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Xiao Cao

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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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The month of June sees LGBT Pride celebrations in cities in many parts of the world. Most are timed around the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a New York City gay bar, fought back against a police raid and ushered in the modern gay rights movement. But there are parts of the world in which it is still difficult or even dangerous to be openly anything but straight. The three people in this post have come out in societies where attitudes are becoming more tolerant, but where acceptance is minimal. Three photographers share the stories: Aly Song tells the story of Xiao Cao, a performer in Shanghai, Adnan Abidi tells the story of Seema, a prostitute in New Delhi, and Tobin Jones tells the story of Morine, a hairdresser in Nairobi. Next week, I'll look at LGBT Pride celebrations worldwide. -- Lane Turner (33 photos total)
Xiao Cao, a 57-year-old gay man, salutes as he performs as a Cultural Revolution Red Guard at a park in Shanghai on March 13, 2012. China's gay community has long been on the edges of society but it is gradually becoming more accepted. Unemployed Cao is one whose life lifts the curtain on a less romanticized view of Chinese homosexuals. Living in an eight-square-meter apartment behind a public toilet and with a monthly income of 500 yuan ($79) from social insurance, he passes his days dancing in public and spending time with friends at gay clubs. (Aly Song/Reuters)

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