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Ryan Pierse

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China, the most populous country and the second-largest economy in the world, is a vast, dynamic nation that continues to grow and evolve in the 21st century. In this, the latest entry in a semi-regular series on China, we find images of tremendous variety, including astronauts, nomadic herders, replica European villages, pole dancers, RV enthusiasts, traditional farmers, and inventors. This collection is only a small view of the people and places in China over the past several weeks. [47 photos]

Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, waves during a departure ceremony at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province, on June 16, 2012. China sent its first woman taikonaut into outer space this week, prompting a surge of national pride as the rising power takes its latest step towards putting a space station in orbit within the decade. Liu, a 33-year-old fighter pilot, joined two other taikonauts aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft when it lifted off from a remote Gobi Desert launch site. (Reuters/Jason Lee)

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DOING THEIR DUTY
DOING THEIR DUTY: Voters waited in line to cast ballots at a polling station near the India-Pakistan border Monday. Millions of Indians are voting in Assembly elections. (Altaf Qadri/Associated Press)

HOLY HAIR
HOLY HAIR: A Hindu holy man whipped his head back as he took a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, during the Magh Mela fair in Allahabad, India, Monday. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/Associated Press)

RIPPED
RIPPED: Serbian Novak Djokovic celebrated his Australian Open win over Spain’s Rafael Nadal in Melbourne, Australia. Mr. Djokovic won in a record five hours and 53 minutes. The win was the second straight Australian Open title for Mr. Djokovic and his third straight victory at a Grand Slam tournament. (Ryan Pierse/European Pressphoto Agency)

VERIFIED
VERIFIED: Voter Hardans Kaur held up her identity card as she waited in line at a polling station in Amritsar, India, Monday. (Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

MITT THROWS
MITT THROWS: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tossed chips to members of the media on his campaign plane in Jacksonville, Fla., Monday. The state’s primary is Tuesday. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

HEAVE-HO
HEAVE-HO: Police prepared to dump neutralizers at the contaminated Longjiang River in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang, China, Monday. Police are dumping activated carbon, quick lime and aluminum chloride. (Huang Xiaobang/Xinhua/Zuma Press)

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GIVING COMFORT
GIVING COMFORT: A fireman comforted a child who was stabilized after a school bus accident Friday in Chambersburg, Pa. Ten elementary school students and the bus driver sustained minor injuries after their bus was hit by a small sport-utility vehicle and rolled onto its side. (Associated Press)

NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN
NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN: A supporter of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney shielded herself from a light drizzle with a campaign sign as she waited for him to make an appearance at Harmon Tree Farm in Gilbert, S.C., Friday. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

CELEBRATE
CELEBRATE: Young Ethiopian Orthodox Christians participated Friday in the annual festival of Timkat in Lalibela, Ethiopia, marking the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. (Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

TWISTED ANKLE
TWISTED ANKLE: Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain lay on the court after injuring her ankle in her third round match against Na Li of China during day five of the 2012 Australian Open in Melbourne Friday. Ms. Garrigues retired while trailing 3-0. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

YEAR OF THE DRAGON
YEAR OF THE DRAGON: Decorative red lanterns hung in a tree before Lunar New Year celebrations at Ditan Park in Beijing Friday. The Lunar New Year begins Jan. 23 and marks the start of the Year of the Dragon. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

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The best photos of 2011 from around the globe. Warning: All images in this entry are shown in full, not screened out for graphic content. Some images contain dead bodies, graphic content and tragic events. We consider these images an important part of human history.

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BOY WITH THE MASK
BOY WITH THE MASK: Wang Gengxiang, known as ‘Masked Boy,’ played with a balloon in Shanxi Province, China, Thursday. The 6-year-old was severely burned last winter in an accident involving a pile of burning straw. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

TAKING A HIT
TAKING A HIT: Spc. Marcus Clay rode in a mine-resistant vehicle as an improvised explosive device detonated in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, Friday. No one was injured. (Johannes Eisele/Aence France-Presse/Getty Images)

HUDDLED TOGETHER
HUDDLED TOGETHER: Players were locked in a scrum during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between New Zealand and Tonga at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Friday. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

ALL ABOARD
ALL ABOARD: Officials rode a train during the inauguration Friday of the second metro rail network in Dubai, which opened after a two-year delay. (Karim Sahib/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

SHIELDED
SHIELDED: Police took up positions as protesters pulled down a concrete wall in front of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo Friday. Since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, calls have grown in Egypt for ending a 1979 peace treaty with Israel. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

FLOATING ALONG
FLOATING ALONG: Rob Hewitt floated past flooded buildings in Port Deposit, Md., Friday. Officials ordered a mandatory evacuation as the Susquehanna River, swollen with rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, continued to rise. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

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HITCHCOCK REDISCOVERED
HITCHCOCK REDISCOVERED: The New Zealand Film Archive released a still Wednesday from what is thought to be a lost film made in 1923 by the acclaimed British director Alfred Hitchcock. (New Zealand Film Archive/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

LIGHTING UP
LIGHTING UP: A migrant worker lit up a cigarette as he took a break at a garbage dump site in Taizhou, China. (Reuters)

BOMB THREAT
BOMB THREAT: Police waited outside a home Wednesday in Mosman, Australia, where an 18-year old woman was held hostage with a bomb tied around her neck. Police were able to secure her safe release. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

A SUMMER SNOGGING
A SUMMER SNOGGING: A young couple kissed behind a row of beach huts Wednesday in Whitstable, England. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

HEAD FIRST
HEAD FIRST: A boy jumped from a diving platform above a swimming pool Wednesday in Hanover, Germany. (Julian Stratenschulte/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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