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China's breakneck economic growth once again dominates global headlines


SHANGHAI, Dec 29 (AFP) China's breakneck economic growth once again dominated global headlines this year but so did its tragic industrial accidents, fatal riots, protests and disastrous environmental pollution.
Its export-driven economy barely paused for breath in 2005, galloping ahead in the first three quarters of the year at annualised rates of 9.4 per cent, but that pace came at a heavy price.
While the Asian giant astounded with its impressive expansion to emerge as the world's sixth largest economy, and likely to surpass European powerhouses France and Britan in 2006, its economic ambitions increasingly divided its people between the haves and have-nots.
"There is a lot inequality in terms of urban workers a lot richer than rural workers and the coastal regions a lot richer than the western regions, so there is a challenge of trying to find jobs for the people moving to the cities," said Robert Subbaraman, economist at Lehman Brothers in Tokyo said.
The cental government, acutely aware that it must bridge the gulf that leaves some three-quarters of its 1.3 billion people living in relative poverty, has struggled to implement effective policies to counter growing social discontent.
It is one of Beijings many challenges as it tries to balance economic development, especially in deeply impoverished rural areas, with new concerns for protecting the environment and demands for reform from its trade partners.
"There is always pressure and challenges for an economy as big as China's that is changing so rapidly, becoming more market-based and reforming in so many ways," said Subbaraman.
"The imbalances of the environment are critical you can't just grow fast, you have to make sure that you have sustainable growth and to get sustainable growth you need to look after your environment," he added.