While debt-saddled Western nations spent 2010 wrestling with how to dig out of the 2008 global financial meltdown, China continued to show off its growing economic might. Under Hu Jintao's lead, the People's Republic passed Japan this year to become the world's No. 2 economy. Less than 10 years after officially joining the WTO, China also held serve on its claims as the largest global exporter and largest holder of foreign reserves. Hu was willing to listen to complaints from the U.S. and other Western powers about China's overvalued currency, but he wasn't willing to give much ground on the matter. As for homegrown critics like Liu Xiaobo or Ai Weiwei, Hu refrained from compromise, continuing a crackdown on dissidents.
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