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Les Echos editor says China lulls the West into thinking it's always playing catch-up on technology. Reaction to the recent case of alleged Chinese espionage of Renault's electric car design is a case in point.

2010 Beijing Auto Show

PARIS - It is too early for fear, but not too late to begin to be wary. Western industrial chiefs already know that the technology transfers demanded by Chinese authorities in exchange for access to their market could backfire. As French car giant Renault is struggling with a troubling economic espionage case, these business executives now find that their Chinese rivals' methods – if the suspicion turns out to be true – may be even more aggressive than they feared.

Even before getting all the evidence, the first reaction could be to punish China and request sanctions against an immoral rival. The French government and Renault have yet to take this step. If the accusations turn out to be true, it will then be time to seek punishment and compensation.

But in the short term, there are other priorities. Companies are not as naïve as we think they are. They know that they have been actors in an economic war for a while now. The CIA helps out America Inc. and in France small businesses have learned to be wary of the big French companies, often accused of stealing their smaller counterparts' technologies. In business, anything goes and not just with Chinese rivals.

Therefore, the priority for CEOs is to be extremely careful, without resorting to permanent spying on their own employees. If bugs are developing, it's a sign that people are using them. When doing business, you must be wary of the Chinese as much as others.

But it is also high time we got rid of this naïve image of China as a commercial giant, yet technological dwarf. Beijing often tries to make others believe that its factories are just putting together high-tech components made in the US or Japan. The idea that China is the world's factory not its laboratory grows less true by the day. Chinese rockets can send men into space; Chinese high-speed trains are as fast as the French TGVs; their super calculators are faster then those from IBM or Bull. And in the auto industry, China is hoping to become a leader in electric engines to compensate for being behind in gas engines.

Money, manpower, education and a strategic leadership make China more of a giant with agile feet than feet of clay. Without even having to spy on Renault, Beijing is already a fierce rival.

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Society

In Denmark, Beloved Christmas TV Special Cancelled For Blackface Scenes

The director of the 1997 episode complained that TV executives are being "too sensitive."

Screenshot of a child wearing apparent blackface as part of a vintage "TV Christmas calendar" episode on Danish TV

Screenshot of the controversial scene in a vintage episode of Denmark's traditional "TV Christmas calendar"

Amélie Reichmut

If there’s one thing Scandinavians take seriously, it’s Christmas. And over the past half-century, in addition to all the family and religious traditions, most Nordic countries share a passion for what's known as the "TV Christmas calendar": 24 nightly television episodes that air between Dec. 1 and Christmas Eve.

Originally, the programs were strictly aimed at children; but over the years, the stories evolved more towards family entertainment, with some Christmas calendars becoming classics that generations of Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and others have watched each year as national and family traditions in their own right.

But this year in Denmark, one vintage episode has been pulled from the air because of a blackface scene.

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