The world this year 2010

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The world this year

Dec 16th 2010

From The Economist print edition

The world this year 2010

High levels of public debt among countries in the euro zone turned into a full-blown crisis for the currency block. As markets began to lose confidence in the ability of a few countries to finance their debt, and rapidly pushed up their borrowing costs, the European Union and the IMF eventually resolved to bail out Greece and, later, Ireland. Investors also fretted over Spain and Portugal. Measures to tackle budget deficits were met with protests, especially in Greece, which endured strikes and riots. In France 1m people demonstrated against pension reforms in a single day. As Europe tightened its fiscal belt, America passed more stimulus measures. Barack Obama also signed into law the most sweeping changes to America’s financial-regulatory system since the 1930s and a health-care reform act that was hailed by many as America’s most significant piece of social legislation since the 1960s. Conservatives challenged the act in the courts.

Unease about deficits and the “jobless recovery” were factors behind the increasing clout of tea-partiers in America. With their support the Republicans scored a sensational win in a special election for Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat in Massachusetts. November’s mid-term elections saw the Democrats swept from power in the House by the biggest swing to the Republicans in decades. Congress ended the year on its lowest-ever Gallup approval rating—13%.

In China the main worry was of an overheating economy. The central bank unexpectedly raised interest rates for the first time in three years amid concerns about inflation. Official trade statistics showed China had overtaken Germany as the world’s biggest exporter. Tensions over currency policy were at the forefront during summits of the G20 and IMF.

Google had a spat with China over censorship and a cyber-attack on its website there, causing it to redirect its Chinese internet searches through Hong Kong.

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