the assumption that having daughters creates vulnerability ... They convey the message that daughters are not as valuable as sons, and that families with only daughters are in need of financial support," she warns.
Whatever the merits of individual policies, government intervention has helped to rebalance births. In the early 90s, South Korea had Asia's highest ratio at birth; by 2007, it had a normal rate. Experts suggest that reforming the family law system, expanding female employment and increasing urbanisation were key.
"I think that the preference for sons is decreasing in China, especially in the more affluent coastal areas, where the SRB shot up fastest earlier," says Dr Monica Das Gupta of the World Bank, who has been tracking son preference in Asia. "But you shouldn't expect to see the sharp decline you saw in South Korea, because South Korea is a small, homogeneous country ... The new ideas swept through the country very quickly. In China it will take longer because of its size and internal differentiation."
Professor Yuan Xin, of Nankai University's Population and Development Institute, warns that it will take at least 10 or 20 years' more work to end a preference that dates back thousands of years. Others think that is optimistic.
Chen says she has witnessed attitudes in Shengzhou shift in the past few decades. Even her in-laws have been won over, because her daughter treats them so well. "I'm not boasting, but I think I took the lead," she says. "There's been a very positive trend, but I won't say things have changed totally."
Recently, a neighbour agreed to have a second child under intense pressure from her husband's family, joking that she was damned if the next child was a girl. "It was twin daughters," says Chen ruefully. "The mother-in-law still wants boys.
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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  eddie on Sun Nov 13, 2011 3:05 pm

Liu Xiaobo: new book lifts China's gag on jailed Nobel peace prizewinner

Liu Xiaobo, winner of Nobel peace prize, will have his collected writings published in English for the first time

Dalya Alberge
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 12 November 2011 20.00 GMT


Liu Xiaobo’s book contains a moving tribute to his wife, the poet Liu Xia. Photograph: EPA

The collected writings of Chinese Nobel prizewinner Liu Xiaobo have been translated into English for the first time, but there will be no interviews, bookshop signings or appearances at literary festivals. The author is not even aware of the English translation, because he remains incarcerated in a Chinese jail and his wife is under house arrest.

Liu, who won last year's Nobel peace prize, is serving an 11-year sentence that began in 2009 for "inciting subversion of state power". Friends have been unable to contact his wife, Liu Xia, even though she has not been charged with anything.

The 55-year-old former professor at Beijing University has repeatedly been detained or arrested and sentenced over the years for his relentless but peaceful political activities, calling for democratic reforms, including freedom of expression, and condemning China's treatment of Tibet. He was barred from attending the Nobel ceremony, and at the funeral of his father earlier this year he was forbidden from talking to anybody.

But, although silenced in China, his voice will be heard again in the west with the first English-language collection of his essays and poetry, which Harvard University Press will publish in January under the title No Enemies, No Hatred.

The 345-page volume will also include "evidence" cited against him by the Chinese court that sentenced him. The publishers describe the book as a critical insider's account of contemporary China, as well as comparative views of eastern and western cultures.

Work by a team of 14 translators has been edited by Perry Link, professor of comparative literature at the University of California. He said that, until the Nobel, Liu was little known in the west: "This collection offers to the reader of English the full range of his astute and penetrating analyses of culture, politics and society in China today."

Liu came to the attention of the authorities in 1989, during the suppression of protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. He was sent to prison for 19 months. In 1995 there was another seven months behind bars, with no reason given, although it happened after he released a petition called "Learn from the Lesson Written in Blood and Push Democracy". In 1996 he fell foul of the authorities again for speaking out about China's one-party political system. Charges of "disturbing public order" led to his "re-education" – imprisonment in a labour camp for three years.

It was there that he wrote most of the poems in the Harvard volume, including a particularly tender one entitled Your Lifelong Prisoner, dedicated to his wife. Link said: "Xiaobo's humane values took shape most obviously during the late 1990s when he and Liu Xia, a poet, fell in love and married, and this poem was written then. He wrote it in a prison, so the contrast between 'unwilling physical prisoner of the state' and 'willing spiritual prisoner of my lover' has real-world significance."

Liu Xia was allowed to visit him once a month, making the 1,100-mile round trip from Beijing 36 times. Despite personal risks, he wrote repeatedly of police brutality – a woman beaten up "enough to disfigure her face" – and of the persecution of people "for their words", observing: "The price of freedom is to go to the limit."

Such a man cannot be silenced, Link said: "Once you've put someone in prison, other than… execute him, there's no further punishment to exact. In that sense it frees the writer. About six or eight years ago, he just made the decision: 'OK, no more self-censorship. I'm going to write down what I think exactly and if I go to prison, I go to prison.'"

The book's foreword has been written by Václav Havel, the Czech writer and fellow brave dissident whose own Charter 77, which called for human rights in 1970s Czechoslovakia, inspired Liu and other Chinese activists to put forward their own manifesto, Charter 08. Havel writes in the Harvard book: "Despite Liu's imprisonment, his ideas cannot be shackled."
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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  eddie on Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:37 pm

Sweetie And Sunshine Prepare For Life In UK

By Holly Williams, China correspondent
Sky News – Fri, Dec 2, 2011


Sweetie And Sunshine Prepare For Life In UK

Edinburgh Zoo is about to take delivery of two of the rarest animals on the planet - a pair of giant pandas on loan from the Chinese government.

Sunshine and Sweetie - Yangguang and Tian Tian in Chinese - are both seven-years-old. They have grown up together in the misty mountains of southwest China.

On Sunday they will embark on a 5,000 mile journey to Scotland, where they will become star exhibits at the Edinburgh Zoo.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland will pay more than £600,000 a year for the loan of the pandas, plus another £70,000 on imported bamboo. The pair eat 18,000kg of the plant every year.

Sunshine and Sweetie will fly to the UK on a specially fitted Fedex cargo plane, along with their "nanny" Xie Hao.

Mr Xie has raised the two since birth, and will stay with them in Edinburgh for a month before returning home to China.

"I've looked after them since they were little, so it will be painful being separated from them," he told Sky News.

"Sweetie is more sensitive, more of an introvert because she's a girl. But Sunshine is braver, so he may find it easier to adapt."

Sunshine and Sweetie will be the first pandas to live in Britain in nearly 20 years, and the first ever to be kept in captivity in Scotland.

The hope is that they will produce a cub during their 10-year stay.

Pandas are notoriously unwilling to reproduce in captivity. The Chinese breeding programme has used viagra, herbal medicine and artificial insemination in its efforts to increase panda numbers.

At one point keepers even resorted to "panda porn" - showing the animals videos of other members of their species copulating.

To help encourage the process in Edinburgh , the zoo has built them a new enclosure that includes three dens, a bedroom and a viewing platform.

If Sunshine and Sweetie do produce a baby it will be the first ever panda cub born in Britain.

The pandas will be on show from December 16.

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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  Constance on Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:38 am

In Chinese, the words for panda are shang mao, "mountain cat."
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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  Constance on Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:39 am

But, I wonder, why don't they have Chinese names? Their names must be translations.
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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  eddie on Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:45 am

I seem to recall a panda thread on ATUI, so I guess this is the AATU version.
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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  Constance on Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:50 am

In Beijing, I saw a panda rocking in a rocking chair.
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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  eddie on Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:05 am


Stephen Collins.
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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  eddie on Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:23 am

The Death of Mao by James Palmer – review

Disaster and intrigue in China after the cultural revolution

Rana Mitter

guardian.co.uk, Friday 27 January 2012 22.55 GMT


Tangshan City in Hobei province after the 1976 earthquake. Photograph: Bettmann/CORBIS

On 12 May 2008, a devastating earthquake ripped apart Wenchuan county in Sichuan province, southwest China. Military and civilian rescuers arrived swiftly at the scene, saving countless lives. Although more than 68,000 people died, the number of fatalities could have been much higher.


The Death of Mao: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Birth of the New China
by James Palmer

An indication of how much higher had been made clear on 28 July 1976, when the nondescript mining city of Tangshan in northern China was hit by an earthquake which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and killed some 250,000 people. At the time, many Chinese regarded the disaster as a portent of great change. Already that year two major Chinese leaders, premier Zhou Enlai and senior marshal Zhu De, had died. And just two months later, on 9 September, Mao Zedong, the man who had led China for more than quarter of a century, himself went to meet his maker – Marx, of course.

James Palmer's book weaves together these two narratives of natural disaster and elite political intrigue to provide a lucid account of one of the eeriest moments in modern Chinese history. Palmer takes us inside Zhongnanhai, the party complex formerly inhabited by the emperors in the heart of Beijing, and brings to life the personalities jockeying for power as Mao lay dying of Lou Gehrig's disease. On the left, the cultural revolution group radicals were led by Mao's wife Jiang Qing, who once declared "Sex is engaging in the first rounds, but what really sustains attention in the long run is power."

The Chinese (and western) prejudice against powerful women has tended to give Jiang a uniquely demonic quality, and Palmer does well to remind readers of the role of figures such as the venal and overpromoted Wang Hongwen who whiled away the time during Mao's deathwatch by riding his motorbike and watching imported Hong Kong movies (although not simultaneously). On the right, the dying Zhou, stricken with cancer, sought to promote Deng Xiaoping, whose economic reforms he thought essential to rescue China from the inward-looking xenophobia of the cultural revolution. Yet this was not a melodrama of evil and good, or even radicalism versus reform. Even Zhou had plenty of blood on his hands, voting for all Mao's decisions to deepen the cultural revolution; in Palmer's telling phrase, he "saved more monuments than people".

Just a few hundred miles away from the chairman's deathbed, thousands of ordinary Chinese were about to meet a sudden and much more horrific end. The earthquake hit Tangshan with the force of 400 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs, and its effect was felt as far afield as Beijing. Yet the help that arrived was patchy and almost all concentrated on the city, where the economically vital industrial equipment was located, rather than the rural areas. There were many heroic tales of people rescuing each other. There were also numerous cases of rape and looting. Palmer has interviewed survivors of the earthquake, some of whom had never before had a chance to tell their stories of struggling to survive in a city whose streets were lined with corpses and where help seemed very far off. One theme emerges clearly: the state was distracted by the crisis of succession and unable to deal with a more immediate and unexpected shock.

Palmer's account is written in enviably elegant prose. The narrative never flags and its judgments are humane and nuanced. The book argues that 1976 marks a moment of transition; after Mao's death, a swift series of internal coups and arrests brought the Gang of Four low and set the stage for Deng to take power within two years of Mao's death. The concentration on human stories means, however, that some of the factors that complicate the transition between the cultural revolution and the China of Deng Xiaoping are underplayed. We tend now to think of the era since Mao's death as the emergence of China into a capitalist world (in which Beijing has become one of the most skilled players). But during the first decade of reform, immediately post-Mao, the aim of Deng and his faction was to create a more market-oriented socialism in a world where they would engage with the USSR as well as the United States. In addition, important legal and economic reforms had already begun in the early 70s, along with the opening to the US. The death of Mao was a moment when China sought to rethink the cold war, rather than escape it.

Yet the significance of this book is reflected in the fact that a book entitled "The Death of Deng" would hardly have the same impact. Mao was the last Chinese leader whose death would unleash a personalised factional battle that could end in violence. In 2011, Hong Kong news sources wrongly reported the death of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin. The moment was embarrassing but not politically relevant. Yet just four decades ago, leaders did not retire and die peacefully. Former president Liu Shaoqi died as a prisoner in agony from medical mistreatment in a basement in 1969. Mao himself hung on as chairman to the last possible moment. Deng's achievement after Mao's death was to use his own force of personality to create a regular changeover of distinctly uncharismatic leaders.

Palmer ends with a reflection on the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. There, effective rescuers arrived within hours, unlike in Tangshan. But the aftermath of 2008 has been just as murky as in 1976. Locals who have tried to investigate official corruption that might have allowed substandard construction that caused buildings to collapse have been arrested and intimidated. The artist Ai Weiwei, who has spoken out on behalf of the earthquake victims, has been subjected to a (still ongoing) cat-and-mouse strategy by the authorities. This account of the links between natural disaster and elite politics in China is a fine work of history. But its real relevance may be that it shows how much has changed in China, and yet how little, since 1976.

• Rana Mitter's Modern China: A Very Short Introduction is published by OUP.
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Re: China-- Your impressions?

Post  eddie on Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:35 pm

Steve Bell on Ed Miliband

Edinburgh zoo's giant pandas fail to mate

guardian.co.uk, Friday 6 April 2012 01.12 BST



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