China's "whole steel industry has been bribed" by Rio Tinto, suggested a lead article in the China Daily newspaper on Wednesday that marks a sharp escalation in a dispute rocking the global steel and iron ore industries.

The state-owned China Daily quoted an unnamed "industry insider" claiming Rio bribed each of the 16 Chinese steel companies involved in this year's negotiations to set the benchmark iron ore price, a process that brings together steelmakers and suppliers of iron ore, steel's key ingredient.

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