Taiwan's president calls for democracy in China

TAIPEI, January  1, 2011 (AFP) - Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou on Saturday called for democracy in China, saying the island's experience could serve as a model for the future development on the mainland.

"We hope one day that all descendants of Emperors Yen and Huang will enjoy freedom, democracy and rule of law, as we do here in Taiwan," Ma said in a New Year's address.

"Descendants of Emperors Yen and Huang" is a poetic and politically neutral reference to people who are linguistically and culturally Chinese.

"This is not a far-off dream, because these values have all been realised in Taiwan. They are not exclusive to the West. Taiwan’s experience can serve as a reference for the future development of mainland China," Ma said.

He added that the human rights situation in the mainland was a "key yardstick" for the distance between the systems in China and Taiwan.

China wants eventual reunification with Taiwan, even if it has to go to war to bring it about.

Ma was speaking on the first day of year 100 of the calendar in official use in Taiwan.

It counts time from the establishment of the Chinese republic after the collapse of the imperial system in 1911.

The Chinese republic in turn was defeated by communist rebels who set up the people's republic in 1949.

However, surviving elements of the republican government fled to Taiwan, where the republic survives to this day.

Facebook tops Google in website hits: study

NEW YORK, December 31, 2010 (AFP) - Facebook stole the thunder from Google this year as the most-visited website in the United States, according to a new study from Internet research firm Experian Hitwise.

The social-networking juggernaut's www.facebook.com was the top-visited website for the first time and accounted for 8.93 percent of all US visits between January and November 2010, Experian Hitwise said.

Google, the world's Internet search leader, slid to second place. Google.com drew 7.19 percent of visits, followed by Yahoo! Mail (3.52 percent), Yahoo! (3.30 percent) and YouTube (2.65 percent).

Facebook led arch-rival Google in the number of hits per month since March.

However, taking into account all of Google's websites, such as YouTube and Gmail, the Mountain View, California-based company drew 9.85 percent of the US visits, ahead of Facebook's 8.93 percent and the 8.12 percent garnered by Yahoo! sites, an Experian Hitwise spokesman said Friday.

Online tracking firm comScore last week ranked the Yahoo! family of websites as the most-visited in the US in November, ahead of Google, Microsoft websites and Facebook.

On a global scale, Google held the top position, followed by Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo!, according to comScore.

But analyst Greg Sterling of the specialist site SearchEngineLand.com cautioned that the Hitwise study does not track website visits via mobile devices such as cell phones or tablets, and the number of searches on Google's Chrome browser, which avoids google.com, was uncertain.

"This is right now more symbolic than anything" to see Facebook overtake Google in the United States, Sterling told AFP, adding that the study confirms "Facebook growth has been dramatic."

The social-networking giant has more than 500 million active users per month in the world, and according to comScore attracted 647.5 million unique visits in November, a jump of 48 percent from a year ago.

Sterling highlighted the sharply different approaches between Google and Facebook.

"Google is a very utilitarian site, where people go to make a decision, whereas Facebook is for entertainment," he said.

But if Facebook "were to concentrate on search, they could do something that stands to really hurt Google."


Taiwan's opposition seeks to annul key election outcome

TAIPEI, December 31, 2010 (AFP) - Taiwan's main opposition said Friday it will challenge the ruling party's victories in a key local poll in late November, claiming that an election-eve shooting led to an unfair result.

The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party won three out of five mayoral races on November 27, just hours after party heavyweight and former vice president Lien Chan's son was shot at a campaign event.

"We think that the KMT campaign teams manipulated the shooting to its advantage, and this affected the fairness of the election," said Cheng Wen-tsang, a spokesman for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Sean Lien, the former vice president's son, was hospitalised after he was hit in the face by a bullet and later released. The same bullet also killed a by-stander.

President Ma Ying-jeou condemned the attack as an assault on Taiwan's democracy but said he believed the incident had little impact on the outcome of the elections.

Lien's shooting revived painful memories of another election-eve shooting in 2004, when then president Chen Shui-bian and his deputy Annette Lu were shot while campaigning for re-election in southern Taiwan.

Critics alleged that shooting was staged to win sympathy for Chen, who eventually won by a razor-thin margin in a disputed election that plunged the island into turmoil for months.

Singapore economy grows record 14.7 percent in 2010: PM

SINGAPORE, December 31, 2010 (AFP) - Singapore's economy expanded at a record 14.7 percent in 2010, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Friday, as the city-state recovered sharply from last year's recession.

It was the best performance ever for Singapore's trade-led economy, surpassing the previous record 13.8 percent growth achieved in 1970.

The annual 14.7 percent surge announced by Lee is also at the top end of the government's growth forecast of 13-15 percent.

For next year, growth will moderate to 4.0-6.0 percent, Lee said.

"The Singapore economy recovered strongly in 2010," the prime minister said in his annual New Year speech.

"This is a dramatic rebound from the negative growth last year.

"We should rejoice in this exceptional performance, but please remember that it is also the result of special circumstances, and so is unlikely to be repeated soon."

Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 1.3 percent last year because of the global downturn when demand from the US and other developed economies collapsed.

Its GDP, valued at 247.33 billion Singapore dollars (191 billion US) in 2009, is highly dependent on external trade and any slip-up in the global economy will affect the city-state's economy.