China's Premier Wen Jiabao has delivered a strong warning about the "urgent" need for reform, saying that without such reform, tragedies such as the Cultural Revolution could still happen. He added that he may even invite some of his critics for face-to-face talks.
As he spoke, some of those critics - also among China's poor - gathered to watch the event on a single television set in Beijing.
Japanese authorities are continuing their efforts to minimise the threat from radiation, one year after the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Thousands of people fled from the area around the plant in the aftermath of the disaster, which saw soil, air and water contaminated. Many are still afraid to return as living with radiation is a risk former residents do not want to take.
A few hundred yards from the seashore, on top of a small mound of earth, Japanese flags flutter in the brisk, chill breeze. There is a giant fir tree that is twisted and mangled but still alive, an ancient standing stone and some wooden stakes inscribed with prayers.
They are the ruins of a centuries-old temple that used to stand here, guarding the fishing port of Yuriage, in Natori on Japan's east coast. Yuriage was once home to 7,000 people. But all around it now there is emptiness.
The BBC has obtained secretly filmed video evidence that indicates a Chinese Communist Party official paid for villagers in China to be beaten up because they were refusing to move off land earmarked for development. The video also shows police refusing to prosecute the official for any serious crime.
The incident happened in the city of Weifang in Shandong province late last year. It is just one of thousands of land disputes involving local Communist officials in China every year. You can watch our report with the secretly filmed footage here.
Authorities in China have launched a major security operation to try to end a wave of unrest caused by Tibetan campaigners. More than 21 people are reported to have publicly set themselves on fire - five in the past week.
Sichuan province, bordering Tibet, is where most of the trouble has happened.
A year ago US President Barack Obama was holding up China as an example of what a country can achieve if it invests in infrastructure, education and innovation.
But, at the start of this election year, his State of the Union address has painted a wholly different image of China, as a place that does not play fair, that steals intellectual property and gives huge handouts to its manufacturers.
The Chinese speaking world is gearing up for major political change this year. More than 60 years on from the civil war that split China and Taiwan, both face leadership changes.
In the autumn, China, with its 1.3 billion people will see the Communist Party select a new generation of leaders behind closed doors. Taiwan, with just 24 million, is just 100 miles offshore. It's still claimed by China, but has developed a robust democracy. Taiwan holds elections this weekend. And many in China are watching closely.
Is China's rise going to lead to conflict with America? Is Beijing destined to go to war with today's undisputed global superpower?
The question is not posed directly in the new US defence strategic review. But, unspoken, it is there, running through the document that seeks to shape America's new military thinking for the 21st Century.
2012 promises to be a landmark year for China, a year of change. But here's the paradox - you are unlikely to see much change, not for most of this year, not in China.
In fact, the opposite is more likely to be the case. China's current leaders, who will step down later this year, are expected to batten down the hatches, clamp down on discussion and dissent and avoid any controversial decisions.
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