Chinese actor Lou Naiming (centre) performs a sketch in the  New Year gala  on Chinese TV. Photograph: Reuters

Actor wore prosthetic chest and was accompanied by a monkey character

Ivanka Trump, daughter of US president  Donald Trump, with South Korean president Moon Jae-in  (back) and first lady Kim Jung-sook (front)  at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Friday. Photograph: EPA/Yonhap

Washington set to impose tough round of sanctions over North's nuclear programme

A screen promotes recruitment for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army: Beijing has territorial disputes of varying degrees with all of its neighbours. Photograph: Andy Wong

Focus of Beijing’s fighter-jet manoeuvres on ‘confronting threat from India’

Local people catch fish in the Yellow River in Sanmenxia, Henan province, China.  Photograph: Jie Zhao/Corbis via Getty Images

River devastated by effects of economic expansion considered cradle of Chinese civilisation

Chinese president Xi Jinping: Efforts to boost Chinese influence have received far less scrutiny than Russia’s meddling in European politics. Photograph: Reuters/Wu Hong/Pool

Signs that EU states are adjusting policies to appease China

North Korean cheerleaders arrive to participate in a welcoming ceremony for North Korea’s Olympic team at the Olympic Village in Gangneung, South Korea on Thursday. Photograph:  Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

Inter-Korean talks the most likely as Kim Jong-un's sister heads to Pyeongchang

In this April 13th, 2017 photo, Kim Yo Jong is pictured during the official opening of the Ryomyong residential area, a collection of more than a dozen apartment buildings, in Pyongyang, North Korea.Photograph: AP/Wong Maye-E

Kim Yo-jong will be first member of North’s ruling dynasty to visit South Korea

Pope Francis has sought to make a deal with China since he became pontiff in March 2013. Photograph: Reuters

Holy See could switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan if Pope Francis agrees deal

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un followed by president of the presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong-nam after a military parade in Pyongyang in May 2016. Kim Yong-nam will represent the North at the Winter Olympics. Photograph:  Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Kim Yong-nam will be the North's most senior official ever to visit South Korea

British prime minister Theresa May and her husband Philip visiting Yu Yuan Garden in Shanghai on Friday. Photograph:  Aly Song/Reuters

On Brexit, prime minister says Britain will leave the EU’s customs union

 British prime minister Theresa May drinks next to Xi Jinping, China’s president, during a tea ceremony at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on Thursday. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/EPA

British prime minister seeking support for a favourable trade deal post-Brexit

The Chinese government says the national social credit system is a way of keeping people honest and making people good. Photograph: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

Multipurpose ‘national social credit’ system uses carrot and stick to control

Retired Hong Kong cardinal Joseph Zen: ‘Am I the major obstacle in the process of reaching a deal between the Vatican and China? If that is a bad deal, I would be more than happy to be the obstacle.’ File photograph: Paul Yeung/Reuters

Former cardinal criticises efforts to normalise relations amid row over bishops

Prime Minister Theresa May is greeted by Chinese actor Jiang She Ying at Wuhan University in Hubei, China: Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Beijing assures British prime minister that Brexit will not affect relations with UK

Rapper PG One (centre). Chinese music fans are bracing for a crackdown on hip-hop after a rapper was dropped from a popular singing programme. Photograph: Getty Images/AFP

Beijing Letter: The often-provocative genre strikes a chord with young people

 British prime minister Theresa May shakes hands with China’s president, Xi Jinping, at G20 Leaders Summit in Hangzhou  in 2015. Photograph: Etienne Oliveau

PM’s efforts to reassure Beijing about UK post-Brexit likely to dominate three-day trip

Yu Wensheng: taken away by police, including a specialist Swat team, near his home while on his way to drop his son off at school. Photograph: Adam Dean/The New York Times

Yu Wensheng called for democratic reforms and criticised crackdown on activists

Ciaran Connell: “Half of our revenue of $10 million  last year was in China”

Firm offers wireless technology to measure distances indoors through obstructions

A woman walks through Beijing’s Beihang University, where professor was recently fired for sexually harassing students. Chinese women are rallying behind the #WoYeShi hashtag inspired by the #MeToo movement. Photograph: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

Efforts to stop sexual harassment are hampered by censorship and strict social controls

Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono and China’s foreign minister Wang Yi meeting in Beijing. Photograph: Getty Images

Japan’s foreign minister Taro Kono makes his first official visit to Beijing

Chinese children feed pigeons at Ditan Park in Beijing: a report by the Shanghai Women’s Federation shows over half of households with one child do not want a second. Photograph: Roman Pilipey

Chinese couples choosing to stick with having only one child due to rising costs

Members of the North Korean women’s ice hockey team arrive at South Korea’s national training centre in Jincheon on Thursday. They will be part of a unified Korean squad. Photograph: Song Kyung-Seok/AFP/Getty Images

North Korean statement comes as South gears up for winter Olympics

Police walk  past a missing person notices for Gui Minhai (left), in Hong Kong in January 2016. He has been taken into custody again in China. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP

Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai detained on train as he travelled with Swedish diplomats

The Olympic rings at the press centre for the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympics in South Korea, which begin on February 9th. Photograph: Ahn Young-joon/AP

South Korea conservatives believe North is hijacking Pyeongchang winter games

Smoke and flames coming from the burning oil tanker Sanchi off the coast of eastern China on January 14th. The vessel sank, with the loss of all 32 mariners on board. Photograph: AFP/Transport Ministry of China

Authorities race to offset environmental disaster from spill of light crude oil

A satellite image of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, located about 230km off the Philippines and 650km from the southern Chinese island province of Hainan. The shoal is also claimed by the Philippines and Taiwan.  Photograph:  USGS/Nasa Landsat data/Orbital Horizon/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Anger in Beijing after US destroyer sailed close to Scarborough Shoal last week

South Korean cyclists accompany the torch of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics through border checkpoints on Unification bridge near the military demarcation line in the Demilitarized Zone in Paju, South Korea, on January 19th, 2018. Photograph: Kim Hee-Chul

South Korea promises to ensure North's participation will not affect sanctions

Human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng: has emerged as a prominent  critic of the Chinese government.  Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

Yu Wensheng, who wrote open letter criticising Xi Jinping, had his law licence revoked

Gangneung Ice Arena, where the Winter Olympics will be held: North Korea will send 230 cheerleaders and a 30-member taekwondo team – as well as an orchestra and half a hockey team. Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

Amid suspicions of propaganda by North Korea, many welcome rivals’ interaction

China’s gross domestic product grew 6.9 percent in 2017, according to a report of the National Bureau of Statistics. Photograph: Wu Hong/ EPA

Fourth-quarter growth of 6.8% also outperformed forecasts

Pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong (left) and Raphael Wong being escorted in a prison van leaving the high court after sentencing in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

Democracy leader Joshua Wong given extra jail time for his role in Umbrella Movement

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visiting the newly-renovated Pyongyang Teachers’ University in Pyongyang. Photograph: AFP/Korean Central News Agency via KNS

Move marks breakthrough but tensions remain as North describes Trump as a ‘lunatic’

China’s president Xi Jinping has overseen a major crackdown on dissenting lawyers and civil society reformers. Photograph:  Mark Schiefelbein/AFP/Getty Images

Sanction comes three months after Yu Wensheng criticised government in open letter

Chinese president Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump: phone call comes at a time when there are tentative signs of rapprochement between the two Koreas. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Chinese leader phones US president to say momentum needs to be continued

The head of the South Korean delegation Lee Woo-sung (right) and the head of the North Korean delegation Kwon Hyok Bong exchange documents at the North side of Panmunjom in North Korea on  Monday. Photograph: South Korea Unification Ministry via AP

North agrees to send 140-member Samjiyon orchestra to South for first time since 2002

One of the signature policies of President Xi Jinping’s five-year rule in China has been a crackdown on corruption among government officials and party cadres. Photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Some 347 of the fugitives returned were corrupt cadres, says Communist Party

Noeleen Armstrong Kish from Dublin wearing on of her creations

Noeleen Armstrong Kish designs and makes the hats using traditional millinery methods at her studio in Kowloon Bay

A winter swimming enthusiast jumps in the half-frozen Houhai lake in Beijing city, China, on Thursday. Photograph:  Wu Hong/EPA

Levels of toxic PM2.5 particles in China’s capital down 54 per cent in 2017

South Korean president Moon Jae-in: “I am giving a lot of credit to President Trump . . . I am expressing my gratitude,” he said, of the US president’s role in the Korean talks.  Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji /EPA

Moon Jae-in pledges tougher sanctions if Pyongyang tests another nuclear weapon

French president Emmanuel Macron and Chinese president Xi Jinping shake hands after a joint press briefing at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/Getty Images

Xi hails future of relationship between countries as leaders sign multimillion trade deals

Cho Myoung-gyon, South Korea’s unification minister (L) and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, shake hands  during a meeting in the DMZ in Paju, South Korea. Photographer: KPPA/Bloomberg

Rivals hold rare talks to discuss how to co-operate in Olympics and improve ties

Smoke and flames coming from a burning oil tanker at sea off the coast of eastern China. Photograph: AFP

Concerns for missing crew and environment as almost 42m gallons of crude oil on board tanker

French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte at  the Museum of Terracotta Warriors in Xian, in northwestern China’s Shaanxi Province on Monday. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AFP/Getty Images

French leader kicks off three-day visit at starting point of ancient Silk Road

People fish for trout on a frozen river during the Ice Festival in Hwacheon, south of the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters People fish for trout on a frozen river during the Ice Festival in Hwacheon, south of the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

Rivals to talk ahead of Winter Olympics against backdrop of Trump’s taunts

 German chancellor and leader of the German Christian Democrats Angela Merkel with Horst Seehofer, governor of Bavaria and leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Unio. Photograph: Alexandra Beier/Getty Images

From Trump to tragedy, Kim Jong-un to a royal wedding, a compelling roundup from an at times incredible year

China’s president Xi Jinping “has consolidated his power and position, and is genuinely now very powerful”. Photograph:  SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

The supreme leader needs to keep an eye on domestic and overseas issues

South Korean president Moon Jae-in meeting Chinese president Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photograph:  Nicolas Asfouri/EPA

Travelling South Korean journalists beaten up by security during trade meeting

Locals sit near the site of a fire in Beijing’s Baiqiangzi village, which is mainly inhabited by migrant workers, in Beijing on Wednesday. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Blaze occurs despite evictions and safety campaign in unapproved housing

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-In: Relations with China have been strained since the deployment of the Thaad system by Seoul. Photograph: Yonhap/AFP

Moon Jae-in to go to Beijing in effort to repair trade links damaged by missile defence row

Kaohsiung harbour in Kaoshiung, southern Taiwan. “The day that a US navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People’s Liberation Army  unifies Taiwan by military force,” said Li Kexin, minister at China’s embassy in Washington DC. Photograph: David Chang/EPA

Comments spark verbal sparring across strait of Taiwan

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspecting a launching drill of medium and long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 at an undisclosed location, in an undated photograph released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16th.  Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Diplomatic efforts continue against a backdrop of warlike rhetoric

A missile described by the North Korean government as the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile being launched at an undisclosed location in North Korea on November 29th. Photograph: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

Article reflects growing concern in China about neighbouring North Korea

UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman (right) in  Beijing  International Airport  before taking   a flight to North Korea. Photograph: Getty Images

Political chief Jeffrey Feltman's visit follows Pyongyang's test of most powerful missile yet

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet touching down at Gwangju Air Base in  South Korea ahead of a large scale  military  exercise. Photograph: US Air Force via Getty Images

Simulated attacks on North Korean missile targets planned

North Korean soldiers watch a fireworks display to celebrate the North’s declaration on November 29th it had achieved full nuclear statehood. Photograph:  Kim Won-Jin/AFP/Getty Images

Seoul believes Pyongyang has not developed vital nuclear warhead-delivery capability yet

China’s president Xi Jinping and US president Donald Trump reviewing Chinese honour guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9th. File photograph: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

Xi stresses dialogue remains way forward after Pyongyang carries out missile launch

 After a fire broke out on  November 19th  at an apartment in the Daxing district killing 19 people, Beijing’s government launched a campaign to eliminate fire hazards.  Photograph: Wu Hong/EPA

Public anger in China as officials insist unsafe housing needed to be demolished

Footage on the website of Yueyang Intermediate People’s Court taken on November 28th, 2017 shows Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che appearing in court in Yueyang, China’s central Hunan province. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Taiwan president’s office says Lee Ming-che sentence ‘totally unacceptable’

March of progress:  Public toilet in Beijing with wifi, an ATM machine and chargers for mobile phones and electric vehicles. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Modern, western-style lavatories deemed part of progress in Chinese quality of life

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a missile: The EU, China and Japan, and many regional powers in Asia, have called on him to abandon his nuclear ambitions. Photograph: KCNA via Reuters

Ri Jong-hyok says missile project is ‘sword of justice’ aimed at fighting the United States

A father picks up his child from RYB Kindergarten in Xintiandi, Beijing: a female teacher (22)   has been detained on suspicion of abusing children at the kindergarten. Photograph: Bryan Denton/The New York Times

China's cabinet orders nationwide investigation into pre-school facilities

A parent is surrounded by members of the media outside the kindergarten run by pre-school operator RYB Education  in Beijing, China. Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters

Parents claim toddlers were molested, spiked with needles and drugged with pills

Air China aircraft in Beijing. The airline told Reuters that the decision was made because “business was not good” and did not comment on when the flights would resume.   Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Move on flights to Pyongyang comes after US put North Korea back on terrorist blacklist

 Lu Wei, China’s former chief internet censor, who  is being investigated for corruption. Photograph: Larry Leung/EPA

Lu Wei is first ‘tiger’ to be taken down since Communist Party congress, says watchdog

A Tibetan man living in exile in India: China sees the overwhelmingly Buddhist Himalayan region as part of its sovereign territory.    Photograph:  EPA/Rajat Gupta

Chinese government backs move by under-20s team but Germans claim free speech

Organ transplants have generally been a problem in China, as the country was criticised for using the organs of executed prisoners. Photograph: iStock

Ren Xiaoping working on timeframe for first procedure on a living human

Beijing Guoan: Workers’ Stadium, the club’s ground. Photograph: Sino/Getty

The ‘Irish Times’ columnist is helping to revolutionise the Chinese Super League team

The Asia tour: US president Donald Trump and Melania in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Finding a resolution to the North Korean nuclear crisis and addressing hefty trade imbalances were the main objectives for this As(...)

Workers put up the Japanese flag in front of Tiananmen on Thursday July 8, 1999 in Beijing. Photograph: APo/Chien-min Chung

‘It will be more difficult to settle relations of hostility between the Japanese and Chinese peoples,’ Mao told Kissinger, ‘than b(...)

US president Donald Trump and China’s president Xi Jinping meeting in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on Thursday. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

US president attacks ‘huge’ trade deficit but says he blames predecessors, not China

US president Donald Trump talks to opera performers at the Forbidden City in Beijing on Wednesdsay, the first day of his visit to China. Photograph:  Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Focus on softer diplomacy with Forbidden City visit and tea ceremony

US president Donald Trump speaks at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

US president describes North Korea as a ‘hell no person deserves’ in Seoul speech

US president Donald Trump and South Korean president Moon Jae-in toast at the start of a dinner at the Blue House in Seoul on Tuesday. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

While warning of US firepower, president also adopts conciliatory tone in South Korea

The ship Tian Kun Hao being launched at a port in Qidong in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Ship a boost for territorial claims in South China Sea, which is source of regional tensions

US President Donald Trump’s five-nation tour of Asia kicks off in Tokyo on Sunday, before going on to South Korea, Beijing, Vietnam and the Philippines. Photograph: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Lengthy Asian tour will be a test of US president’s diplomatic skills – and his patience

Chinese president Xi Jinping: said there was a need for “defending regional peace, stability and common prosperity”. Photograph: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

Ties between long-time allies strained by North Korean nuclear programme

Hong Kong fans hold a protest banner and turn their backs during the Chinese national anthem during their Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia  on October 10th. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

Rules may also apply in Hong Kong and Macau, sparking fears of greater encroachment

US defence secretary Jim Mattis shaking hands with South Korean president Moon Jae-in in Seoul, South Korea last week. China believes that the US Thaad system’s powerful radar could be deployed against its military. Photograph:  Yonhap/via Reuters

President Xi Jinping will meet Moon Jae-in in Vietnam next week after Thaad system row

US president Donald Trump walking with President Xi Jinping of China at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida in  April.  Photograph:  Doug Mills/The New York Times

Ambassador says Trump's visit to China next week offers a major opportunity

Chinese president Xi Jinping: anti-corruption campaign will cover all China. Photograph:  Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

Nationwide crackdown on ‘schemers and plotters’ to include non-party members

Vlada Dzyuba, a Russian model, died after working during a 13-hour fashion show in Shanghai, China. Photograph: Instagram

14-year-old girl dies in hospital after lengthy catwalk show at Shanghai Fashion Week

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the Communist Party’s 19th congress. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Xi Jinping enjoys high approval among China’s youth – helped by censorship and political apathy

Park Yu-ha, a professor at Sejong University, speaks to reporters outside  Seoul High Court today  after being  found  guilty of defaming former “comfort women”. Photograph: Kyodo News via Getty Images

Prof Park Yu-ha said not all ‘comfort women’ were forced into brothels

US secretary of defence James Mattis with South Korean defence minister Song Young-moo at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Korean  Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Friday. Photograph: Jeon Heon-Kyun-Pool/Getty Images

James Mattis says North Korean nuclear weapons ‘threaten others with catastrophe’

Kim Jong-un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army in an unknown location in this undated photo released  by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency. File photograph: KCNA via Reuters

Sabre-rattling intensifies ahead of Trump’s visit to Asia in early November

The new members of the standing committee of the politburo in China. Graphic: Paul Scott

Xi Jinping’s leadership committee will dictate Chinese policy for the next five years

Chinese president and member of the standing committee of the Politburo Xi Jinping: “We must continue to rid ourselves of any virus that erodes the party’s fabric.” Photograph: How  Hwee Young/EPA

Focusing on Xi, Chinese communists seem to be moving from collective leadership era

Han Zheng, Wang Huning, Li Zhanshu, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Wang Yang and Zhao Leji greet the media at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday in Beijing. Photograph:  How Hwee Young/EPA

Absence of successor on panel raises prospect of president staying beyond 2020

Chinese president Xi Jinping at the closing of the 19th Communist Party congress.  What Xi is doing, and why his philosophy has joined the top three with Mao and Deng, is heralding a “new era” of Chinese history. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

With his theory accepted into the constitution, the president’s hand will be on everything

Painted portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and late communist leader Mao Zedong at a market in Beijing. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism’ enshrined in constitution at Communist Party congress

Li Ganjie,  China’s minister for the environment: has promised a “fundamental improvement” in the environment by 2035. Photograph: Wu Hong/EPA

Cost of China’s economic expansion has been a stark rise in environmental degradation

Souvenir plates with images of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong and Chinese President Xi Jinping in a shop during the congress of the Communist Party. Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Reports say leading candidates unlikely to win promotion at Communist Party congress

Chinese president Xi Jinping delivering a speech at the Communist Party congress in Beijing on Wednesday. China’s legal system has become worse during the five years of Mr Xi’s ’s rule, say rights activists. Photograph:  Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Human rights activists say rule of law has deteriorated during Xi Jinping era

Fighters on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier participating in a drill with South Korean warships in the East Sea on Thursday. Photograph: EPA/Yonhap

Army claims it is developing missile capable of destroying North Korea’s command centre

Chinese president Xi Jinping shakes hands with former president Jiang Zemin at the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party’s congress on Wednesday.  Photograph:  Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

President’s political philosophy looks set for inclusion in the country’s constitution

The Communist Party congress in Beijing is expected to secure president Xi Jinping’s grip on power.

Communist Party congress focuses on ‘moderately prosperous’ future

Stewardesses prepare tea flasks for delegates before the opening ceremony of the  Communist Party congress. Photograph: How Hwee Young/EPA

Impeccable stage management projects message of Communist Party firmly in control

President Xi Jinping arriving for the opening session of China’s Communist Party congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on  Wednesday. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

‘Hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics,’ leader urges in epic speech

Attendees look at a slideshow of Chinese president Xi Jinping at the Five Years of Sheer Endeavour show at the Beijing Exhibition Centre as he is poised to become the most powerful figure in Chinese politics since Mao Zedong. Photograph: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

‘Crises and chaos’ of West pointed out as Xi Jinping ideas set to find place in constitution

Performers prepare for the 19th Communist Party Congress in Huaibei in China’s eastern Anhui province. Photograph:  AFP/Getty Images

Communist Party gathering set to consolidate Xi Jinping political strongman status

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