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Time : Bollywood: Frequently Questioned Answers
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Yap Yok Foo
2003-08-27 00:34:09 UTC
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From The Time Magazine

Bollywood: Frequently Questioned Answers
Richard Corliss gets an education in Indian cinema from his readers

Three or four things I now know about Indian movies:

The number of films produced in India these days is closer to 600 than
to 1,000. Thanks to the gently persistent James Schumeister, who backs
up his claim with stats from Yves Thoraval's book "The Cinemas of
India."

The language is Hindi, the religion Hindu. (I already knew that! Why
didn't I write that?) Thanks to reader Khelan. (I also know that
"Awara" isn't "Aware" and "Mother India" isn't "Mother Earth." On rare
occasions my fingers run away with my brain. I've retrieved it now,
thanks.)

Jism is the Hindi word for body, not for a body emission. Samira
Sarbakhsh of Manhattan admonishes: "The word 'jism' is derived from
Old Persian, is pronounced 'jesm' with the 's' and the 'm' pronounced
separately, and means 'body.' I find the commentary a bit culturally
insensitive in light of the fact that Indians are so conservative as a
people." No offense meant: I may have misunderstood my local Indian
video-store clerk when he said the word had the same meaning in
English and Hindi.

I know nothing about Indian films. How did I finally figure that out?
By glancing at a Chat area on bollyWHAT.com. Quite a few
correspondents were annoyed by my mostly complimentary remarks about
their national cinema. (What if I'd hated it? Would they have noticed
the difference?) The gentlest remark, in response to my writing that
my wife didn't think much of the choreography in one number I showed
her, was from Kalpana: "I would like to see Richard Corliss and his
wife attempt to dance like SRK [Shahrukh Khan] and Aish [Aishwarya
Rai] in 'Ishq Kamina' before commenting on their dancing." (Note to
Kalpana: Mary C. dances like a dream, Richard C. like a bad one.)

Among those who wrote directly to me, I received only one
BollyWHAT-style excoriation, from Sanjay Gang of Boston: "Your recent
column, while attempting to be cutesy, comes across as yet another
tired old repackaging of the cows, caste and curry stereotype of
India." The rest — 70 or so, a veritable Bollywood blizzard for this
column — were much kinder, often lengthy, always informed and
informative. I thank you all for sharing your Bollywisdom with an
outsider. And now I will exploit your good nature by sharing your
acuities with our other readers. And next time — the last time — I
will get to the Bollywood Ten lists of actors, writers, composers,
movies, etc.

Let's recap the 10 FAQs:

1. Why are Indian movies so long?

Mehboob Khan's "Aan" was one of the few Indian films of the 50s to get
a released in English theaters. This Eastman Color swashbuckler, with
Dilip Kumar (in his smiling, not soulful mode) as a Hindi Douglas
Fairbanks, is a relatively brisk, buoyant affair. Yet a London
reviewer couldn't resist sniding, "It goes aan and aan and aan."

I don't think Indian films are boring, but there's no question they
run 30 to 60 (to 90!) mins. longer than the average movie from
America, France, Mexico, Hong Kong or Burkina Faso. The simple answer,
I suppose, is that they are longer by the amount of song material. But
there must be something in the Indian entertainment appetite that
wants a full evening's masala.

In my column, I wondered, jocularly, whether Indians were "length
freaks." The acerbic Mr. Gang replied by asking, "By whose standard?
Hollywood's? Maybe its the other way — maybe it is Americans who have
a limited attention span. Without the obligatory sex scene every 15
min, Hollywood movies would be hard pressed to go over 60 min." Well,
I'd say Hollywood films have too much smirking and too little sex, but
that's for another discussion.

2. Why don't the characters kiss on the mouth?

The short answers are: (a) Sometimes they do. "In 1983 in Sunny Deol's
debut film 'Betaab,'" recalls Rajul Mehta, "kissing scenes reappeared.
In the 1990s many Hindi movies had lip-kissing scenes, particularly
Aamir Khan's movies (e.g. 'Ishq'). In fact he is supposed to have
kissed the maximum number of his co-stars."

...and (b): Mostly, Indians don't. As Arvind Kumar of the Indic
Journalists Association International, "You won't see public display
of affection in public in India even off-screen."

3. Why do the characters have to sing and dance?

"Subtlety is not one of the strengths of Indian commercial cinema,"
Indu of Asian STAR TV. "If a person is happy, just a grinning face or
even ecstatic dialogues don't seem to be enough to express the
happiness. So, we resort to songs that make the message loud and clear
that, yes, we are thrilled about something. Same logic for confused,
mad, sad or love. Maybe it's not real — after all, who breaks out in
sychronised dances with 40 extras when one is happy? But it's a
characteristic of Indian cinema."

I've written elsewhere that movies give audiences what they don't
have. In the U.S., an economically comfortable nation, films often
deal with life on the edge: danger and deprivation are glamorous to
those who have everything. The same, upside down, applies in India:
it's a poor country, so the movie image is of the middle, upper-middle
and fabulously-rich classes. As Abhishek Pandey e-loquizes: "More than
999 million of India's one billion people live a life that is
completely opposite of what we all see on the screen. Hardly any will
marry for true love or have a chance to frolic on the beaches of their
own country, let alone a Caribbean or a European country. So,
Bollywood gives them what they can't rationally have — dancing,
singing, and beautiful women included."

4. Why don't the actors sing?

"Because they can't," is the curt response of e-mailer Sribuddaraju.
"Actresses are mainly used as props for glamour in the male-dominated
film industry." Another point is that India has a wonderful tradition
of vocalists; movies would be nuts not to use them as playback
singers.

I was wrong in writing that all-time playback diva Lata Mangeshkar had
recorded "something between 30,000 and 50,000 songs," Satish Kalra
e-mails: "It has been catalogued that she sang no more than 5,067
Hindi songs between the years of 1945 to 1989. Add about 20% songs in
other regional languages, and the total could be a little over 6,000.
... Her sister, Asha Bhosle, has sung more songs than Lata, and her
total from all languages may be around 10,000." The info, as Bhagwant
Sagoo and others pointed out, is from the exhaustive reference work
"Hindi Film Geet Kosh" by Harmandir Singh, aka Hamraaz — a multivolume
study I plan to buy as soon as I win the Powerball Lottery.

5. Why can't they dance?

I acknowledged that I may be ignorant of the codes underlying Indian
dance. And Sunny Singh agrees with me: "You are right — you do miss
out on the cultural codes of bhangra, laavni and various other folk
dances that are incorporated into the dance numbers in Bollywood. The
'Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham' number 'Shava Shava' echoes the bhangra
dancing you would see at many family parties in northern India. That's
why it's so popular: it's the way we dance anyway, just glamorized for
screen! So it may seem unsophisticated to you, but it works just fine
to us." And Arun Kumar, who has translated Gulzar's lyrics for the
A.R. Rahman songs from "Dil Se," indicates that "The gestures and
movements to the lyrics of the songs are often not translated
literally. When the girl says, 'Don't come near me,' she will often
make a dismissive gesture, which if the song is not translated
properly can be confusing."

Some readers distinguished between male and female actor-dancers.
"Many of the original Indian movie actresses came from a background of
professional dance and 'dance-drama'," says Ajay Divakaran of
Cambridge, Mass. "Even the acting was visibly influenced by the
expressions developed in Indian Classical Dance. Even today Indian
actresses are often trained dancers. Most dance teachers in India are
male, but they are seen as some kind of aberration. So Indian actors
are typically untrained and it shows in their dancing. The Indian
classical dance purists are of course horrified by Indian film dances.
They see them as bastard products."

Some great terpers: the Tamil stars Prabhu Deva and Kamal Hassan
(trained as a dancer), Hindi hunk Hrithik Roshan (and yes, Sri Jan, I
have seen "Kaho Naa Pyar Hai" — he move fine). "I think Travolta was
terrible compared to Shah rukh Khan," assertive Adnan Khan maintains,
"and in 'Mudjse Dosti Korage' Hrithik Roshan does a moonwalk that mo
white Western musical dancer could dream of doing! Hey, Mexicans
aren't the only browned-skinned people with rhythm!"

6. Why are the actors usually light-skinned, even in films from
Southern India?

The hot-button issue, with most of my correspondents on the same side.
Some readers, often Tamil residents or fans of Tamil and Telugu films
(in southern India), listed several stars of darker hue. Sourabh Gupta
points out: "Though fair actors might be favored by the producers of
the movies, the masses seem to care less. Ajay Devgan ... Manoj Bajpa
... Suniel [Sunil] Shetty, Rajnikanth, and even Mithuh Chakarvathy
were all stars. even if they weren't fair skinned. The elitist in
India might have the conception that fair is beautiful, but I think
masses will love anyone who can act or represents them."

But the majority agreed that the stars on the screen are
lighter-skinned than most of the people watching them. It's not just a
movie preoccupation. "You'll find every girl in India trying to make
herself more fair-skinned than she is by every cream possible,"
observes Arun Mani. "Hence all the skin care products in India are
designed to match the mindset by advertising to give a lighter skin. I
am pretty sure most people in India don't know what the word 'tanning'
means Mothers don't let their daughters out the sun, lest they will
get dark skins. And guys in India always think the basic requirement
for a girl to be beautiful is that she should be fair! So
white-skinned people in India think they are good-looking. If you look
at south Indian movies, the actor might be dark-skinned; but the
actress will be light-skinned." Often they are imported, as Madras'
ace auteur Mani Rathnam did with the Nepali actress Manisha Koirala.

The prejudice could be a vestige of the caste system: "In general, the
lighter the skin color of an Indian, the higher social class that
person is perceived to have," says Risha Patel. "It is thought that
the darker individuals must have been through multiple hardships —
e.g., works in the sun — which causes them to have a darker
complexion." Or it could be a hangover from the Raj and earlier
colonizers of the subcontinent. "There are plenty of dark skinned
actors and actresses, especially in South Indian movies," observes
Sribuddaraju, "but they are made up to look fairer than usual due to
the age long discrimination against dark skin in favor of
light-skinned 'superior' races that invaded and settled down in India
throughout the ages."

Beauty is power, power beauty. Is light considered right because it is
the color of the dominant class or caste? Or do the powerful simply
get to decide what's attractive? Here's a sad generalization: In
Europe, the U.S. and Africa, as well as India, the light-skinned
Northerners are the bosses of the dark-skinned Southerners.
"Shade-ism," prejudice based on skin gradients, exists everywhere, as
attested to by this poignant tale from Tammy, an adoptive mother in
the U.S.:

"Having two beautiful Indian daughters, one with medium skin and one
with dark, I can tell you that there is prejudice based on skin
gradients in India, including southern India where my girls are from.
I saw it when I was there in 1994 to pick up my lighter-skinned
daughter. "You are so lucky to be getting her" they told me, as the
caregivers ignored my companion's darker- skinned child. Mallika was
spoiled in the orphanage. They would rarely put her down. They were so
loving to her that they didn't really let me be with her until we left
for Madras.

"A few years later we adopted Maya from the same orphanage. She came
to us with all the signs of neglect. She had no expression and no
muscle-tone in her legs. She swayed to pass the time and even though
she was the same age upon her arrival as Mallika, couldn't talk or
walk. A few weeks after her arrival she began to thrive because she
actually had someone to cuddle her and love her now. We have her in
special education programs to make up for the 16 months of little
brain development. (The first two years of brain development are
crucial to the intellect of the person.) I don't know if we will ever
get her to the point that she could have been at had we gotten her
right away. Interestingly, we have not found this type of prejudice in
our country. Many more people remark on how beautiful Maya is. We have
even been approached by a catalog photographer who wanted to
photograph her.

"When I was in Kerala I photographed a scene of dark-skinned Indians
in line in front of a movie billboard depicting all light-skinned
actors. As a social studies teacher I talk to my students about it. I
love India but there is a little piece of me that will always hold
them responsible for any future problems that Maya might have."

7. What's with those kooky credits?

"All credits start off with the image of a god / goddess and a
prayer," proclaims the all-knowledgeable Sribuddaraju. "Raj Kapoors
films start off with [his father] Prithviraj Kapoor praying to Shiva
before the shot takes one to RK Studios' emblem, that of Raj Kapoor
holding Nargis" in the famous attitude (and poster) from "Barsaat."
Sribuddaraju avers that star billing is determined by a mixture of
seniority and popularity. But I'll stick by my story that, in the 50s
at least, age often came before beauty (Prithviraj was top-billed
above Nargis and Raj Kapoor In "Awara"), and female before male (Mala
Sinha, Meena Kumari and Waheeda Rehman all were listed above Guru Dutt
in the films Dutt directed and starred in). Raj Kapoor exercised an
ostentatious modesty, taking his actor billing in "Jagte Raho" below a
few dozens stars and bit players — exactly as Orson Welles did in the
credits for "Citizen Kane."

But why are the credits in the colonial language? "English credits are
not a surprise," instructs Mukul Bakshi of San Francisco, who disputes
my claim (taken off an internet chat site, so it must be true!) that
only two to three percent of Indians read English. "If you visit, you
will notice that most shop-fronts, road signs, bus routes, etc. are in
English. So too, are film credits, posters, etc. When I lived in New
Delhi, and was creative director at J. Walter Thompson, all the
advertising I created was in English. There are 14 English daily
newspapers in that city (there is only one in San Francisco). About
55% of the population is literate. Of that, about 80% went to what in
India are called English Medium schools, where all subjects are taught
in English, starting from first standard. That means over 400 million
people read and write English, and that makes India the world's
largest English-speaking country."

8. What's the Hindi word for "plagiarism"?

The standard Indian film review will tell you which U.S. movies the
new Indian was "inspired by." Critiques of "Koi... Mil Gaya," the
Rakesh and Hrithik Roshan sci-fi thriller that opened around the world
last week, noted the film's similarity to "E.T.," "Forrest Gump,"
"Big" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." With Bollywood movies
now getting the occasional reviews in U.S. newspapers, Indian
producers have to worry that they'll catch unwanted attention from
Hollywood lawyers. They've already caught hell at home. In May the
Indian Supreme Court banned the 260-episode TV drama "Karishma: The
Miracles of Destiny" (starring Karishma Kapoor) because it was too
close to U.S. novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford's "A Woman of
Substance" trilogy.

Opines Ashok Talwar: "I have never heard 'The Magnificient Seven'
being labeled plagiarism." True, that remake of "The Seven Samurai"
took no official notice of Akira Kurosawa's original. Neither did "A
Fistful of Dollars," a remake of Kurosawa's "Yojimbo." In the 30s,
Hollywood remade European hits — "Intermezzo," "Pepe le Moko" (as
Casbah") —and in 1994 four U.S. pictures ("True Lies," "Intersection,"
"Mixed Nuts" and My Father, the Hero") were, bizarrely, remakes of
French movies, as was last year's "Unfaithful." But all these were
acknowledged, paid for.

I am sure there is some difference that I don't understand. One factor
to consider is that Indian film industry is exposed to Hollywood but
there is little exposure in the other direction. When people see
something they like they tend to adapt it. I see a lot of copying of
fashion and influence on popular music from India in the U.S., but it
is seldom acknowledged. Even the Indians don't make any issue out of
it.

Bharath Chari blames it on the creative bosses: "The script writers in
India do have original ideas but most of time are browbeaten by the
producers or filmmakers into lifting entire plots word for word from
popular movie in the U.S. They are even given instructions as to which
movie to choose." OK, but how do they usually get away with their
purloining? As e-mailer Manyam wrily explains, "that's homage to our
copyright system: we have none."

Then there's the piquant proposition that intellectual property is
theft. "While [the uncredited remake of another film] is crass and
proof of lack of creativity, using the word 'thieving' in this context
is wrong," argues Arvind Kumar. "It is those who use violence and cage
those who imitate others using Government resources who hate the idea
of liberty. The so called intellectual property rights (patents as
well as copyrights) are a violation of one's intellectual liberty."
Those of you who have been downloading "Finding Nemo" and bootlegging
Eminem CDs: remember that argument when your case comes to trial. It
might work.

Well, if there's anything original about Indian films, it has to be
the music. Think otherwise. Suresh Ramasubramanian asserts that it's
"not just the movies but a lot of Indian film songs are knockoffs of
anything from Classical and Opera to Rock and Pop." He recommends, as
I do, a site on "inspired" Indian films songs. Though, honestly, at
least one of A.R. Rahman's songs must have come out of his own head,
not an obscure CD that these musicologists have tracked down.

9. Tell me about non-Bombay Indian cinema.

Lots of mail here, mostly about the blooming (not, apparently,
withering, as I indicated) southern Indian film centers. "May be u
havent stepped in to the tamil movies any further than AR rahman's
music," shorthands Vivek, "because u have missed the tamil movies
biggest star Rajnikanth (and if u dig deeper u get more)." Vivek was
one of seven Bollywood e-ducators who spoke highly of Rajnikanth. It
happens that my Tamil film scholarship is pretty much limited to
Rahman's music and Rathnam's films; Mani's "Dalapathi" starred
Rajnikanth, and I was impressed — though, not knowing Tamil, I may
have missed a few dialogue subtleties. By the way, as Prabu
Parthasarathy (and several other readers) informed me, "Tamil moviedom
is dubbed Kollywood because most of the studios, labs, etc. are in a
suburb of Madras called Kodambakkam."

It's a big movie world out there, requiring much dedication. "I would
recommend you give yourself a few years to checking out the pre-80s
Tamil and Malayalam films," my voluble, valued correspondent Nithin
advises. "Of course, you want to have a special reason to welcome
anything new and different in your mind and heart, and Tamil and
Malayalam culture very bountifully provide you with that. Their film
creations are borne out of non-aggressive, light-hearted values, a
democratic and open-minded approach and, most of all. a classy
creative abandon that Hollywood can definitely imbibe to its own utter
delight."

Sign me up, Nithin. And find me a place in New York City where I can
find lots of old, subtitled Tamil films.

10. Where can you get DVDs?

All the places we mentioned last time, plus some distributors'
websites, such as Baba Digital (for a good selection of classics) and
the more comprehensive Eros Entertainment (classics, moderns and song
compilations). If you're near a theater showing Bollywood product —
there are more than you'd think — you can get advance tickets at
Sulekha.com, "the #1 Indian online community." For other Dilwale dish,
try the news-'n-gossip site indiafm.com, which currently has this
morsel: "Rumours are that Aamir Khan might be featured on the cover of
TIME Magazine." (If it were true, wouldn't I tell you?)

But Bollywood fever can be stoked any place: where you see movies,
where you shop, where you eat. We take testimony from Ohio's Jennie
Sexena, a film preservationist for the Library of Congress and, she
confesses, "an unapologetic film geek since about the age of 11. So,
in July of 1999, when I visited an Indian restaurant/market that also
had Bollywood DVDs available, I bit. My first film was 'Bombay,' my
second 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai,' and I was a goner. I also took the
opportunity to infect my fellow co-workers at the preservation lab.
One is now enthusiastic about Hrithik Roshan and another is absolutely
bonkers over Shahrukh. ... There is something almost intoxicating
about movies that are so emotional and unashamed of it.

"Two years after my initial exposure I was on a plane to visit India.
That trip was life altering. ... And now, four years later, I am
married to an Indian man and about to give birth any minute (Please!)
to a half-Desi little girl. And in true Indian fashion, my husband's
parents are living with us right now, although I'm sad to say they
will be returning home to India in a couple of months. So I'm an
American bahu in a joint family! I often tell my husband that
depending on how he feels about his life at any given moment, all
praise or curses must be laid on Bollywood!"

So you see how a case of Bollywood fever can lead to wedding bells,
and leave the victim with the warm shivers of shaadi-freude.

http://www.time.com/




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Acid
2003-08-27 12:11:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yap Yok Foo
From The Time Magazine
Bollywood: Frequently Questioned Answers
Richard Corliss gets an education in Indian cinema from his readers
3. Why do the characters have to sing and dance?
"Subtlety is not one of the strengths of Indian commercial cinema,"
Indu of Asian STAR TV. "If a person is happy, just a grinning face or
even ecstatic dialogues don't seem to be enough to express the
happiness. So, we resort to songs that make the message loud and clear
that, yes, we are thrilled about something. Same logic for confused,
mad, sad or love. Maybe it's not real - after all, who breaks out in
sychronised dances with 40 extras when one is happy? But it's a
characteristic of Indian cinema."
It is also the characteristic of Broadway, why haven't I EVER had this
question directed to that? And Shyam Benegal's Zubeidaa has more subtlety
than James Bond.
Post by Yap Yok Foo
I've written elsewhere that movies give audiences what they don't
have. In the U.S., an economically comfortable nation, films often
deal with life on the edge: danger and deprivation are glamorous to
it's a poor country, so the movie image is of the middle, upper-middle
and fabulously-rich classes.
Why is it then that these movies work so well among the rich expatriate
Indians?

As Abhishek Pandey e-loquizes: "More than
Post by Yap Yok Foo
999 million of India's one billion people live a life that is
completely opposite of what we all see on the screen. Hardly any will
marry for true love or have a chance to frolic on the beaches of their
own country, let alone a Caribbean or a European country. So,
Bollywood gives them what they can't rationally have - dancing,
singing, and beautiful women included."
Really? Only one million people live like the charaters in Lagaan? And I
suppose most Americans identify with The Incredible Hulk?
Post by Yap Yok Foo
6. Why are the actors usually light-skinned, even in films from
Southern India?
Films from South India are not 'Bollywood' films. So why discuss them under
an article entitled 'Bollywood: Frequently Questioned Answers'. Might as
well start talking about French cinema abruptly in an article about
Hollywood.
Post by Yap Yok Foo
The hot-button issue, with most of my correspondents on the same side.
Some readers, often Tamil residents or fans of Tamil and Telugu films
(in southern India), listed several stars of darker hue. Sourabh Gupta
points out: "Though fair actors might be favored by the producers of
the movies, the masses seem to care less. Ajay Devgan ... Manoj Bajpa
... Suniel [Sunil] Shetty, Rajnikanth, and even Mithuh Chakarvathy
were all stars. even if they weren't fair skinned. The elitist in
India might have the conception that fair is beautiful, but I think
masses will love anyone who can act or represents them."
But the majority agreed that the stars on the screen are
lighter-skinned than most of the people watching them. It's not just a
movie preoccupation. "You'll find every girl in India trying to make
herself more fair-skinned than she is by every cream possible,"
observes Arun Mani. "Hence all the skin care products in India are
designed to match the mindset by advertising to give a lighter skin. I
am pretty sure most people in India don't know what the word 'tanning'
means Mothers don't let their daughters out the sun, lest they will
get dark skins. And guys in India always think the basic requirement
for a girl to be beautiful is that she should be fair! So
white-skinned people in India think they are good-looking. If you look
at south Indian movies, the actor might be dark-skinned; but the
actress will be light-skinned." Often they are imported, as Madras'
ace auteur Mani Rathnam did with the Nepali actress Manisha Koirala.
The prejudice could be a vestige of the caste system: "In general, the
lighter the skin color of an Indian, the higher social class that
person is perceived to have," says Risha Patel. "It is thought that
the darker individuals must have been through multiple hardships -
e.g., works in the sun - which causes them to have a darker
complexion." Or it could be a hangover from the Raj and earlier
colonizers of the subcontinent. "There are plenty of dark skinned
actors and actresses, especially in South Indian movies," observes
Sribuddaraju, "but they are made up to look fairer than usual due to
the age long discrimination against dark skin in favor of
light-skinned 'superior' races that invaded and settled down in India
throughout the ages."
Beauty is power, power beauty. Is light considered right because it is
the color of the dominant class or caste? Or do the powerful simply
get to decide what's attractive? Here's a sad generalization: In
Europe, the U.S. and Africa, as well as India, the light-skinned
Northerners are the bosses of the dark-skinned Southerners.
"Shade-ism," prejudice based on skin gradients, exists everywhere, as
attested to by this poignant tale from Tammy, an adoptive mother in
"Having two beautiful Indian daughters, one with medium skin and one
with dark, I can tell you that there is prejudice based on skin
gradients in India, including southern India where my girls are from.
I saw it when I was there in 1994 to pick up my lighter-skinned
daughter. "You are so lucky to be getting her" they told me, as the
caregivers ignored my companion's darker- skinned child. Mallika was
spoiled in the orphanage. They would rarely put her down. They were so
loving to her that they didn't really let me be with her until we left
for Madras.
"A few years later we adopted Maya from the same orphanage. She came
to us with all the signs of neglect. She had no expression and no
muscle-tone in her legs. She swayed to pass the time and even though
she was the same age upon her arrival as Mallika, couldn't talk or
walk. A few weeks after her arrival she began to thrive because she
actually had someone to cuddle her and love her now. We have her in
special education programs to make up for the 16 months of little
brain development. (The first two years of brain development are
crucial to the intellect of the person.) I don't know if we will ever
get her to the point that she could have been at had we gotten her
right away. Interestingly, we have not found this type of prejudice in
our country. Many more people remark on how beautiful Maya is. We have
even been approached by a catalog photographer who wanted to
photograph her.
"When I was in Kerala I photographed a scene of dark-skinned Indians
in line in front of a movie billboard depicting all light-skinned
actors. As a social studies teacher I talk to my students about it. I
love India but there is a little piece of me that will always hold
them responsible for any future problems that Maya might have."
Such a long story, and it isn't even about Bollywood, but about South India.
So what's the point? North Indian upper castes generally make Bollywood
films, with mostly North Indian upper caste and South Indian upper caste
actors, and that's the way they look. Thats the way their children, who
carry on in the industry look. Why would they make films with a majority of
stars from lower castes, except for special reasons. Just like how Hollywood
slots in the mandatory black person for political correctness, but by far
and large a white director will caste a white protagonist. Ever imagined a
black Harry Potter? India's races have mixed for thousands of years. If
blacks had arrived to America thousands of years ago in large numbers,
Americans might be how Indians are; a mixed race, with a tendency to glorify
the underlying ruling racial substratum.
Post by Yap Yok Foo
9. Tell me about non-Bombay Indian cinema.
Even more stuff that has little or nothing to do with Bollywood.
Post by Yap Yok Foo
Lots of mail here, mostly about the blooming (not, apparently,
withering, as I indicated) southern Indian film centers. "May be u
havent stepped in to the tamil movies any further than AR rahman's
music," shorthands Vivek, "because u have missed the tamil movies
biggest star Rajnikanth (and if u dig deeper u get more)." Vivek was
one of seven Bollywood e-ducators who spoke highly of Rajnikanth. It
happens that my Tamil film scholarship is pretty much limited to
Rahman's music and Rathnam's films; Mani's "Dalapathi" starred
Rajnikanth, and I was impressed - though, not knowing Tamil, I may
have missed a few dialogue subtleties. By the way, as Prabu
Parthasarathy (and several other readers) informed me, "Tamil moviedom
is dubbed Kollywood because most of the studios, labs, etc. are in a
suburb of Madras called Kodambakkam."
It's a big movie world out there, requiring much dedication. "I would
recommend you give yourself a few years to checking out the pre-80s
Tamil and Malayalam films," my voluble, valued correspondent Nithin
advises. "Of course, you want to have a special reason to welcome
anything new and different in your mind and heart, and Tamil and
Malayalam culture very bountifully provide you with that. Their film
creations are borne out of non-aggressive, light-hearted values, a
democratic and open-minded approach and, most of all. a classy
creative abandon that Hollywood can definitely imbibe to its own utter
delight."
Sign me up, Nithin. And find me a place in New York City where I can
find lots of old, subtitled Tamil films.
Yap Yok Foo
2003-09-09 01:00:52 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine
Issue 15 Sept 2003

Move On
Mired in its grief over 9/11, the U.S. could learn from Asia
BY PICO IYER

Four years ago on New Year's Day, while contemplating the intricate
battle of good and evil depicted on the walls of Angkor Wat in
Cambodia, I saw two of the Khmer Rouge's chief killers—Pol Pot's
lieutenants, in effect—walking, unprotected, through the country they
had devastated. Having turned themselves in to Cambodian authorities
under an amnesty agreement, they were now free to enjoy a sight-seeing
trip to their national monument, heedless of the people all around
whom they had orphaned and whose lives they had reduced to zero. One
of those victims, spotting the murderers strolling in the sunshine,
turned white. But another, next to me, said: "Let it go. If we harm
them, the cycle of violence will only continue."

It is a sentiment you hear often in Asia, and one that humbles many of
us who visit from the West. In Vietnam, people who lost daughters and
brothers to the American war now embrace returning American veterans,
if only because they sense that the patriotic thing to do is to
embrace the (U.S.-dominated) future. Japan, a country reduced to ashes
by America's bombs, responded to defeat by throwing its arms around
its conquerors, having decided that if you can't beat them, you might
as well join them—and do what they do even better. Whether out of
pragmatism or real moral clarity, the old cultures of Asia, famous for
their worship of ancestors, have often shown themselves ready to learn
from their descendants.

To many on this side of the world, therefore, America's dwelling—and
dwelling—on its losses of two years ago appears unseemly. The firemen
who gave their lives in the World Trade Center are heroes to inspire
the world. And most Muslims regard the assault of a few fanatics as a
blot on their religion, not a triumph. Yet America, determined not to
look up from the event and to keep brandishing its wounds before the
world, looks at times like an angry child who lacks the perspective of
his elders. When a troublemaker tries to provoke you, even schoolboys
know that you get the best of him by turning away and going about your
business. Each time the U.S. revisits its sorrow, it provides Osama
bin Laden with another victory and lives down to the terrorists'
caricatures of it.

The very tragedy that should have propelled America closer to the rest
of the world, and made it more sympathetic to cultures that have
suffered catastrophes of their own, has only pushed America deeper
into itself. And at precisely the moment when it should be thinking
about a global future—if nothing else, the attacks reminded us that
the grievance of one place is the sorrow of every place—the U.S. is
retreating into the past and a vision of "us" against "them." America
has acted in recent years as if to be on the receiving end of evil is,
in itself, to be good. That being opposed to wrong is not the same
thing as being right, that being a victim is not the same as being an
innocent are ideas not warmly entertained of late in the land of the
free.

Everyone who suffers a terrible loss grieves over it and remembers its
anniversary; not to do so would seem scarcely human. And in the case
of America, which has been shielded for so long from terrorism at
home, the 9/11 attacks possessed a force that more weathered cultures
have forgotten. But the older cultures, having extended a hand toward
America at its time of need, can reasonably feel now that the U.S., in
its rage, has swatted them away. And the imbalance of the
world—whereby so much power and money lie with one of its youngest
nations—is compounded by that deeper imbalance whereby almost every
nation knows more about America than America knows about every other
nation. Each reiteration of the 9/11 tragedy can make it seem as if
the U.S. is stressing its losses to the exclusion of those in Bali or
Bombay or East Africa; when more than 120,000 people died in a flood
in Bangladesh in 1991—40 times as many casualties as on 9/11—I do not
remember my neighbors in California showing much concern.

It is said that the Buddha, walking through a park one day, came upon
some picnickers who were furious at a woman who had made off with
their goodies. "What is more important?" he asked them. "To look for
the woman, or to look for yourself?" We are the shapers of our own
destiny, he was saying, and it is up to us to reflect upon what we may
have done to invite calamity, and how we can prevent it from happening
again. Whether Buddhist or not, that spirit is still visible in Asia
today. The older cultures on this continent learn daily from the
enterprise, dynamism and evergreen hopefulness of the world's youngest
power. But they can be forgiven some wistfulness if the U.S., in
return, shows no signs of wanting to learn anything from them.

—Pico Iyer is the author of several books, most recently Abandon, and
a longtime contributor to TIME

http://www.time.com/




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Yap Yok Foo
2003-10-07 15:17:55 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine
Issue October 13, 2003

Asia's Terror Threat
One year after the carnage of Bali, a top terrorist's confessions
suggest Asia is as vulnerable as ever
BY SIMON ELEGANT AND ANDREW PERRIN

You'd never guess from the plaintive tone that the man being
interrogated is supposed to be one of the world's most dangerous
terrorists. Even through a fog of bureaucratic paraphrasing, Riduan
Isamuddin—better known as Hambali—appears a very unhappy man. And
that's not just because his capture on Aug. 11 in central Thailand
delivered him into the hands of his mortal enemy, the U.S. Or that he
is facing the prospect of a lifetime behind bars. No, what really
seems to bother the 39-year-old Indonesian is that Jemaah Islamiah
(JI), the regional network of militant Islamic groups he spent the
past decade building up, is now collapsing. That, at least, is his
claim, according to records Time has obtained, which summarize the
interrogations of Hambali and two of his closest companions.

In a lengthy interrogation session on Aug. 22, Hambali—the man
believed to be ultimately responsible for many other bombings across
Southeast Asia that have claimed hundreds of lives—complains that JI
is in a "very bad" state. "The captive [Hambali] kept insisting that
JI was breaking down because of those who had been captured," an
anonymous interrogator writes. In addition, Hambali laments, "all the
group's savings have been lost to raids and arrests," and "JI is now
totally dependent on al-Qaeda for money." In short, says the
interrogation summary, JI is essentially "destroyed."

That is an astonishing claim from the man widely believed to have been
JI's chief operational commander. It also contradicts what many
intelligence officials and analysts assert: that JI has been wounded
but remains extremely dangerous. Those same officials warn that the
process of separating truth from deliberate misdirection when
interrogating such experienced operatives as Hambali is far from easy.
Indeed, the American intelligence agents who authored the documents
for distribution to senior intelligence and police officials around
the region repeatedly remind their readers how slippery Hambali is,
prefacing the summaries of each day's interrogation with the same
warning: "The following comments came from a senior al-Qaeda prisoner,
and could be designed to influence as well as inform. The prisoner may
also deliberately withhold information and practice
counter-interrogation techniques."

The question of how potent Asia's terrorist networks remain is
particularly resonant now, on the eve of the first anniversary of the
Oct. 12, 2002, Bali bombings. In the year since the Bali attack, Asian
and U.S. security forces have won many battles in the region's war on
terror. Police have arrested hundreds of alleged JI operatives across
Asia, including the main perpetrators of the Bali blasts and the
suspects in the Aug. 5 bombing of Jakarta's JW Marriott hotel.
Intelligence agencies in various Southeast Asian countries are also
proving more adept at sharing information: Hambali's arrest came after
Thai security officials and U.S. intelligence operatives acted on
information provided by Malaysian authorities.

Yet experts fear the terror threat in Asia remains as high as ever.
Despite JI's clear record of agitation in Indonesia, Jakarta has yet
to formally acknowledge the network's existence, largely out of fear
of offending the country's Muslim political parties. Al-Qaeda and
Taliban fighters have found refuge in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas
and are staging deadly cross-border raids into Afghanistan.
Cooperation among different countries, though improving, is still
hampered by distrust.

Reading between the lines of Hambali's confession, it's clear how much
trouble JI is still capable of causing. It retains strong links to
al-Qaeda and—at least until Hambali's arrest—had access to large
amounts of its cash. What's more, JI operatives are still receiving
training in secret locations in Asia and JI can continue to count on a
steady supply of disaffected, angry young Muslims ready to kill and
die as jihadis. "When you fight terrorism you cannot arrest or kill
one or two people, however important they are," says Rohan Gunaratna,
author of the book Inside al-Qaeda. "You must criminalize the group,
go after their propaganda, their financing, their safe houses and
their training facilities. You must target the whole organization, not
just one or two people—that's useless."

WHO'S THE BOSS?

One of the key insights gleaned from the interrogation of Hambali—who
Time has found out is being held on a joint American-British air base
on the remote Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia—is that the ties
between al-Qaeda and JI are even stronger than previously believed.
It's particularly revealing that the two aides arrested with Hambali
were the Malaysians Mohamad Farik Amin, alias Zubair, and Bashir bin
Lap, whose nom de guerre was Lilie. As Hambali himself notes in his
confession, neither Zubair nor Lilie are JI members. Rather, they are
al-Qaeda operatives who were originally members of a four-man,
all-Malaysian suicide squad that pledged a direct oath of fealty to
Osama bin Laden to die for the cause. "Lilie stated that bin Laden
discussed their commitment to Allah with the group," the
interrogator's summary states, "and told them that their duty was to
suffer."

Hambali says he recruited the four members of the cell on behalf of
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11 who was
al-Qaeda's military commander until his March 1 arrest in Pakistan.
Mohammed—known within al-Qaeda as Mukhtar, an Arabic title meaning
headman—told Hambali that the cell's mission involved hijacking a
plane. In the end, the hijacking never happened. But Hambali's
recollection of these plans shows once again how closely interlinked
JI and al-Qaeda had become.

In their confessions, Hambali and his two al-Qaeda lieutenants Zubair
and Lilie describe in chilling detail how they spent months exploring
targets in Thailand. The U.S. and British embassies in Bangkok, as
well as several nightclubs in tourist hot spots such as Phuket and
Pattaya, were all cased. This March, according to Zubair, the group
also surveyed the facilities at Bangkok's Don Muang airport,
specifically the check-in counter for flights to Israel. Zubair
reported that the ticket counter was well guarded by Thai police. He
also said that though he could spot the parked Israeli planes from a
passing bus, they were protected by a high fence, making an attack
impractical.

Another Bangkok target that was studied carefully was an Israeli-owned
restaurant and travel agency near famed backpacker district Khao San
Road, called United Traveler's Connection, which displays a large Star
of David above a sign in English and Hebrew. According to the
interrogation summaries, Hambali called off the strike only when Lilie
told him there was a police station nearby. A Thai intelligence
official says the three men then turned their attention to the JW
Marriott hotel in downtown Bangkok, which may have been saved from
attack by Hambali's capture. "They had identified it as a weak spot,"
says the official. "They were looking for explosives."

SHOW ME THE MONEY

"I am starting a business and I need capital," read the message sent
via e-mail from a computer in Indonesia to Thailand in late May. The
author of the e-mail, Malaysian Azahari bin Husin, had no doubt his
message would be understood. Within weeks, Azahari, an expert in
explosives and a top JI operative who is now on the lam, received
$45,000 from Hambali. The money was hand-delivered through a chain of
couriers stretching from Thailand, through Malaysia and into
Indonesia. Along with this cash, Hambali sent a message instructing
Azahari to set aside $15,000 for the families of the Bali bombers, and
to use the rest to help fund his "business"—the bombing of Jakarta's
JW Marriott.

In the war on terror, no challenge is greater than halting the flow of
money to fund such attacks. And yet, as this anecdote from Hambali's
interrogation transcript shows, Hambali still had access to large
amounts of cash and the ability to move it swiftly across the region
even while he was on the run. "He did it all through couriers,"
observes a regional intelligence official, "and it's almost impossible
to stop. It's an issue we need to look at more closely."

As Hambali's confession suggests, JI's ability to cause havoc has
stemmed in large part from its financial ties to al-Qaeda. Hambali
says almost all JI funding for more than a year came directly from
al-Qaeda military commander Mohammed. Regional intelligence officials
believe that at one point in 2002 Hambali had as much as $500,000 in
his jihad fund, which he used, according to Zachary Abuza, an expert
on terrorism, "to support the cost of travel to and training of
members in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and the Philippines, and to
purchase arms and explosives and subsidize JI-run madrasahs." Hambali
says that al-Qaeda money helped fund the Bali bombings as well as the
attack on the JW Marriott. Alarmingly, Hambali told his captors that
JI militants in Indonesia and the Philippines have been sent $70,000
since June to fund terrorist strikes. Because bombing the JW Marriott
wouldn't have cost much, intelligence officials believe tens of
thousands of dollars are still in JI hands for future operations.

In some cases, charities have been used directly by al-Qaeda to funnel
money into JI's hands. In May, a Saudi-funded charity in Cambodia was
closed after a joint U.S.-Cambodian investigation detected large sums
of money deposited into the charity's bank account. "We're talking
about huge inflows of cash here," says a senior diplomat in Phnom
Penh. "Amounts so large they set alarm bells ringing all over the
place." One of the men arrested at the charity, Thai national Abdul
Azi, has admitted to police that he knew Hambali and had helped him
hide out in Cambodia earlier this year. A senior official at
Cambodia's Interior Ministry told Time that Azi was "was in charge of
accounts for Hambali [in Cambodia]. The two had a close relationship."
Azi, says a Thai intelligence official, also had links to four Thai JI
members arrested in Thailand in June.

The closure of this one charity in Cambodia was a useful but rare
victory. For the most part, say regional-terrorism experts, efforts to
shut off the financing of terror in Asia remain woefully incomplete.
"Money is the terrorist's lifeblood," says Gunaratna. "It is the
difference between big and small operations, between many people dying
and just a few. Going after the financing is absolutely critical."

YOUNG GUNS

Meanwhile, JI appears to have little trouble attracting new recruits.
Indonesia has yet to take action against the handful of pesantren, or
Muslim boarding schools, that have been breeding grounds for future
terrorists, and young Muslim men are still making their way to similar
institutions in countries such as Pakistan to be imbued with jihadist
fervor. A fortnight ago, a group of 17 Indonesians and Malaysians was
arrested in the country on suspicion of involvement with terrorist
activities. "We still don't have a clear idea of the extent of the
Indonesian presence in Pakistan," says Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based
expert on JI. "But there are hundreds upon hundreds of students there
who are potential recruits."

One of those arrested in Pakistan was Hambali's younger brother,
26-year-old Rusman (Gun Gun) Gunawan. He and the others who were
detained insist they were attending school in the country merely to
get a religious education. Yet in his confession, Hambali himself
fingers Gunawan as one of his chief conduits to al-Qaeda. Gunawan, a
student at Abu Bakr University in Karachi, acted for a year-and-a-half
as a messenger between Hambali and his al-Qaeda contacts, Hambali
says. "After giving some phone numbers and addresses to his brother or
vice versa," says the interrogator's report, "al-Qaeda's operatives
began to make direct contact with the captive's messenger and made
specific operational actions/transactions, including money transfers."
Though no charges have been filed against Gunawan, Western diplomats
and Pakistani officials claim he may in fact have been plotting a
terrorist action and not simply serving as an alleged courier. "He and
the others were arrested to prevent a major disaster," says Aftab
Ahmed Shaikh, an adviser to the Home Minister of Sindh province.

Likewise, the Philippines remains another potential terrorism hotbed
where JI appears to have made important inroads. Hambali estimates
that a "large number of members of Jemaah Islamiah Indonesia are
hiding in the Philippines and supporting the MILF." The Moro Islamic
Liberation Front, which is fighting for an independent Muslim state in
Mindanao in the southern Philippines, denies it has ties to JI or
al-Qaeda, but regional intelligence officials say JI operatives
continue to train in MILF-protected camps. Hambali lends credence to
suspicions that such ties exist between the MILF and JI: he told his
interrogators that he sent about $27,000 to the MILF as recently as
June.

THE NEXT BOMB

With Asia's terrorist networks still clearly in place, the threat of
further attacks seems undiminished. Hambali himself concedes that JI
remains formidable in Indonesia, where it has "always found strong
support at the grassroots level." Even more troubling, interrogations
of captured militants have led Indonesian police to conclude that JI
operatives are in possession of up to 300 kilos of explosives already
largely assembled as bombs and ready for quick use. "There are two
bombs still out there," says police general I Made Mangku Pastika, who
led the successful Bali investigation. "One of them is a vest bomb. We
are worried about this. Frankly, we don't know where they are. They
could be anywhere."

There is also the risk of complacency—and sheer exhaustion—setting in
as the tedious but vital war on terror drags on. From border
checkpoints to embassies, from airports to hotels, it can be hard to
ensure that the people on the front lines continue to sustain the
heightened state of alertness produced by the devastation in Bali.
"People need to be reminded every three or six months" about the
threat of terrorism, says Tan Guong Ching, permanent secretary at
Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs, which oversees domestic
security. "It is not a war in the conventional sense." A Western
diplomat based in Asia echoes that sentiment: "In 2001 and last year,
it felt like war. Now it's just a grind. It's going to require a
sustained commitment and hard work to keep going. But it's really the
only way." Words to live by. Literally.

—With reporting by Ghulam Hasnain/Karachi, Jake Lloyd-Smith/Singapore,
Zamira Loebis and Jason Tedjasukmana/Jakarta, Tim McGirk/Islamabad,
Mageswary Ramakrishnan/Kuala Lumpur, Nelly Sindayen/Manila and Eric
Unmacht/Phnom Penh

http://www.time.com/




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Yap Yok Foo
2003-10-17 01:33:36 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine
Issue October 20, 2003

Regime Change
After 22 years in power, Mahathir Mohamad is stepping down.
Can Malaysia thrive without him?
BY SIMON ELEGANT | KUALA LUMPUR

ANDREW MOORE FOR TIME
Far Sighted: Mahathir, waving to supporters with his wife Siti Hasmah,
transformed Malaysia into a rich and modern nation

Twenty years ago, Puchong was a typical sleepy Malaysian town. It had
one main street lined by rows of two-story shop houses out of which
the mostly Chinese population did business, selling goods and services
to the surrounding oil-palm plantations, tin mines and rubber
smallholdings. Though it lies only 18 kilometers from the center of
Kuala Lumpur, Puchong could have been any of hundreds of similar towns
throughout the country: the indigenous Malays largely working the
land, the Chinese dominating business in the towns.

Today, looking at Puchong, you could be excused for thinking that 100
years had passed, not just 20. Puchong is a thriving metropolis with a
multiracial population of almost 560,000, many of them Malays working
in nearby factories, offices and small businesses. Now effectively a
suburb of the capital, it boasts two four-lane highways that are
filled with streams of cars from early morning until late at night.
Among the high-rise apartment blocks and shopping malls are rows of
shops offering KFC chicken, McDonald's hamburgers and scores of
cell-phone models. There is even a pair of superstores from
international giants Carrefour and Tesco, and the huge parking lot of
each could comfortably house all the vehicles owned by the townsfolk
back in the early 1980s.

Just as it was once a microcosm of the old order, the bustling Puchong
of today is a neat symbol of the new Malaysia as envisioned by Prime
Minister Mahathir Mohamad: modern, prosperous, peaceful, admired.
Mahathir, 78, is scheduled to step down at the end of this month,
after 22 years in power. His retirement signals the end of an era
during which, through the sheer force of his convictions and his
personality, he transformed the character of an entire nation and its
people. Last week, at a press conference in Bali after his final
attendance at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,
Mahathir was in characteristically feisty form—cracking jokes,
skewering other governments (he lambasted Australia for playing
"deputy sheriff" in the region) and showing no sign that his imminent
departure was weighing on his mind.

He was leaving, he said, because "everything is in place. That's the
right time to leave. You don't want to leave after people kick you
out." Belying his good humor, however, Mahathir's departure raises
difficult questions about Malaysia's future. Can the economic momentum
be sustained?

Can Mahathir's successor, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, match
the achievements of his predecessor? Will there be greater democracy
and transparency?

The sentiment in Puchong is a barometer of what Malaysia has achieved
under Mahathir. The town retains one habit from the old days: the
pasar malam, or night market, where row upon row of stalls are set up
under neon lights each evening for hawkers to sell anything from
grilled-to-order satay to traditional herbal remedies to a pair of
Levi's jeans. In a large, brightly lit tent at one corner of the
market, they can also plunk down a $25 deposit and reserve a brand new
car. "I already have a Wira," says Ibni Hajar Itam, referring to a
popular model of the national car built by the country's main
automaker, Proton. "Now I'd like to buy a smaller car, a Kancil, for
my wife." Each of the four models on display is surrounded by
prospective buyers inspecting the wheels and peering inside while
their children swarm through the cars, banging doors, pressing buttons
and switches and generally making the salesmen nervous. Ibni, who was
born in the rural town of Batu Pahat and migrated to Kuala Lumpur when
he was nine, has spent 17 years at a nearby factory run by the
Japanese electronic giant Matsushita. Should he decide to buy the
cheapest Kancil on offer, the soft-spoken 33-year-old supervisor will
pay only about $95 a month for the seven-year loan period. "One of
Mahathir's great achievements is that almost every Malaysian can own a
car," Ibni observes with satisfaction.

Indeed, from the cars that Ibni buys at fire-sale prices to his
job—Matsushita was one of the first multinationals to take advantage
of tax breaks and other incentive offered in the early years of
Mahathir's premiership—he gives credit where it is due, to the Prime
Minister and his single-minded vision of a developed Malaysia. Few
would dispute that Mahathir's decision in the mid-1980s to welcome
foreign investment was the chief catalyst in the economy's
transformation from the world's biggest rubber and tin producer into a
global player in products such as disk drives (it's the world's
largest manufacturer), silicon chips and air conditioners. In the
process, Malaysia's per-capita income has risen to Asia's fifth
highest, trailing only Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.

Ibni, and almost any other Malaysian, will also tell you that the
country's prosperity is built on, and buttresses, Mahathir's other
great triumph: maintaining racial harmony. In Malaysia, where about
two-thirds of the population is Malay, a quarter Chinese and the rest
of Indian descent, memories of the 1969 racial riots that left
hundreds dead are fading. But the riots remain a pivotal event in the
country's history, and the job of preventing a recurrence—in large
measure by raising the economic status of the Malays, who have long
lagged their Chinese compatriots in commercial matters, and so
reducing resentment—has been Mahathir's central preoccupation while in
office.

Although they are happy to credit Mahathir for Malaysia's economic
successes, many Malaysians have grave doubts about other aspects of
his legacy. Mahathir "excelled in the physical development of the
country, creating jobs, building highways," Ibni says. "But I still
feel angry at how Anwar was treated. We are Malays, and we don't
assault and jail our leaders."

Anwar. A name Mahathir would probably be happy never to hear again,
particularly during the valedictory paeans filling his last weeks in
office. In Kuala Lumpur's corridors of power, Anwar Ibrahim's name is
hardly ever mentioned these days. But talk to any ordinary Malaysian
about Mahathir—particularly a Malay—and the name soon crops up. Anwar
was Deputy Prime Minister and heir apparent until he challenged
Mahathir politically. Fired from the government and expelled from the
party in September 1998, Anwar launched a campaign of street
demonstrations calling for the reform of what he claimed was a
corrupt, crony-ridden establishment presided over by Mahathir. Within
weeks he was jailed, beaten in prison by the chief of police (who was
later jailed for his actions) and then convicted of sodomy and
corruption. The fairness of his trials was questioned by a broad range
of voices in and out of Malaysia, including the U.S. State Department.
Today, Anwar, 56, still has nine years of his 15-year sentence to
serve.

For many of Mahathir's critics, the Anwar affair was simply the most
extreme example of what is both Mahathir's greatest strength and
biggest weakness—his implacable will. Longtime opposition politician
Lim Kit Siang says Mahathir's burning sense of mission means that the
Prime Minister has no compunction about sweeping aside anything
standing in his way. Lim should know: he himself spent two years in
prison under tough internal-security laws that allow detention without
trial. This dark side of Mahathir has systematically "destroyed and
undermined Malaysia's democratic institutions," Lim says, echoing a
lament voiced by oppositionists and activists throughout the country.
"Although he is capable of great good," Lim adds, "he is also capable
of great evil because of his single-mindedness, especially when there
are also no checks and balances."

Hishamuddin Rais knows all about a lack of checks and balances. The
50-something journalist, activist and filmmaker was helping to
organize "Free Anwar" rallies in April 2001 when he was arrested along
with six other opposition politicians. Malaysia's chief of police
explained at the time that the demonstrations would threaten the
country's security and mentioned that some of the planners had at one
time attempted to buy arms, such as rocket launchers, for use against
the police.

After a month of solitary confinement and an average of 10 hours a day
of interrogation, explains Hishamuddin—still twitchy months after his
release and smoking his fifth cigarette in an hour—he broke down and
told his questioners whatever they wanted to hear. "I regretted being
born. It damages you. I carry it inside me every day." He glances out
the open balcony doors of his apartment. The hill opposite, until
recently covered in thick foliage, has been clear-cut, and bulldozers
are busy nosing the piles of raw, orange soil into place for the
construction of a new condominium. "I was flushed into the sewer that
maintains the whole system," Hishamuddin finally continues.
"Malaysia's facade is the tallest buildings in the world, the
international airport and so on. But there is a price to pay." After
two months in solitary, Hishamuddin spent two further years in a
detention camp. He was never charged and not once during that period
was he questioned about attempts to obtain arms, he says.

Mahathir, who declined TIME's requests for an interview, has in the
past been characteristically pugnacious in defending such actions,
saying they are necessary to preserve the peace in a multiracial
country like Malaysia. In 2001, he told a conference in Dubai that
"some countries must be ruled by dictators" to avoid the pitfalls of
multiparty democracy. So long as "good people" are in charge, he
added, feudal kings and dictators could provide good governance. Two
years earlier, when asked by this reporter if he had made any
mistakes, Mahathir thought for a long moment before answering: "I've
gone against the stream many, many times, and it just so happens that
in most instances I have been proved correct."

Among the plans Mahathir allows he may have got wrong was Perwaja. The
state-owned steel plant was an early Mahathir scheme to accelerate the
country's industrialization. Today, Perwaja has so far cost Malaysian
taxpayers some $2 billion and still shows no sign of making a profit.
Just as the Anwar affair was to some merely the logical outcome of
Mahathir's growing authoritarianism, to the Prime Minister's
detractors Perwaja is merely the most glaring example of a series of
ill-conceived, grandiose schemes that have depleted the country's
coffers. In the 1980s, Mahathir, so vitriolic about currency traders
and hedge-fund managers, presided over speculation in the
foreign-exchange market that cost the central bank $6-$11 billion.
Even the national car so beloved by the likes of Ibni is not immune.
Despite massive government subsidies and tariffs on competitors of up
to 300%, Proton reported that its August sales plummeted by almost a
quarter from a year earlier. Foreign-car sales, in contrast, rose 40%.
"Economically, it is a very mixed legacy for the Deputy Prime
Minister," says Shahrir Samad, a former Cabinet minister and current
member of the supreme council of the United Malays National
Organization (UMNO), the political party that leads the national
ruling coalition. "What does he do with things like Perwaja and
Proton? Those are very difficult burdens to carry and manage."

There's also the lingering issue of cronyism, Mahathir's policy of
favoring certain entrepreneurs by granting them government contracts.
He has justified this in part as a means of creating Malay
millionaires who could act as role models. Following the Asian
financial crisis of 1997, Mahathir made a real move to address
concerns about crony mismanagement. Some of those most criticized for
benefiting from favoritism, such as Malaysia Airlines chairman
Tajuddin Ramli, were ousted and new management installed at their
conglomerates.

Analysts and diplomats in Kuala Lumpur say the Prime Minister was soon
back to his old ways, noting that a businessman from Mahathir's home
state of Kedah, Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary, suddenly seemed to be winning
an inordinate number of government contracts. Syed Mokhtar's
associates counter that he gets the contracts because he delivers. "I
have not seen the group fail on any of its major projects," says one
businessman close to Syed Mokhtar. "These aren't given on a platter."
But, says an investment banker close to Abdullah, "there's a lot of
concern" about Syed Mokhtar's expansion. The fear is that Syed Mokhtar
is involved in so many different businesses that in the event of
another economic crisis the empire might be sufficiently dented that
it could present a systemic risk. Some analysts believe that Abdullah
will distance himself from Mahathir's practice of pampering favored
tycoons and baby-sitting the Malay community. "The relationship
between politics and business under Mahathir is very, very strong,"
says activist and academic Charles Santiago. "What we'll see is a
phasing out of that relationship under Abdullah."

Politically, the new PM will face a delicate task, distancing himself
from his predecessor without seeming disloyal. There's no doubt that
the genial Abdullah, 63, with his reputation as a corruption-free
family man descended from a line of Islamic scholars, will be able to
draw some voters back to UMNO. But it will still be hard to heal the
wounds caused by the Anwar affair, which led to UMNO's worst showing
ever in the latest general elections, in 1999. Abdullah's supporters
are already gently preparing the ground, talking of a change from
"magisterial to managerial" rule and emphasizing that their man is a
consensus builder, a listener. Abdullah has also begun staking out
ground of his own on the corruption issue, giving regular speeches on
the need to clean up the civil service, for example.

If fence sitters like factory supervisor Ibni are anything to go by,
the Abdullah camp's careful strategy could work in the next general
elections, widely expected around next April. Back in Puchong, it is
getting late, and Ibni has put off for another night the decision on
buying the car. Before leaving, he sums up his thoughts: "I still
cannot rationalize or accept Anwar's fate. But I am prepared to give
[Abdullah] a chance." And what about Mahathir? Here one of the more
ebullient car salesmen, Zamzury Rahman, breaks in: "Nobody is perfect.
We don't say Mahathir is perfect. But he has done a lot of good for
this country. And when you have an excess of good, you forgive the
bad." With almost two-thirds of households owning TVs and cars, with
smoothly flowing highways to drive on, with decently paid work still
widely available and with the different races at peace, many
Malaysians agree.

—With reporting by Baradan Kuppusamy and Michael Schuman/Kuala Lumpur
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Last of the Strongmen
Even with Mahathir gone, Asian authoritarianism is alive and kicking
By Ian Buruma

Mahathir Mohamad is one of the last of a particular breed. There are
hardly any Asian strongmen left. Kim Jong Il still rules as a
hereditary despot in the isolation of his starving country. And Lee
Kuan Yew still likes to jerk the strings backstage in Singapore. But
they are exceptions. Most Asian nations are governed now by colorless
men, who look like managers of a provincial bank. This does not
necessarily mean they are less oppressive; what is shaping up after
the great strongmen leave the scene is a new kind of authoritarianism.

It was long held as a given that Asians needed the firm leadership of
charismatic autocrats, for otherwise they would run amok or descend
into anarchy. Asians, so their foreign masters in the days of empire
used to argue, were not yet ready for self-government, let alone
popular sovereignty. And the strongmen who fought to liberate
themselves from these masters held much the same view. The modern
nation-state was a new and often fragile thing in Asia, and only a
Great Leader could hold it together through sheer force of will.

It is a view that served the Great Leaders and their courtiers well.
And perhaps there have been cases in which modernization or national
unity could not otherwise have been achieved. Malaysia prospered under
Mahathir, as did Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew and South Korea under
Park Chung Hee. Whether the same would have been true under more
democratic governments is impossible to prove. The least one can say
is that Japan, the most prosperous Asian nation of all, has also been
the most democratic for much of its modern history.

And it is clearly true that dictatorial rule, or misrule, has come at
a huge human cost. Mao Zedong was responsible for more deaths than
Hitler or Stalin. Long before the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese died
violently under the helmsmanship of Ho Chi Minh. Although less
murderous, Sukarno was a disaster for Indonesia; Suharto was more
successful but also more ruthless. And we need not dwell on the effect
that Pol Pot and his henchmen had on Cambodia.

As was the case in Europe, the worst dictatorships often took the
place of collapsed monarchies. This is not to argue for the merits of
absolute monarchy, but it may not be a coincidence that Japan and
Thailand managed to develop relatively democratic institutions before
other Asian countries. The image of divine kingship was abused in
Japan for bellicose and authoritarian ends, it is true, but even in
the dark 1930s Japan never had a great dictator. Perhaps the Sultans
in Malaysia, by no means all democratic men, stood in the way of a
great Malaysian dictator. Mahathir was never a despot in the way Mao
or Sukarno were. And Thai democracy owes quite a bit to royal
intervention. Even if the current Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin
Shinawatra, would like to rule as a benign autocrat, the presence of
the King will probably stop him from doing so. What we know for sure
is that Mao, like Stalin in the Soviet Union, combined the worst
aspects of pseudodivine monarchy with modern political dogmas. So does
Kim Jong Il, but it is to be hoped he will be the last of that
ill-begotten breed.

Does the demise of Asian strongmen also mean the bright dawn of
democracy? Not necessarily. General Ne Win is gone in Burma, but the
sinister committee of military men that has followed him is, if
anything, even worse. Ne Win, a reclusive figure who ruled like a
superstitious, paranoid monarch, allowed his country to stagnate in
poverty. The current ruling junta, in the manner of more modern Asian
autocracies, combines a corrupt form of capitalism with brutal
oppression. The model for this was South Korea under military regimes.
Burma today offers a cruder, more vicious and more corrupt version of
what one might call developmental dictatorship.

China has gone the same way. There, too, the age of the Great Leader
is over. Today's Chinese Communist Party is led by the same dull
managers that run political parties in the rest of Asia—backroom
apparatchiks who make no enemies and who know how to make deals. China
is still far from democratic, however. What seems to be taking shape
is a middle-class dictatorship instead of a proletarian one. The
one-party system continues but is dedicated now to economic growth and
financial privileges for a vast network of party hacks—and those who
are fortunate or venal or sharp enough to cultivate connections with
them. The deal is increasing prosperity for the educated classes in
return for their political obedience. It has worked in Singapore. Will
it work in China? Before we know the answer to that, we may rejoice in
the end of great dictators—but not yet in the end of dictatorship.

Ian Buruma, a writer and journalist, is Henry R. Luce Professor at
Bard College, New York. His latest book is Inventing Japan

http://www.time.com/




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Yap Yok Foo
2004-01-06 00:14:14 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine
Issue January 12 2004

The Return of SARS?
Wherever diseases appear, or reappear, political controversy is sure
to follow
BY KARL TARO GREENFELD

From their onset in any community, infectious diseases quickly become
political as well as medical crises. During the Middle Ages, the
appearance of the plague in a European city was more likely to result
in a pogrom against Jews, or burnings of suspected witches, than any
rational public-health response. More recently, when HIV began its
slow burn through the U.S., it was several years before then President
Ronald Reagan even mentioned the disease publicly. The appearance of a
probable new SARS case in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou late
last month reminds us that the story of this disease's emergence, and
now possible re-emergence, has also been, in many ways, a triumph of
politics.

In February and March, when SARS began to spread outside of Guangdong
province, where it first infected humans in late 2002, the Chinese
central government made a series of politically motivated decisions
that allowed the disease to gain deadly footholds in Beijing and
elsewhere. Several Chinese officials have told me that a consideration
in covering up—or, as one put it, "not mentioning"—the disease was the
timing of the plenum of the National People's Congress, which convened
in March. The country's top law-making body was then rubber-stamping
the selection of a new President, and an unseemly new infectious
disease could have been seen as besmirching heaven's mandate. This was
a political decision that cost human lives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also played politics—as a U.N.
body must—but in this case it was in the service of public health. The
international laboratory network it established took the lead in
identifying the infectious agent. Its communicable-diseases team
issued travel advisories that forced governments to take the threat
seriously. Local WHO offices forged high-level relations with
public-health officials and used SARS to achieve a partial opening of
China's health-care and scientific communities. The WHO's political
savvy contributed to curtailing the first outbreak.

But this fresh case, a 32-year-old TV journalist recovering at
Guangzhou People's No. 8 Hospital, has reminded us again that diseases
can be political infections. This past week has seen an almost
comically confusing fusillade of "it's SARS", "no it isn't" or "maybe
it is" stories. Can a person be "slightly exposed" to SARS, as the WHO
stated late last week? Sure. But doesn't that mean this is a SARS
case? Judging by two positive antibody results taken from samples sent
to Hong Kong last week, the Guangzhou patient was almost certainly
exposed to SARS or a coronavirus genetically very similar to SARS. But
the WHO has been reluctant to say so, and that has begun to rankle
some Chinese health officials.

Ever since this case surfaced, Guangzhou health authorities have
treated it as SARS. The hospital has isolated the patient. Clinicians
have taken appropriate infection-control measures. Guangzhou hospitals
are the most experienced in the world at treating SARS. Guangzhou
laboratories, however, are not up to the same standards, and that has
led to suspected lab contamination as a possible cause for the
positive tests that initially suggested this was a SARS case. Some
Guangdong officials interpret as disrespectful the WHO's unwillingness
to confirm their labs' findings. The WHO, which has no laboratories of
its own and relies on collaborating institutions, has been unclear as
to why it is delaying its diagnosis. It is, however, acting as if it
is the only organization in the world allowed to confirm a SARS case.
At what point, though, will waiting for a WHO diagnosis cause a
critical delay? The work of responding to individual cases and making
diagnoses must ultimately be the responsibility of local governments.

Yet the implications of the current case are so troubling that the
diagnosis has been taken out of local hands. Unlike the previous
laboratory-based SARS infections in Taiwan and Singapore, the patient
in this instance had no known contact with the virus. The pressing
question is where did this infection come from? "If this is SARS,"
says Huang Wenjie, director of respiratory diseases at Guangzhou
General Military Hospital, "that means it is out in the community, and
this may be a seasonal disease." One that, in all likelihood, won't be
eradicated any time soon. The WHO is awaiting another series of
antibody tests and will probably confirm the case this week, in a
joint press conference with the Ministry of Health, rather than leave
it to the Guangdong health officials who have been working the case.
That will be a matter of protocol—the WHO as an international
organization believes it should appear with its counterparts at the
national, rather than the local, level. Yet the ill will engendered
among local Guangdong officials might make them less eager to
collaborate with the WHO the next time a possible case appears. The
importance of maintaining this relationship in Guangdong goes beyond
SARS to include other agents that might cross the species
barrier—possibly avian influenza or some other novel zoonotic disease.
Local officials and the WHO have to maintain a warm dialogue. The
world's health depends on it.

—Karl Taro Greenfeld, the editor of TIME's Asian edition, is writing
an independent book about the SARS outbreak

http://www.time.com/




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Yap Yok Foo
2004-01-20 02:12:59 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine
Issue January 26 2004

On High Alert
From Japan to Vietnam, Asian countries are culling millions of
chickens infected with a strain of bird flu that can also prove deadly
to humans. Can they prevent a pandemic?
BY KARL TARO GREENFELD | HONG KONG

When World Health Organization (WHO) parasitologist Carlo Urbani was
treating the first cases of an unknown respiratory disease in the
Hanoi-French Hospital in late February and March of 2003, he believed
he might be facing the front end of an avian-flu epidemic. Dr. Olivier
Cattin, the medical coordinator at the hospital, had alerted Urbani
and told him the Chinese-American patient currently in the emergency
ward suffering from high fever, severe muscular pains and labored
breathing had possibly come down with the disease. Virologists in Hong
Kong soon determined that the agent was a novel coronavirus, not a
mutant flu. But Urbani, who would die of SARS on March 29, went to his
grave suspecting the world was on the verge of another influenza
pandemic.

Nearly a year later, his worst fear may be coming true. If a virus, as
Nobel laureate Peter Medawar described it, "is a piece of bad news
wrapped in a protein," the past few weeks have had all the bad news
the world can handle as avian influenza has broken out in Korea,
Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. Already, the disease appears to have jumped
the species barrier, killing at least four people, and the virus is
suspected of causing another 10 deaths. Asia has stared down avian-flu
outbreaks before, notably in Hong Kong in 1997 when the city's
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officials culled
1.4 million chickens, as well as ducks, geese and other birds, after
18 human cases resulted in six fatalities. This time around, however,
the spread of the outbreak to several countries has public-health
officials on high alert, wary of the potential for a pandemic.

In Vietnam, where already more than 1 million birds have died from the
virus, and at least another 800,000 have been slaughtered as a
precaution, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)
officials were reassuring the public as late as Jan. 7 that "there has
been no sign the disease will affect human health"—even though 12
patients had already turned up at the National Institute of Pediatrics
with an "unusual" virus, according to hospital director Dr. Nguyen
Thanh Liem. Even more worrying, it now appears that there were mass
chicken die-offs in Vinh Phuc province in northern Vietnam as early as
last July, six months before the government officially acknowledged
the emergence of avian flu. Giapfa Comfeed Vietnam Ltd., a poultry
company in Vinh Phuc's Tam Duong district, told TIME that 20,000 of
its chickens died with symptoms correlating with avian flu. The
company says it sent blood samples to the MARD's Veterinary
Department, whose tests revealed that the chickens had been killed by
an unknown agent. Van Dang Ky, a veterinarian from the department's
epidemiology unit, admits, "The first signs of an epidemic were found
in Tam Duong district in July 2003. At the time, Vietnam was preparing
actively for the 22nd Southeast Asian Games and we thought we could
control the disease, so we did not announce it for political and
economic reasons." Anton Rychener, a United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organization representative in Vietnam, confirmed that
ministry officials told him there had been previous outbreaks.
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials have denied MARD's assertions.)

The appearance of avian flu in July, and the apparent Vietnamese
cover-up, would mean that this virus has had months to roll through
the chicken population, possibly mutating and becoming more pathogenic
as it goes. The culprit this time is the same as in Hong Kong in 1997:
the H5N1 influenza virus. Historically, this virus has wreaked havoc
mainly on poultry. Among chickens, the disease manifests itself as a
hemorrhagic fever, turning a pen of healthy birds into a bloody mass
of goop and feathers within 24 hours. Since the 1960s, each reported
appearance of the disease has drawn a rapid response from
international health officials concerned more about the potential for
human infection than the loss of a few feathered friends.

Their fear is that of all the diseases in the world today—from SARS to
AIDS, anthrax to Ebola—the single microbe with the greatest potential
to become, as epidemiologists say, a "slate wiper," is influenza.
Previous pandemics, such as the global outbreak of 1918 that killed an
estimated 60 million people, have precipitated some of the greatest
die-offs in history. We've all had the flu, of course, but those few
days off from work with the sniffles are a completely different
illness from that caused by a novel influenza against which we have no
immunity. Without antiviral medications or a vaccine, a new influenza
strain could kill you in days.

But how does a chicken flu become a human flu? The answer is in the
RNA of the virus itself. Influenza viruses are known as
shape-shifters, possessing the rare ability to swap proteins with
other influenza viruses to create, essentially, new influenza viruses.
As long as an H5N1 virus stays in its host species—ducks—then there is
little risk of a human pandemic arising. But once that virus has
infected chickens, then the chances of jumping to human beings,
usually through contact with chicken feces, rise considerably. In
humans, the virus is more likely to swap proteins with a human
influenza virus and acquire greater infectiousness and enhanced
pathogenicity. The result, researchers fear, could be a highly
contagious flu bug with a mortality rate of one in three. The
likelihood of such a shape shift is hard to quantify, but it is
believed that previous pandemics, in 1918 and in 1968, were the result
of this sort of gene swapping among different viral strains.

In an effort to curtail the current avian-flu outbreak before any
killer mutations can occur, public-health officials, epidemiologists
and virologists are now scrambling to figure out the origin and
genomic sequence of the flu strains in Korea, Japan, Taiwan and
Vietnam. A 14-strong WHO team, including experts from the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, is expected to arrive in Hanoi by
midweek. If they can determine where this virus came from, then
perhaps better surveillance and monitoring of the poultry trade can
curtail future outbreaks.

One clue might be simple geography. Every afflicted country or
territory is contiguous, either by land or sea, with China. The
mainland was the source of Hong Kong's previous outbreaks, and
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officials in the
city sometimes turn back containers of chickens and ducks that have
tested positive for antibodies to avian flu. China refuses to
officially acknowledge that it has an H5N1 problem. But as recently as
last March, according to a document obtained by TIME, China's Ministry
of Health was requesting from the WHO H5N1 reagents, which are used to
test for presence of antibodies to the virus. That would indicate, at
the very least, that China suspected this type of influenza might be
afflicting its poultry but did not yet have the means to test. Both
Japan and Taiwan have intercepted shipments of tainted duck meat from
the mainland in the past year. Kim Sun Jwong, an avian-diseases expert
at Seoul National University, believes the Middle Kingdom is the most
likely provenance of Korea's H5N1 outbreak. And live chickens are also
frequently traded along China's border with Vietnam. If China is
seeding these outbreaks, then greater cooperation from mainland
officials is essential to plugging the microbial jug.

But there could be an even more ominous disease vector at work—or in
flight. For years, the greatest fear of many influenza experts has
been the possibility that the H5N1 strain would infect migratory
birds. Since huge amounts of virus are shed in bird feces, such an
epidemic among migratory birds would mean death raining down from the
sky in the form of H5N1 virus. In November and December of 2002, there
were numerous migratory-waterfowl deaths due to H5N1 in Hong Kong's
Penfold and Kowloon parks. Mysteriously, when further screenings of
migratory birds were conducted immediately after, no H5N1 was
detected. "Did birds from Hong Kong, which nest in Siberia and North
Korea, somehow spread the virus elsewhere?" asks Rob Webster, a
pioneering expert in animal influenzas. "That's a frightening
possibility."

In Asia, there is no program in place to systematically sample
migratory birds to determine which viruses they carry. In Europe,
virologist Albert Osterhaus of Erasmus University in the Netherlands
has launched a survey in which fecal samples are submitted from around
the continent for testing. "We've found the proteins that indicate the
presence of various avian influenzas," says Osterhaus. The prevalence
of viruses in migratory birds may have been responsible for an
avian-flu outbreak in the Netherlands last year that infected 80
people, killing one. The virus responsible, an H7, which was less
deadly than the H5 strain, did achieve human-to-human transmission.

If a similar infection pattern is occurring in Asia among migratory
birds, then this killer flu virus will keep recurring in chickens, and
possibly humans. That will be very bad news—wrapped around a virus.

—With reporting by Do Minh Thuy and Sam Taylor/Hanoi, Susan
Jakes/Beijing, Kim Yooseung and Donald Macintyre/Seoul

http://www.time.com/




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Yap Yok Foo
2004-01-20 02:16:47 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine
Issue January 26 2004

On High Alert
From Japan to Vietnam, Asian countries are culling millions of
chickens infected with a strain of bird flu that can also prove deadly
to humans. Can they prevent a pandemic?
BY KARL TARO GREENFELD | HONG KONG

When World Health Organization (WHO) parasitologist Carlo Urbani was
treating the first cases of an unknown respiratory disease in the
Hanoi-French Hospital in late February and March of 2003, he believed
he might be facing the front end of an avian-flu epidemic. Dr. Olivier
Cattin, the medical coordinator at the hospital, had alerted Urbani
and told him the Chinese-American patient currently in the emergency
ward suffering from high fever, severe muscular pains and labored
breathing had possibly come down with the disease. Virologists in Hong
Kong soon determined that the agent was a novel coronavirus, not a
mutant flu. But Urbani, who would die of SARS on March 29, went to his
grave suspecting the world was on the verge of another influenza
pandemic.

Nearly a year later, his worst fear may be coming true. If a virus, as
Nobel laureate Peter Medawar described it, "is a piece of bad news
wrapped in a protein," the past few weeks have had all the bad news
the world can handle as avian influenza has broken out in Korea,
Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. Already, the disease appears to have jumped
the species barrier, killing at least four people, and the virus is
suspected of causing another 10 deaths. Asia has stared down avian-flu
outbreaks before, notably in Hong Kong in 1997 when the city's
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officials culled
1.4 million chickens, as well as ducks, geese and other birds, after
18 human cases resulted in six fatalities. This time around, however,
the spread of the outbreak to several countries has public-health
officials on high alert, wary of the potential for a pandemic.

In Vietnam, where already more than 1 million birds have died from the
virus, and at least another 800,000 have been slaughtered as a
precaution, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)
officials were reassuring the public as late as Jan. 7 that "there has
been no sign the disease will affect human health"—even though 12
patients had already turned up at the National Institute of Pediatrics
with an "unusual" virus, according to hospital director Dr. Nguyen
Thanh Liem. Even more worrying, it now appears that there were mass
chicken die-offs in Vinh Phuc province in northern Vietnam as early as
last July, six months before the government officially acknowledged
the emergence of avian flu. Giapfa Comfeed Vietnam Ltd., a poultry
company in Vinh Phuc's Tam Duong district, told TIME that 20,000 of
its chickens died with symptoms correlating with avian flu. The
company says it sent blood samples to the MARD's Veterinary
Department, whose tests revealed that the chickens had been killed by
an unknown agent. Van Dang Ky, a veterinarian from the department's
epidemiology unit, admits, "The first signs of an epidemic were found
in Tam Duong district in July 2003. At the time, Vietnam was preparing
actively for the 22nd Southeast Asian Games and we thought we could
control the disease, so we did not announce it for political and
economic reasons." Anton Rychener, a United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organization representative in Vietnam, confirmed that
ministry officials told him there had been previous outbreaks.
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials have denied MARD's assertions.)

The appearance of avian flu in July, and the apparent Vietnamese
cover-up, would mean that this virus has had months to roll through
the chicken population, possibly mutating and becoming more pathogenic
as it goes. The culprit this time is the same as in Hong Kong in 1997:
the H5N1 influenza virus. Historically, this virus has wreaked havoc
mainly on poultry. Among chickens, the disease manifests itself as a
hemorrhagic fever, turning a pen of healthy birds into a bloody mass
of goop and feathers within 24 hours. Since the 1960s, each reported
appearance of the disease has drawn a rapid response from
international health officials concerned more about the potential for
human infection than the loss of a few feathered friends.

Their fear is that of all the diseases in the world today—from SARS to
AIDS, anthrax to Ebola—the single microbe with the greatest potential
to become, as epidemiologists say, a "slate wiper," is influenza.
Previous pandemics, such as the global outbreak of 1918 that killed an
estimated 60 million people, have precipitated some of the greatest
die-offs in history. We've all had the flu, of course, but those few
days off from work with the sniffles are a completely different
illness from that caused by a novel influenza against which we have no
immunity. Without antiviral medications or a vaccine, a new influenza
strain could kill you in days.

But how does a chicken flu become a human flu? The answer is in the
RNA of the virus itself. Influenza viruses are known as
shape-shifters, possessing the rare ability to swap proteins with
other influenza viruses to create, essentially, new influenza viruses.
As long as an H5N1 virus stays in its host species—ducks—then there is
little risk of a human pandemic arising. But once that virus has
infected chickens, then the chances of jumping to human beings,
usually through contact with chicken feces, rise considerably. In
humans, the virus is more likely to swap proteins with a human
influenza virus and acquire greater infectiousness and enhanced
pathogenicity. The result, researchers fear, could be a highly
contagious flu bug with a mortality rate of one in three. The
likelihood of such a shape shift is hard to quantify, but it is
believed that previous pandemics, in 1918 and in 1968, were the result
of this sort of gene swapping among different viral strains.

In an effort to curtail the current avian-flu outbreak before any
killer mutations can occur, public-health officials, epidemiologists
and virologists are now scrambling to figure out the origin and
genomic sequence of the flu strains in Korea, Japan, Taiwan and
Vietnam. A 14-strong WHO team, including experts from the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, is expected to arrive in Hanoi by
midweek. If they can determine where this virus came from, then
perhaps better surveillance and monitoring of the poultry trade can
curtail future outbreaks.

One clue might be simple geography. Every afflicted country or
territory is contiguous, either by land or sea, with China. The
mainland was the source of Hong Kong's previous outbreaks, and
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officials in the
city sometimes turn back containers of chickens and ducks that have
tested positive for antibodies to avian flu. China refuses to
officially acknowledge that it has an H5N1 problem. But as recently as
last March, according to a document obtained by TIME, China's Ministry
of Health was requesting from the WHO H5N1 reagents, which are used to
test for presence of antibodies to the virus. That would indicate, at
the very least, that China suspected this type of influenza might be
afflicting its poultry but did not yet have the means to test. Both
Japan and Taiwan have intercepted shipments of tainted duck meat from
the mainland in the past year. Kim Sun Jwong, an avian-diseases expert
at Seoul National University, believes the Middle Kingdom is the most
likely provenance of Korea's H5N1 outbreak. And live chickens are also
frequently traded along China's border with Vietnam. If China is
seeding these outbreaks, then greater cooperation from mainland
officials is essential to plugging the microbial jug.

But there could be an even more ominous disease vector at work—or in
flight. For years, the greatest fear of many influenza experts has
been the possibility that the H5N1 strain would infect migratory
birds. Since huge amounts of virus are shed in bird feces, such an
epidemic among migratory birds would mean death raining down from the
sky in the form of H5N1 virus. In November and December of 2002, there
were numerous migratory-waterfowl deaths due to H5N1 in Hong Kong's
Penfold and Kowloon parks. Mysteriously, when further screenings of
migratory birds were conducted immediately after, no H5N1 was
detected. "Did birds from Hong Kong, which nest in Siberia and North
Korea, somehow spread the virus elsewhere?" asks Rob Webster, a
pioneering expert in animal influenzas. "That's a frightening
possibility."

In Asia, there is no program in place to systematically sample
migratory birds to determine which viruses they carry. In Europe,
virologist Albert Osterhaus of Erasmus University in the Netherlands
has launched a survey in which fecal samples are submitted from around
the continent for testing. "We've found the proteins that indicate the
presence of various avian influenzas," says Osterhaus. The prevalence
of viruses in migratory birds may have been responsible for an
avian-flu outbreak in the Netherlands last year that infected 80
people, killing one. The virus responsible, an H7, which was less
deadly than the H5 strain, did achieve human-to-human transmission.

If a similar infection pattern is occurring in Asia among migratory
birds, then this killer flu virus will keep recurring in chickens, and
possibly humans. That will be very bad news—wrapped around a virus.

—With reporting by Do Minh Thuy and Sam Taylor/Hanoi, Susan
Jakes/Beijing, Kim Yooseung and Donald Macintyre/Seoul

http://www.time.com/




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Uncle Yap
2005-06-07 03:24:49 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine

The Idea-Stealing Factory
What drives China's compulsive copycatting?
BY ANNE STEVENSON-YANG

ILLUSTRATION FOR TIME BY BOB VENABLES

China has grown into the world's made-to-order contract manufacturer,
source of more than half the world's output of toys, radios, DVD
players, telephones, cameras, and much more. But while most of that
production is legitimate—China's factories are paid by foreign
companies to mass-produce the latter's ideas and designs—much of it is
illicit. The nation has deployed its prodigious replication skills to
flood world markets with pirated goods and fakes, from designer
clothing to consumer electronics. China's trading partners tell
themselves that this blatant disregard for the intellectual property
of others is natural for a former command economy at an early stage of
free-market development. The problem, they say, will ease over time as
legal institutions and Chinese entrepreneurs mature and the country
begins to attach the same importance to property rights as do Europe
and the U.S.

No business should be foolish enough to believe this hypothesis. In a
country where government-controlled companies comprise the industrial
base, piracy is not derived from commercial callowness—it appears to
be official policy. Authorities may be quite willing to mop up small,
unregulated businesses to curtail street sales of counterfeit brands,
but protecting core foreign technology is another matter. That is why
Beijing declares victory when street sales of pirated DVDs move into
licensed stores that present the same product in better packaging with
money-back guarantees and, of course, taxes duly paid. That is why a
decades-long campaign to clean up Beijing's "Silk Alley," a national
showcase of pirated foreign sportswear and wristwatches, ends with
fanfare when the new "Silk Street" shopping center opens, selling the
same products under city regulation. And that is why China's leaders
can promote a national campaign to protect intellectual property and
at the same time declare that foreign patents useful to Chinese
technologies may be legally expropriated, as Beijing's bureaucrats
proposed in draft regulations released last year.

How did this happen? When the government is the main business owner,
private parties cannot secure their property rights, especially when
those properties are easy-to-appropriate intangibles such as brands,
trademarks, business processes and ideas, whether they are protected
by a foreign patent or not. The problem has been made worse because
China emerged as an economic power around the time when information
technologies created highways over which ideas could easily traverse
the planet. Just as railroads and telegraphs in the mid-19th century
made copyright and patent theft commercially important, so the
Internet and associated information technologies redefined the market
for inventions. Communications networks allow a tech employee of a
Zhuhai company to search patent registrations internationally and look
for legal vulnerabilities. IT also made the promulgation of digital
content instantaneous and cost-free. Movies can be secretly recorded
in a theater in New York, uploaded to the Internet minutes later, and
downloaded in China and pressed onto CDs within hours. Technology and
globalization have created the most prodigious copying machine the
world has ever seen.

The Washington lobbying community has girded for battle on
intellectual property, which has become a preoccupation of the U.S.
Congress as well. As the lines are drawn, constructive moves would
certainly include heightened enforcement of legal rights by
governments. But the legal system that grew up around the old
paradigm, pre-IT and premodern-day China, is too thin a thread on
which to hang an international trading system. The commercial
community must adjust to the new reality.

You cannot wipe out piracy. But you can minimize its bottom-line
impact. Just as music companies, rightly or wrongly, made peace with
MP3 file-sharing services like Napster, so must manufacturers from the
U.S. heartland learn strategies for coping—by developing new revenue
models that emphasize service offerings around intellectual property.
Such models may include lowered pricing for a developing market;
universal licensing schemes to sell music, films, games and software
on a subscription basis; or emphasizing revenues that flow from
service and support rather than product, a model that has been
successfully exploited by the Linux community.

The point is not that piracy of intellectual property is right but
that it's a fact of life. Legal defenses are right and necessary.
Legal and political means alone will not solve the problem.

—Anne Stevenson-Yang is the Beijing-based managing director for the
U.S. Information Technology Office, an IT trade association


From the Jun. 13, 2005 issue of TIME Asia Magazine
====================

Faking It
Beijing's inability to curb rampant intellectual-property theft is
infuriating its trading partners
BY MATTHEW FORNEY | BEIJING

Viewpoint: The Idea-Stealing Lab

Monday, Jun. 06, 2005

Silk Alley in Beijing was probably the world's most infamous market
for fake consumer goods. Located within sight of the U.S. embassy, the
noisy outdoor warren of stalls became such a magnet for foreign
tourists that Lonely Planet's guidebook to Beijing suggests
backpackers shop there for Gucci handbags, Nike sneakers and a host of
other designer products, few of them authentic but most so
meticulously duplicated by Chinese manufacturers that no one could
tell the difference. "Silk Alley" was also the bane of trademark
lawyer Joe Simone. As the top foreign anticounterfeiting lobbyist in
China, Simone had for years urged senior Communist Party members,
commerce officials, and local bureaucrats who collected rent from the
stall owners, to close the market. Finally, in January, the government
tore it down. "If the silk market cannot flourish without
counterfeits, we prefer that it not flourish," said a government
official. Simone's reaction: "I was psyched."

The victory was short-lived. From the rubble of the old market has
risen a five-floor department store packed with four times as many
vendors selling fakes as there were in the old alley. About the only
brand that's not counterfeit is that of the market itself, which has
erected signs on every floor welcoming shoppers to "Silk Street." To
add to the irony, a notice at the main entrance lists a dozen luxury
brands that must not be sold on the premises; nearly all are available
within, able to be bought with major international credit cards.
"Somebody must have sent a message to vendors saying, 'Don't worry,
you can sell counterfeits,'" Simone says.

Simone's frustration at China's failure to effectively protect
intellectual property (IP) now reverberates through Washington.
American companies complain that Chinese piracy of virtually anything
valuable—brands, software, films, music, business processes,
ideas—threatens legitimate enterprises everywhere. And it's not like
China just popped onto the radar screen. The country is on track to
record a $200 billion trade surplus with the U.S. this year, and
American politicians are dyspeptic. In recent weeks, the U.S. has
erected quotas on textile imports from China and hectored Beijing over
its refusal to revalue its currency, while members of Congress have
threatened blanket tariffs on imports from China. In Beijing last week
for a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, U.S. Commerce Secretary
Carlos Gutierrez challenged China's leaders to rein in copycat
factories and rogue retailers. "Violating intellectual-property rights
is no different from counterfeiting money," he told reporters. "We
would like it to be treated that way."

Plenty of other countries are used as safe harbors by commercial
pirates, but China is perhaps one of the worst offenders. Chinese
copycats cost the U.S., Europe and Japan more than $60 billion in
retail sales last year, according to U.S. Commerce Department
estimates, and Chinese fakes are increasingly being exported
worldwide. U.S. Customs reports that 63% of all counterfeit goods it
seized last year came from China, up from 16% five years earlier. It's
estimated that half of all shipments of fake products stopped by
Chinese customs at export points are sneakers bearing Nike and Adidas
brands. Even Chinese companies are being damaged by the trade, with
everyone from the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration to the Inner
Mongolian-based Little Sheep chain of Mongolian hot-pot restaurants
complaining that their brands have been hijacked.

As the U.S. has grown irate, China has dug in. A delegation of Chinese
commerce officials visited Washington at the end of last month to meet
with U.S. Trade Department officials and groups like the U.S.-China
Business Council. Stunned listeners heard Vice Commerce Minister Ma
Xiuhong blame foreign companies for encouraging counterfeits by
placing orders with Chinese factories that churn out fakes on the
side. "China is aggressively defending its position," says an
executive who attended the meetings. "It's going to be a real fight."

Leading that battle on the ground is Simone, the lawyer who targeted
"Silk Alley." As a Beijing-based partner in the American law firm
Baker & McKenzie, Simone's clients include more than 30 firms that own
household-name brands (which he declines to name, citing
confidentiality agreements). He meets often with Chinese officials as
a member of two antipiracy business groups—the International Trademark
Association and the Quality Brands Protection Committee. During his 15
years in China, he has worked with local officials to organize more
than 500 raids on factories across the country.

Although his job occasionally calls for hardball tactics, Simone, who
once studied acting at Penn State, prefers to play a more diplomatic
role as the business community's ambassador of brands. Unlike some
other foreign lobbyists, he is careful not to accuse the Chinese
government of condoning IP theft. For example, Simone recently met
with officials from the Ministry of Finance to explore how foreign
companies might help tackle the problem of tax revenue lost to piracy.
In a conference room overlooking the new "Silk Street" market, Simone
emphasized in fluent Chinese that he is "100% friendly," adding that
"people in Washington are complaining loudly, but they often don't
know the facts." Then he notes, almost in passing, that police have
arrested more than 10,000 people in a six-month crackdown on gambling.
Why, he asks officials, don't they arrest more counterfeiters?

It's a rhetorical question that Simone answers himself. Chinese state
enforcement agencies barely work together, he informs the finance
officials, who are unfamiliar with how crackdowns are launched. He
explains that the government body that investigates fake goods, the
State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC), can only impose
fines and close factories, and that's not enough. "Factory owners
aren't afraid of fines" because they're too low. "What people are
afraid of is the police," he says. But in a country with rising rates
of violent crime, busting counterfeiters of, say, fake Hello Kitty
notebooks is a low priority. Simone explains that to increase the
number of criminal arrests that could lead to jail time, local SAIC
offices must build cases, often with the help of foreign firms, and
then hand them off to the police. But that rarely happens. In the
first half of last year, he says, the SAIC passed only 14
investigations to the police.

Simone concludes the meeting with a recitation of other obstacles to
IP enforcement, such as bureaucrats he suspects are shielding
factories engaged in piracy since they provide local jobs. Simone also
suggests to the Finance Ministry officials that China's current
leaders aren't aggressive enough about the issue. He recalls that
former Premier Zhu Rongji complained after personally buying fake,
shoddy products, but Simone thinks that level of attention is lacking
now. "We hear a lot of talk from other officials, and in the end,
improvement is way too slow," he concludes. After two hours the
meeting adjourns with handshakes and promises of cooperation. As
Simone steps into a taxi outside, a woman offers him a pair of fake
Boss socks.

That afternoon, Simone meets one of his Chinese investigators at "Silk
Street." The fourth floor is crammed with watch vendors pitching
"Super-A" fakes—a designation that counterfeit vendors in China use to
mean near-perfect quality. About half the shoppers are foreign, but
Simone is by far the biggest and loudest. "Fakes are good!" he yells
in Chinese, playing the dopey consumer. "Fakes are cheap!" His old
acting classes are paying off—vendors gather to laugh at his display
of astonishment as a salesgirl proves with a screwdriver that the
glass on her fake Omega watch is scratchproof. The sheer quantity of
contraband overwhelms him, and this time he's not acting. "When I came
here, I expected the worst," he says on the way out. "But I never
thought it would be this well organized and financed."

The government doesn't wholly ignore the problem. The minister now in
charge of policy on intellectual-property rights (IPR), Vice Premier
Wu Yi, promised to crack down on abuse more than a year ago. China
inaugurated an annual "IPR Protection Week," with billboards in
Beijing urging passersby to "Sternly Beat Down Counterfeits."
Steamrollers across China crushed truckloads of pirated CDs and DVDs
seized by authorities, the destruction broadcast on prime-time TV.
Police launched "Operation Mountain Hawk," which helped push the
number of criminal prosecutions involving IP theft to 385 last year,
up 75% from 2002. Censors even allowed a hundred Chinese pop singers,
led by aging rock star Cui Jian, to hold a concert that encouraged
fans to buy authentic CDs. Most important, the nation's highest court
issued a "judicial interpretation" last December that carries the
weight of law and purports to make it easier to launch criminal
proceedings in IP cases. Wu Yi said in January that China was making
"new headway" against counterfeiters.

But Simone and others say the steps are insufficient. A few years ago,
pirated DVDs were peddled on the street by furtive migrants from the
hinterland. These days they're sold openly in shops and often hit the
market before first-run films arrive in cinemas. The Motion Picture
Association (MPA) says factories in China use machines costing
hundreds of thousands of dollars with a capacity to stamp at least 3.5
million discs a year. They retail in Beijing for about $1 apiece.
Hollywood studios lose the market not just for DVDs but also for
viewers who might otherwise visit theaters—a problem compounded by a
state-imposed limit of 20 first-run foreign films each year. Says Mike
Ellis, head of Asia operations for the MPA: "China has not made
substantial progress toward a reduction in copyright-infringement
levels."

Foreign firms face great difficulty prodding police into action. In
February, General Motors received complaints that faulty spark plugs
bearing its AC Delco brand were damaging engine cylinders in North
America. GM traced the counterfeit plugs through a Canadian importer
to the Chinese plant that made them. But the factory owners were
careful, GM says. According to the new judicial regulations issued in
December, police must find $18,000 worth of counterfeit goods to
launch a criminal investigation. Because the spark-plug factory
produced to order and shipped its goods out immediately, it had no
contraband in its warehouse. "We couldn't persuade the police to seize
goods or arrest the owners" because there wasn't enough merchandise to
make a case, says Alex Theil, director of investigations for GM in
Asia. "Proof should be the outcome of a criminal investigation, but
here, proof must come at the start."

Other investigations are stymied by the officials charged with leading
them. Last week, Michael Feng, an enforcement officer for sneaker
maker Puma, led a delegation from a local SAIC on a raid of a factory
in a part of Fujian province notorious for knocking off footwear. The
factory, Feng says, was a "pure Puma counterfeiter" that made nothing
else. In fact, it had been raided weeks earlier and was supposed to
have been closed down. When Feng and his team arrived, however, the
SAIC seals over the door were broken and the plant was operating as
before. The official whose order had been flouted didn't seem to care.
"I said, 'Hey! What are you going to do?'" Feng says. "He just laughed
at me."

Yet the biggest problem might not lie in the provinces but in the
capital. Last week, Simone met with Liu Juntian, an expert on IP law
at People's University, to sound him out on the mood of China's
political leaders regarding counterfeiting. "It's a matter of
political will," Liu said. "The [Communist] Party is concerned with
stability over everything else. It sees people at the bottom of
society selling cheap goods to poor people, and thinks that is
stabilizing." The abstract concept of IP rights barely factors in the
calculations, according to Liu.

In the end, it seems, China's counterfeiters consistently stay a step
ahead of those who would shut them down. One of Simone's great
successes was cleaning up an indoor market next to Beijing's Temple of
Heaven. Vendors at the market stopped displaying most of their fakes a
few months ago after Simone threatened a lawsuit. That's nice—but now
they instead display catalogs of items like the latest Louis Vuitton
handbags. Buyers choose a bag and are then led down an alley to a
warehouse stuffed with "Super-A" fakes. One is a knock-off of a Louis
Vuitton wallet bearing a cherry design that isn't yet officially
available in Beijing. "Look how the design on the leather cuts off at
the edge, just like the real one," says a salesgirl, comparing her
product with the catalog photo. She offers the bag at one-eighth the
price of the genuine item. "It's regrettable that we consider that
progress, but it is progress," Simone says. "They're not that afraid
on 'Silk Street.'"

—With reporting by Hannah Beech/Shanghai, Susan Jakes/Beijing and
Austin Ramzy/Hong Kong

http://www.time.com/




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adchin
2005-06-07 06:45:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Uncle Yap
clothing to consumer electronics. China's trading partners tell
themselves that this blatant disregard for the intellectual property
of others is natural for a former command economy at an early stage of
free-market development. The problem, they say, will ease over time as
legal institutions and Chinese entrepreneurs mature and the country
begins to attach the same importance to property rights as do Europe
and the U.S.
Good luck. They are just fooling themselves, into thinking this because
they can now make extra profits for the board by exporting all the
manufacturing to China, and then save even more, by closing down home based
production outlers ( ie. in Europe ). So finally when Europe has no more
production expertise, China will take over, and then raise prices
accordingly. But by then, companies like LV, etc... would have made tons,
so they probably don't care
PaPaPeng
2005-06-07 08:11:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by Uncle Yap
China has grown into the world's made-to-order contract manufacturer,
source of more than half the world's output of toys, radios, DVD
players, telephones, cameras, and much more. But while most of that
production is legitimate—China's factories are paid by foreign
companies to mass-produce the latter's ideas and designs—much of it is
illicit. The nation has deployed its prodigious replication skills to
flood world markets with pirated goods and fakes, from designer
clothing to consumer electronics. China's trading partners tell
themselves that this blatant disregard for the intellectual property
of others is natural for a former command economy at an early stage of
free-market development. The problem, they say, will ease over time as
legal institutions and Chinese entrepreneurs mature and the country
begins to attach the same importance to property rights as do Europe
and the U.S.
As a guy who had followed the rise of China as a manufacturer of many
light industry goods I think the West is fighting an already lost
battle because things are moving and improving too fast. The
conventional wisdom about intellectual property and piracy has already
changed. Who cares about branding anymore so long as it looks decent,
is cheap enough to be disposable and good enough to be unable to tell
the difference when it was still working. What IP? Practically all
products are made from the same chipsets and same basic components
whoever the manufacturer. From ugly boxes Chinese manufacturers are
already willing to spend on attractive visual designs that people are
quite enthusiatic on buying, a worrisome fact that the hitherto
unassailable Japanese brand names had to themselves until recent
years.

The next to latest stage of contract manufacturing provided Chinese
manufacturers the experience to manufacture the product to world
standards. Thus the label on the box may say SONY or IBM and one
really cannot tell if it is manufactured in Japan or the US unless one
examines the inside parts closely. With modern engineering which
China readily invests in manufacturing anything to the highest specs
is commonplace. With modern digital technology the chips may be IP
protectable but the end user retail gizmo is not. They are just
repackaging of available chip set designs and components that all
manufacturers source from. There is no such thing as a second rate
chip design because it doesn't cost much more to buy a top rated one.
The quality of the output from such a device is hard to differentiate
between a top brand name product and a no name one.

The main complaint is about China pirating manufactured hard goods.
Here the easiest and best solution will be for China to promote its
own brands or at least not copy any of the known consumer brands. As
I said earlier only a few snobs care for brand names these days. All
the traditional brand names are struggling. There is more than enough
to be made by excellent but no name manufacturers of consumer goods.
China need no copy.

IP the writers refer to are usually the look of the designer product,
like a Gucci bag or a Nike shoe, the stuff snob appeals are based on.
Other IP proiducts include music and movies that won't sell in China
or in poorer countries based on their Western countries' price. Yes
the IP owners of these products have "lost" money on sales they could
have made. But have not lost any money in their primary and home
markets due to piracy in China. This kind of piracy I agree China
will have to curb. A better solution is for the owners to retail them
at a price that will make piracy unprofitable as they have done for
DVD videos and music discs.
Uncle Yap
2005-06-07 03:27:40 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine

Taking Aim at Mao
A new biography of Mao Zedong claims that the Chinese leader was
beyond redemption
BY DONALD MORRISON

FROM THE BARREL OF A GUN: Mao at a 1964 military exhibition with
President Liu Shaoqi, second from left, who died in the Cultural
Revolution five years later

Monday, Jun. 06, 2005
Just so you know where they stand, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday declare
in the very first sentence of their impeccably detailed biography of
Mao Zedong that he "was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in
peacetime, more than any other 20th-century leader." And that's one of
the more positive things they have to say about the man who is still
widely revered as the founder of modern China. To Chang and Halliday,
Mao was a scheming opportunist who butchered his way to the top, then
squandered the lives and wealth of his people in a bungled quest for
global influence.

The authors make an impressively strong case. Chang, a former Red
Guard and "barefoot doctor" now married to Halliday, a British
historian, is known for her 1991 memoir Wild Swans, one of the
biggest-selling books of all time (10 million copies, 30 languages).
Since its publication Chang has done little except delve into the life
of the man who devastated her family in Wild Swans. (Her parents,
dedicated Communists, were denounced as class traitors during Mao's
Cultural Revolution; her father was tortured, driven insane and worked
to death in a labor camp.) Chang's obsession is evident. About
one-sixth of the 800-page Mao: The Unknown Story cites the diaries,
intelligence reports, diplomatic messages and other documents she and
Halliday unearthed in China, Russia and elsewhere, plus the 150 or so
former Mao minions, victims and acquaintances they interviewed,
including a dozen heads of state and government as well as the nurse
who heard the Great Helmsman's last words ("I feel ill; call the
doctors"). It's difficult to gauge the reliability of all this
research, but it builds a case sure to anger Mao fans everywhere,
especially his successors in Beijing. Among the charges:

• During China's civil war, Mao did not organize and lead the 1934-35
Long March of Red Army remnants to safety from pursuing Nationalists.
Instead, the authors say, his relatively small force was left behind
by disdainful colleagues and then decimated by his own scheming and
incompetence.

• Mao survived the Long March largely because Nationalist leader
Chiang Kai-shek made a secret deal with Stalin: Chiang let the Red
Army escape in exchange for the Russians' release of the
Generalissimo's son and eventual successor, Chiang Ching-kuo, held
hostage in Moscow. Mao, meanwhile, solidified his power by luring a
rival Red Army faction to its destruction and burying the survivors
alive.

• Mao didn't fight the Japanese during World War II, according to
Chang and Halliday, but instead welcomed their invasion of the
mainland. He and Stalin planned to divide China with Japan; Mao would
end up running a Soviet puppet state much smaller than today's
People's Republic.

• To fund the Red Army in the early 1940s, Mao grew opium, bringing in
as much as $60 million a year. He stopped after overproduction drove
down the price and Party officials—though not Mao—decided the practice
was unseemly.

• Mao made a fortune in royalties from his writings, which Chinese
were forced to read while other authors' works were suppressed.
According to Chang and Halliday: "Mao was the only millionaire created
in Mao's China."

Some of the news in the book is not new. Mao's womanizing,
gourmandizing and peculiar personal habits—his aversion to bathing and
teeth brushing, for instance—surfaced in the entertaining 1994 memoir
by his physician Li Zhisui. Evidence of Mao's Machiavellian
ruthlessness has been seeping out of China for years. Journalist
Jasper Becker reported in his 1996 book Hungry Ghosts that China's
granaries were bulging during the 1958-61 famine, the worst in
history.

But Chang and Halliday have some genuine scoops—on Mao's wartime
conniving with the Japanese, his key role in fomenting the Korean War
and, thanks to Halliday's excavations in newly opened Russian
archives, his complex dealings with Stalin. As with Chiang, Stalin
held Mao's son Anying hostage in Moscow for four years until Mao freed
a pro-Soviet Chinese official.

Chang and Halliday also connect a few dots. While 38 million Chinese
were starving to death during 1958-61, much of the grain they produced
was being shipped to the Soviet Union, where it accounted for
two-thirds of all food imports. It was a weapons-technology-for-food
program, a demonic bargain to make China a military superpower even at
the cost of its own citizens' lives. "Half of China may well have to
die," Mao said of this deal to his inner circle in 1958, according to
Party documents. China's acquisition of the atom bomb, the authors
calculate, "caused 100 times as many deaths as the ones dropped by the
U.S. on Japan."

So numerous are the damning disclosures in Mao that Chang and Halliday
have little room for the emotive prose and lyrical description that
animated Wild Swans. Neither, to their disadvantage, do they balance
their relentless criticisms with any of Mao's accomplishments, like
fending off Stalin's attempt to run China as a Soviet fiefdom,
reimposing central authority in a fractious country, giving Chinese a
new sense of pride and nationhood, or marketing his own image at home
and abroad with dazzling aplomb.

Also missing is an attempt to explain Mao's enduring popularity in
China. In a conversation with TIME, Chang ascribes that phenomenon to
"brainwashing." But nearly three decades after his death, as New China
races toward the industrial and military glory of which Mao could only
dream, the man remains as well liked as ever. His visage beams
benignly across Beijing's Tiananmen Square, long lines of visitors
creep past his preserved corpse nearby, and restaurants are decorated
with Mao memorabilia. Perhaps in a time of galloping economic
modernization and social upheaval, Chinese crave the reassuring
continuity provided by a larger-than-life figure from their recent
past. Reading this atom bomb of a book, in the unlikely event it gets
published in China, would surely cure them of that.

From the Jun. 13, 2005 issue of TIME Asia Magazine

http://www.time.com/




*************From Uncle Yap**************
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adchin
2005-06-07 06:40:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by Uncle Yap
program, a demonic bargain to make China a military superpower even at
the cost of its own citizens' lives. "Half of China may well have to
die," Mao said of this deal to his inner circle in 1958, according to
That might actually be a great idea for population control, though the
motives are not so holistic. China is overpopulated today.
Post by Uncle Yap
"brainwashing." But nearly three decades after his death, as New China
races toward the industrial and military glory of which Mao could only
dream, the man remains as well liked as ever. His visage beams
Proof that the spin doctors are doing a great job, and that shouldn't be
difficult in a country with no free press. Hey !! What am I talking about
?? Don't need to look so far, home's pretty much like that for me too ...
Pan
2005-06-07 09:33:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by adchin
Post by Uncle Yap
program, a demonic bargain to make China a military superpower even at
the cost of its own citizens' lives. "Half of China may well have to
die," Mao said of this deal to his inner circle in 1958, according to
That might actually be a great idea for population control, though the
motives are not so holistic. China is overpopulated today.
AD, who do you want to "volunteer" for death? The fact is that a much
bigger population is being fed in China today.
Post by adchin
Post by Uncle Yap
"brainwashing." But nearly three decades after his death, as New China
races toward the industrial and military glory of which Mao could only
dream, the man remains as well liked as ever. His visage beams
Proof that the spin doctors are doing a great job, and that shouldn't be
difficult in a country with no free press. Hey !! What am I talking about
?? Don't need to look so far, home's pretty much like that for me too ...
Malaysians still have more freedom than Chinese, though.

Michael

If you would like to send a private email to me, please take out the NOTRASH. Please do not email me something which you also posted.
adchin
2005-06-07 15:27:37 UTC
Permalink
Pan wrote:

God !! It was meant to be a bullshit retort with little common sense. I
hope you saw the joke behind it all. I'm a little bit more humane with
such things
Pan
2005-06-07 22:03:01 UTC
Permalink
Post by adchin
God !! It was meant to be a bullshit retort with little common sense. I
hope you saw the joke behind it all. I'm a little bit more humane with
such things
Sorry, I'm a little literal-minded sometimes. My brain is also a
little addled from reading the ridiculous remarks of some Australians.
I apologize.

Michael

If you would like to send a private email to me, please take out the NOTRASH. Please do not email me something which you also posted.
Uncle Yap
2005-06-13 23:09:32 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine

A Matter Of Trust

Faced with plunging popularity, economic woes and a brewing
corruption scandal, President Arroyo wants to prove that she can lead
the Philippines to salvation

By Anthony Spaeth | Manila
Posted Monday, June 6, 2005; 20:00 HKT

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a big believer. The 58-year-old President
of the Philippines believes in the Lord Almighty God: she attends Mass
most afternoons in a chapel in Malacañang Palace, then retires to her
bedroom to pray alone before taking a short nap. Arroyo also believes
in legislation, the transforming ability of government, and the power
of leadership—her leadership. "I am the agent of change," she told
Time in an interview last week. "I wish to be remembered as the one
who made the tough decisions to turn the economy around, to get its
act together ... Maybe that's why the Lord put me here at this time."

After four rocky years as President, Arroyo needs her faith as never
before. She gained the office after a People Power-style revolution
ousted predecessor Joseph Estrada; three months later, angry crowds of
enraged, impoverished Estrada supporters descended on the palace to
dislodge her, only to be fought off by soldiers firing at the
protesters, killing several. A minor coup attempt in 2003 suggested
that she wasn't fully in control of her own military. After Arroyo won
the presidential election in May last year, the Philippines came close
to a financial meltdown—its revenues were too low, its $54.8 billion
in foreign debt too high. When the nation's credit rating was
downgraded, Arroyo, a former professor of economics, took the threat
seriously. She started raising taxes—which has led to a renewed
drumbeat of popular protest, persistent rumors of a potential coup,
public calls for her to step down, and an unusually acute sense of
gloom, even for a country that perennially views the glass as being
perilously empty. "Things couldn't get worse," says Alberto Lina, the
Philippines' Customs Commissioner. Norberto Gonzales, Arroyo's
National Security Adviser, agrees: "We are at our lowest point. Our
people will not move unless some changes are introduced."

Arroyo believes she is bringing those changes to the Philippines. Last
month, after prolonged horse trading in Congress, her central fiscal
initiative was made law: a 10% value-added tax (VAT) that will raise
badly needed cash for the government. Without it, Arroyo says, the
country would be doomed to "coasting along and hoping that we will not
become another Argentina." With it, the government can spend on social
services and development and, according to the President, make a
lasting dent in the Philippines' crushing poverty. But these changes
require Filipinos to endure pocketbook pains. Arroyo admits the gains
will take time to be felt by the masses, and acknowledges they are
anxious for quick relief. "They are impatient and I am impatient," she
says.

Legislators and technocrats have applauded Arroyo for attempting to
dig the Philippines out of its fiscal hole. Whether that will pull her
out of her own political crater is uncertain. Arroyo's approval
ratings have hit rock bottom. A survey released last week by
independent polling organization Social Weather Stations showed that
59% of the populace was dissatisfied with her performance, the lowest
score for a President since dictator Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown
in 1986.

How to explain the disconnect between a President proud of her
achievements and a population that feels the reverse? Higher
prices—and they're about to get even higher when stores start
collecting the VAT next month—are only one factor. "It's a stretch to
say this is the worst time," says Guillermo Luz, executive director of
the Makati Business Club, the country's premier business association.
"But people had expectations of Gloria—bigger and better expectations,
especially after the 2004 election. The question of her mandate was
settled and it was time to move forward. Those expectations haven't
been met, and that's why people are so disappointed." Four respected
Cabinet members resigned from the government earlier this year, and
there's a palpable sense that the country needs less presidential
self-congratulation and more bold action on such problems as the
Philippines' out-of-control birthrate, 11.8% unemployment, 5.5%
inflation, and systemic corruption. The same Social Weather Stations
survey said that businesspeople believe graft in the government is as
widespread as ever before. That's a very touchy subject for Arroyo:
her husband, son and brother-in-law are being investigated by the
Senate over allegations (which all three have denied) that they may
have received money from an illegal lottery racket called jueteng,
which is popular in many parts of the Philippines. (Similar
accusations of payouts from jueteng rackets led to an impeachment
trial and the overthrow of Estrada.) Arroyo is handling that brewing
scandal by distancing herself from her family, telling Time that her
greater responsibility is to her country: "They will take care of
their own defense ... I am very, very focused on my work."

During her four years in office, Arroyo has vowed to address the
nation's woes with an eight-point program, a six-point plan, a
five-point reform scheme, and now a 10-point agenda that includes a
perhaps overly ambitious lineup of goals: job creation, balancing the
budget, improving power and water access to everyone, computerizing
elections and decongesting Manila. No taxpayer can complain that her
public relations staff is underworked. Tanker trucks cruise Manila
distributing free water to poor neighborhoods; Arroyo's face smiles
from a banner at their rear above the slogan "GMA's Love For You."
Stores selling government-subsidized rice display placards telling
impoverished buyers that GLORIA CARES. Arroyo won her presidential
election 13 months ago and she cannot run for office again when her
term expires in 2010, but she's still campaigning.

Arroyo, as befits an economist, describes the Philippines as being in
a U-shaped slump that will be cured by her fiscal reforms. The biggest
measure was the VAT, which will charge consumers on purchases of most
goods (except fresh food, including rice). Perhaps only an economist
can see a country's salvation in such a tax, but even Arroyo's
political foes admit that she solved a big Philippine problem. They
acknowledge that any accomplishment, even such an inherently unpopular
one, shows that the President is attempting to act decisively. "I
think she's more stable now," says Senator Juan Ponce Enrile from the
opposition camp.

In the poorer reaches of Manila, there is a resigned sense that life
will continue to be a struggle, regardless of what the politicians
promise. Ness Badillo, 30, is one of the drivers who deliver the free
water in trucks adorned with Arroyo's face. He makes up to six trips a
day, earning about $2.20 per trip. "Times are hard and prices are
going up," he says. "But it's the same for everybody. I'm lucky
because my wife is working. We can feed our two kids and send them to
school. But it's hard to improve your life." Badillo voted for Arroyo
last year. Does he believe she's doing her job? "All of us should
strive, not just Gloria," he says. "No one person can solve our
problems." Perhaps. But Arroyo, for one, still believes in her
God-given power to save the nation.

With reporting by Nelly Sindayen/Manila

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Sinking Deeper
The latest allegations of scandal come at a bad time for Philippines
President Arroyo
BY ANTHONY SPAETH

ERIK DE CASTRO / REUTERS
TALE OF THE TAPE: Former National Bureau of Investigation deputy
director Samuel Ong claims he has a tape that incriminates the
President

Monday, Jun. 13, 2005
On the tape, the gravelly voice of Philippine President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo is unmistakable—and she appears to be discussing the
fixing of returns in last May's presidential election, which Arroyo
won by about 1 million votes. The tape was recorded shortly after the
poll—but it is an edited fraud, according to the President's office,
which played it for the media last week along with a recording of what
it said was the original, undoctored conversation. The edited tape,
say Arroyo and her aides, is part of a broader plan by her rivals to
discredit her, spark street protests and provide support to a military
coup d'état. "I am saddened that while I am doing my job," Arroyo told
a local radio station, "there are people who want to bring me down or
undermine my capability to govern the country." General Efren Abu,
Arroyo's armed forces Chief of Staff, put the military on red alert
after announcing that retired officers were plotting against the
President.

The Palace says that allegations that three of Arroyo's relatives,
including her husband Miguel, received money from an illegal gambling
racket are just another part of the plot. Last Thursday, Sandra Cam, a
45-year-old former provincial official, told a Senate investigating
panel that she delivered tens of thousands of dollars in cash to the
President's son, Juan Miguel, and her husband's brother, Ignacio
Arroyo. (Both men, along with Arroyo's husband, have denied getting
payoffs from the so-called jueteng numbers rackets.) Arroyo responded
swiftly, ordering an investigation by the Justice Department.

Arroyo's woes continued to snowball through the week. On Friday,
Samuel Ong, a former deputy director of the National Bureau of
Investigation, held a press conference to say he had a copy of the
original post-election audio tape which he received from a military
intelligence agent. Ong claimed the tape was genuine and incriminating
of Arroyo, and after the press conference he hurried to a Catholic
seminary for sanctuary. A jittery Jose de Venecia, Speaker of the
House of Representatives, told lawmakers they must resist any attempt
to bring Arroyo down. "The next few days will be difficult moments for
our country and people," he said. "Let's not take this idly."

Arroyo, meanwhile, has embarked on a charm blitz to bolster support.
Last week, she invited her allies in the Senate to dine at the palace,
and threw a dinner for alumni of the classes of 1973-1978 of the
Philippine Military Academy, which include some of the armed forces'
most senior officers. Attendance was poor: according to someone who
attended the dinner, Arroyo was disappointed. "Are they waiting," she
asked, "for the next regime?"

—Reported by Nelly Sindayen/Manila

From the Jun. 20, 2005 issue of TIME Asia Magazine

http://www.time.com/




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Uncle Yap
2005-08-09 03:34:13 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine

The Making of Modern Asia

From the end of empire to the rebirth of China, from the streets of
Tokyo to the beaches of Thailand, a journey through Asia's history
stops at specific times and places. Reflections on those moments
combine to form the theme of this year's summer double issue, which is
introduced here by KISHORE MAHBUBANI, one of Asia's leading thinkers
on its past—and future

The 21st century has opened and will close with two puzzles about the
rise of Asia. Today, the puzzle is why Asian societies, long in the
doldrums, are now successful. At the century's close, by contrast,
historians will want to know why Asian societies succeeded so late,
taking centuries to catch up with a Europe that they had outperformed
for millenniums. Neither puzzle is—or will be—easy to solve.

As a child of a poor Indian immigrant family growing up in the 1950s
in the British colony of Singapore, neither I nor my classmates could
have even conceived the notion that an Asian century would begin in
our lifetimes. We believed that London was the center of the universe;
one friend used to tell me that the streets there were paved with
gold. Both India and China seemed doomed to eternal poverty. Today, it
is clear that the Asian century has begun. What remains unclear,
however, are the factors that caused this enormous change. There was,
for example, the exhaustion of the European colonial powers after two
destructive World Wars, and the consolidation of nationalist
sentiments, forged in the anticolonial struggles. There was the rise
of the U.S. as the most benign power in human history, creating a new
world order that allowed potential rivals to emerge. There were the
pressures of cold war competition, which forced the U.S. to encourage
the economic success of its allies, especially Japan and the four
Asian tigers. Then there were accidents with profound, if
unanticipated, consequences, like the Sino-Soviet split, which drove
China into the U.S. camp and facilitated Deng Xiaoping's fateful
decision to explain why China needed the "Four Modernizations," and
financial accidents, like the Plaza Accord of 1985, which caused a
rush of Japanese investments into East Asia. There was the cultural
attraction of the U.S., which lured hundreds of thousands of young
Asians to study there—when they returned home, these Asians provided
the yeast for a new cultural confidence in their own societies.
Finally, there was globalization, which provided a tremendous boost to
Asian economies, especially to China's and India's.

All of these forces for change can be thought of as benign. Yet in
paradoxical ways, tragedies, too, contributed to Asia's rise. The
Korean War was painful and destructive. But it led to a strategic
American decision to encourage the rebuilding of Japan's economy and
society—although this sadly swept under the carpet the dreadful record
of Japan's actions in World War II. Japan's economic success in turn
inspired the four tigers. The Vietnam War was equally painful. But the
U.S. decision to hold the line in Indochina allowed Southeast Asian
countries to become dynamos, rather than dominoes. The historical
verdict on U.S. involvement in Vietnam is unfair: despite the
ignominious retreat by the U.S. from Saigon, Vietnam ultimately
applied to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Vietnamese decision to invade Cambodia in December 1978 also
triggered some happy, if unintended, consequences. Apart from ending
the genocide of Pol Pot, it solidified the Sino-American relationship
and gave ASEAN new political resolve. One of the least appreciated
contributions to the rise of Asia has been the magic provided by ASEAN
in delivering political stability and harmony to Southeast Asia.
Despite having greater ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural
diversity than Southeast Europe, the region remained an oasis of peace
in the 1990s while the Balkans erupted into a frenzy of ethnic and
religious killings. ASEAN saved Southeast Asia, especially during the
1997 Asian financial crisis, which could have led to political havoc
in the region. And it is at the heart of the alphabet soup of regional
processes that have provided the foundations for even wider regional
cooperation. The first-ever Asia-wide summit will be held in Kuala
Lumpur in December this year, bringing together the 10 ASEAN leaders
with those of China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and
Australia. It will be a truly historic meeting. ASEAN made it
possible.

Of course, other regions in the world benefited from propitious
external developments. The U.S. supported allies in other areas of the
developing world—for example, Egypt received as much aid as South
Korea. But nowhere else has seen the scale of success in Asia. Why is
that? Here, the missing piece of the puzzle has to be the cultural
fabric of Asian societies.

Cultural confidence is a necessary but not sufficient condition for
development. Centuries of European colonial rule had progressively
reduced Asian self-confidence. Future generations of Indian citizens
will be wondering how 300 million Indians—including my own
ancestors—allowed themselves to be passively ruled by fewer than
100,000 Britons. Those as yet unborn will not understand how deeply
the myth of European cultural superiority had been embedded into the
Indian psyche. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian Prime Minister, once
said the defeat of Russia in 1905 by Japan first triggered the idea of
independence for India in his mind. That was a remarkable admission;
it implied that intelligent Indians could not conceive of governing
themselves before Japan, an Asian power, defeated a European one.

Japan's record in World War II was disastrous. But if Japan had not
succeeded early in the 20th century, Asia's development would have
come much later. Japan inspired the rise of Asia. Even South Korea,
which suffered from brutal Japanese colonial rule, could not have
taken off so fast without having Japan as a role model. Asia needs to
send Japan a big thank-you note. The tragedy, of course, is that such
words of gratitude will not be delivered while Japan remains
ambivalent about its own identity, torn between Asia and the West.

Even the Chinese should thank Japan. Tokyo's continuous denials of its
army's atrocities in World War II will always complicate relations
with Beijing. But China would not be where it is today if Deng had not
made that fateful decision to move from communist central planning to
a free-market system. Deng took this incredibly bold leap because he
had seen how well the Overseas Chinese in Taiwan, Hong Kong and even
Singapore had done. Those three tigers—and the fourth, South
Korea—were inspired by Japan. The stone that Japan threw into
Asia-Pacific waters created ripples that eventually benefited China,
too.

What makes Asia's rise so irreversible is the simultaneous success of
both China and India. Their political paths could not be more
different: India is a democracy, while China retains Communist Party
rule. The acceptance of free-market disciplines, however, provides a
common economic platform. China and India today are united in their
cultural confidence, especially among their youth. Both countries have
the most optimistic generation of young people they have seen in
centuries. Nothing can hold back the dynamism and vigor they will
bring to their societies, and to the whole world.

The West got the first whiff of this cultural confidence at the end of
the cold war. Basking in ideological triumph, the West prescribed that
all societies should immediately become replicas of Western liberal
democracies. Many happily followed this prescription. Few succeeded.
Some came to grief. The Asian states, especially China, resisted
copying the West. This is how the famous "Asian values" debate was
sparked. In refusing Western prescriptions, Asians were perceived to
be promoting the superiority of their own values. In fact, they were
merely arguing that they should be free to choose their own political
paths. Lest there be any misunderstanding, Asian
intellectuals—including those from China—agree that the ultimate
political destination of all societies is democracy. The destination
is not in question; only the route and the timing are.

Sept. 11, 2001, removed all traces of political smugness in Western
minds and all claims to Western ideological superiority. It made the
West aware that the new ideological challenge from Islam was far
bigger than the communist one, which future historians will see as a
passing shower. Islam has been around for over 1,300 years,
penetrating deeply into the souls of 1.2 billion people. Most Islamic
societies have yet to find the right balance between modernization and
their religious roots. The success of East Asia, especially its Muslim
societies, could eventually trigger the modernization of the Islamic
world.

Yet questions remain about the sustainability of Asia's success. Asian
countries will continue to stumble from time to time. They cannot rely
solely on favorable external developments or on Western ideas—though
it is these, not Asian ones, that have driven Asia's growth. The
economic principles of Asia's rise come from a Scot, Adam Smith. The
political ideologies come from Western thinkers, from John Locke to
Karl Marx. The international multilateral grid that has served Asia
well—including the U.N., WTO, IMF and World Bank—is essentially a
Western creation. Asians have benefited enormously from being
passengers on the Western globalization bus.

Soon, they will help drive it. Asians cannot be free riders forever.
Yet few Asians have given thought to how they will reshape the world
order. The world is keen to learn what new responsibilities Asia will
take on. So far, the region has remained silent. On the cultural
front, too, Asian passivity is surprising. Bollywood, the sole major
exception, is growing in strength. But in virtually every other field,
Asians have been consumers of Western cultural products, especially
American ones. The Asian economies now produce almost 40% of global
GDP, but they have only a minority stake in the world's cultural
industries, from film to TV, from books to print media. No Asian TV
channel currently can match cnn or the BBC. This distorts global
perspectives. The world sees Asia through Western eyes. Asians have
yet to explain themselves in their own terms to the rest of the world.

But history teaches us that economic growth eventually generates a
cultural renaissance. It would be strange for Asian societies, from
Iran to South Korea, from China to India, not to rediscover their rich
cultural heritage. The high price paid for Asian antiques in Western
auction houses is, perhaps, a first hint of this new cultural pride.
But a cultural renaissance cannot just rediscover old glories. It has
to provide directions for the future. Just as Asian economies have
succeeded by drawing on the best practices of East and West, the Asian
cultural renaissance (or renaissances) will also see a fusion of
Eastern and Western civilizations, allowing the West to feel included
in, not excluded from, Asia's rise.

When Asia's growth achieves a certain momentum by the end of the 21st
century, Asian minds will inevitably come up with new conundrums. Why
did their ancestors take so long to succeed and modernize? Why did
Europe and not Asia trigger the Industrial Revolution? How could a few
key capitals in Europe and America make decisions that determined
Asian destinies? How could London ever have been more important than
Bombay, or Paris more important than Beijing? These questions too will
come.

Kishore Mahbubani is dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
at the National University of Singapore, and author of Beyond the Age
of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust between America and the World

http://www.time.com/




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Uncle Yap
2005-08-09 03:36:25 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine

Empire Of the Sun
Japan's conquest of Singapore shattered the myth of British
invincibility
By Jan Morris

I am a chronicler of Empire, and for me the most vividly fateful spot
in Asia, a landmark where one empire allegorically gave way to
another, is an unprepossessing industrial building in the heart of
Singapore island not far from the skyscrapers and tumultuous energies
of the Lion City. It was once the factory of the Ford Motor Co., and
in it, on the evening of Feb. 15, 1942, the commander of the British
forces in Singapore, Lieut. General Arthur Ernest Percival,
surrendered the city to General Tomoyuki Yamashita of the Imperial
Japanese Army. The moment truly prefigured the end of the British
Empire in the East—and falsely suggested the arrival of a comparable
successor, Japan's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

I have not been to the spot for more than 30 years, but I clearly
recall my emotions when a taxi took me there one day in 1974. It was
not much of a place for the making of history. The building was a
dingy single-story block, drab, dim-lit and apparently disused. But I
well understood the significance of the site, for still fresh in my
consciousness then was the awful shock of Singapore's fall. It had
been the most calamitous military debacle in British history, a true
penalty of hubris. The island fortress of Singapore had succumbed in a
matter of days to Japanese forces swarming down the Malayan peninsula.
The British had dismissed the dangers of an attack coming from the
landward side, assuming contemptuously that the Japanese would be
beaten back long before they reached the island. At the time the
surrender seemed almost unbelievable. Friend and foe alike recognized
it as the end of an era.


FROM OUR ARCHIVES

General Percival's Choice
"It fell to an unfortunate young major named Wilde to carry the white
flag toward Japanese headquarters..." Feb. 23, 1942

Across the Causeway
"The Battle of Malaya was lost; the Battle of Singapore was about to
begin. Between the two battles there lay only the narrow strip [of
concrete]..." Feb. 09, 1942

The Way to Singapore
"To the Allied strategists, there was no more important battlefield
than Malaya... At Singapore the future of the Allies in Asia was at
stake..." Dec. 22, 1941

Archive links are premium content

I knew from photographs and memoirs the faces and attitudes of the
actors in that drama, and in my imagination, when my taxi dropped me
off, I could see it all played out before me. Percival arrived with
three staff officers, all looking exhausted, their faces pallid, their
eyes bloodshot, wearing khaki shorts and bearing themselves more like
schoolmasters or perhaps Anglican clergymen than fighting soldiers.
Yamashita, on the other hand, with his attendant deputies and aides,
looked the very picture of a victorious war commander: thickset,
bullish, his open-necked shirt plastered with medal ribbons and his
boots kicked off under the table.

Each man played his symbolical part to perfection. Yamashita was
aggressive. "All I want to know is, are our terms acceptable or not?
Do you or do you not surrender unconditionally? Yes or no?" Percival
replied faintly, almost abjectly, with bowed head: "Yes." Within a few
hours he and all his officers were in prison camps, together with
120,000 other subjects of the British Crown. Never again could
Europeans be considered inherently the superiors of Asians. The
signatures on that surrender document—one flamboyant, one
schoolboyish—were actually to alter the relationships between branches
of the human race.

It was also a poignant moment. Yamashita wanted to speak kindly to
poor Percival, but, unable to speak English, found it impossible to
express his sympathy through an interpreter. Yamashita would presently
need pity too. Before the decade was out, the Greater East Asia
Co-Prosperity Sphere would be no more than a bad dream, and the
Japanese people, decimated in bloodshed, shattered in faith, would see
in the ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the wreck of all their
illusions. Percival survived his ignominy to witness, hardly less
allegorically, the final surrender of Japan on the American battleship
U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Yamashita, on the other hand, was hanged
as a war criminal.

The factory still exists, and early next year the surrender room is to
be opened to the public as a museum. I would still feel sadness if I
were to go back there, and I would still see in my mind's eye those
joyless instruments of destiny: beefy Yamashita thumping the table,
Percival with his curate's moustache and his shorts a little too long,
unscrewing his fountain pen to sign. The British Empire began to die
there, and as the poet Wordsworth wrote:


Men are we, and must grieve when even the shade
Of that which once was great is passed away.
The local people say the factory is haunted not by ghosts of the
humiliated British but by phantoms of the Japanese debacle so soon to
follow. I feel pity for them all. But I feel some compensating irony,
too, to think that, when both those empires were dead and gone, such
old sorrows of Asia would eventually lead to the prosperity and even
the happiness of nations.

Jan Morris has written some 40 books of history, travel, autobiography
and fiction, including the Pax Britannica trilogy about the British
Empire during the Victorian era

http://www.time.com/




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Lion
2005-08-09 05:27:50 UTC
Permalink
Yes, the fall of Singapore to the Japanese army in 1942 is a landmark event.

It clearly shattered the myth of British invincibility. Of course the
global power of the British Empire has been on the decline since the turn of
the 20th century. And even after the Allied forces won the War, thus Empire
could not regain its global power. After the end of this War, one by one
the ex-colonies declared independence, most after civil unrests and
fightings followed by tough negotiations.

But the fall of Singapore did not lead on to the rise of the Japanese Empire
which the Sun Emperor and his generals was trying hard to achieve.

What follows instead was the rise of the global power of America which they
still did not gain it before a long 40 year Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Perhaps after about 60 years a new landmark event has occured. It was the
fall of the World Trade Center twin towers of New York. What myth did it
shatter?
Post by Yap Yok Foo
From The Time Magazine
Empire Of the Sun
Japan's conquest of Singapore shattered the myth of British
invincibility
By Jan Morris
I am a chronicler of Empire, and for me the most vividly fateful spot
in Asia, a landmark where one empire allegorically gave way to
another, is an unprepossessing industrial building in the heart of
Singapore island not far from the skyscrapers and tumultuous energies
of the Lion City. It was once the factory of the Ford Motor Co., and
in it, on the evening of Feb. 15, 1942, the commander of the British
forces in Singapore, Lieut. General Arthur Ernest Percival,
surrendered the city to General Tomoyuki Yamashita of the Imperial
Japanese Army. The moment truly prefigured the end of the British
Empire in the East-and falsely suggested the arrival of a comparable
successor, Japan's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
I have not been to the spot for more than 30 years, but I clearly
recall my emotions when a taxi took me there one day in 1974. It was
not much of a place for the making of history. The building was a
dingy single-story block, drab, dim-lit and apparently disused. But I
well understood the significance of the site, for still fresh in my
consciousness then was the awful shock of Singapore's fall. It had
been the most calamitous military debacle in British history, a true
penalty of hubris. The island fortress of Singapore had succumbed in a
matter of days to Japanese forces swarming down the Malayan peninsula.
The British had dismissed the dangers of an attack coming from the
landward side, assuming contemptuously that the Japanese would be
beaten back long before they reached the island. At the time the
surrender seemed almost unbelievable. Friend and foe alike recognized
it as the end of an era.
FROM OUR ARCHIVES
General Percival's Choice
"It fell to an unfortunate young major named Wilde to carry the white
flag toward Japanese headquarters..." Feb. 23, 1942
Across the Causeway
"The Battle of Malaya was lost; the Battle of Singapore was about to
begin. Between the two battles there lay only the narrow strip [of
concrete]..." Feb. 09, 1942
The Way to Singapore
"To the Allied strategists, there was no more important battlefield
than Malaya... At Singapore the future of the Allies in Asia was at
stake..." Dec. 22, 1941
Archive links are premium content
I knew from photographs and memoirs the faces and attitudes of the
actors in that drama, and in my imagination, when my taxi dropped me
off, I could see it all played out before me. Percival arrived with
three staff officers, all looking exhausted, their faces pallid, their
eyes bloodshot, wearing khaki shorts and bearing themselves more like
schoolmasters or perhaps Anglican clergymen than fighting soldiers.
Yamashita, on the other hand, with his attendant deputies and aides,
looked the very picture of a victorious war commander: thickset,
bullish, his open-necked shirt plastered with medal ribbons and his
boots kicked off under the table.
Each man played his symbolical part to perfection. Yamashita was
aggressive. "All I want to know is, are our terms acceptable or not?
Do you or do you not surrender unconditionally? Yes or no?" Percival
replied faintly, almost abjectly, with bowed head: "Yes." Within a few
hours he and all his officers were in prison camps, together with
120,000 other subjects of the British Crown. Never again could
Europeans be considered inherently the superiors of Asians. The
signatures on that surrender document-one flamboyant, one
schoolboyish-were actually to alter the relationships between branches
of the human race.
It was also a poignant moment. Yamashita wanted to speak kindly to
poor Percival, but, unable to speak English, found it impossible to
express his sympathy through an interpreter. Yamashita would presently
need pity too. Before the decade was out, the Greater East Asia
Co-Prosperity Sphere would be no more than a bad dream, and the
Japanese people, decimated in bloodshed, shattered in faith, would see
in the ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the wreck of all their
illusions. Percival survived his ignominy to witness, hardly less
allegorically, the final surrender of Japan on the American battleship
U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Yamashita, on the other hand, was hanged
as a war criminal.
The factory still exists, and early next year the surrender room is to
be opened to the public as a museum. I would still feel sadness if I
were to go back there, and I would still see in my mind's eye those
joyless instruments of destiny: beefy Yamashita thumping the table,
Percival with his curate's moustache and his shorts a little too long,
unscrewing his fountain pen to sign. The British Empire began to die
Men are we, and must grieve when even the shade
Of that which once was great is passed away.
The local people say the factory is haunted not by ghosts of the
humiliated British but by phantoms of the Japanese debacle so soon to
follow. I feel pity for them all. But I feel some compensating irony,
too, to think that, when both those empires were dead and gone, such
old sorrows of Asia would eventually lead to the prosperity and even
the happiness of nations.
Jan Morris has written some 40 books of history, travel, autobiography
and fiction, including the Pax Britannica trilogy about the British
Empire during the Victorian era
http://www.time.com/
*************From Uncle Yap**************
** Berita Malaysia - Free Malaysian News & Discussion Group **
Archives/manage subscription: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/beritamalaysia
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Uncle Yap
2005-08-09 03:38:36 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine

A Swine Mess
A mysterious outbreak of pig-borne disease in China has international
observers concerned
BY BRYAN WALSH

Sunday, Aug. 07, 2005
Chinese authorities say they have identified the virulent disease that
appeared in Sichuan province in late June, which has sickened a
suspected 212 people so far and killed 38: Streptococcus suis, a
bacteria in pigs that very rarely infects human beings. Last week, a
team of experts from Hong Kong who assisted in the investigation
backed the diagnosis. "All the evidence collected at this stage showed
that the infections were caused by Streptococcus suis," said Dr. Lam
Ping-yan, Hong Kong's Director of Health.

But some international specialists aren't convinced. Strep. suis has
never caused an outbreak anywhere near as large as the one in Sichuan,
and the high mortality rate and severe symptoms—which include bleeding
under the skin in some cases—seem to be entirely new. "I've never
before seen an outbreak of this type," says Dr. Thomas Alexander, the
retired University of Cambridge veterinary scientist who first
identified the bacteria in humans. "It just doesn't sound like Strep."
Dr. Marcelo Gottschalk of the University of Montreal, the world's top
expert on Strep. suis, says China needs help analyzing the bacteria to
see if it has mutated into a more virulent form. But so far, the
country hasn't shared the results of any such tests. "This is one of
the main problems," he says. "They do not have the expertise, but they
do not ask for help."

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it's happy with China's
cooperation—and WHO Beijing spokesman Roy Wadia notes that the country
isn't required to notify anyone about Strep. suis infections, much
less share information. The Ministry of Health says it has the
situation under control, although suspicions about China's openness on
disease outbreaks, dating back to the 2003 SARS crisis, linger. "The
Chinese have got to be transparent," says Robert Webster, a bird-flu
expert who has worked with China in the past. If not, neighboring
countries—and the world—could pay the price.

http://www.time.com/




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Uncle Yap
2005-08-23 03:46:49 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine

The Wasted Asset
Japanese women are smart and entrepreneurial, so why is so little
effort made to harness their talents?
By Hannah Beech

Posted Monday, August 22, 2005; 20:00 HKT

Yuka Tanimoto knows how to serve tea. She can do far more than that,
of course, but the 33-year-old newscaster says her Japanese male
bosses—and they were all male—weren't overly interested in her
non-tea-pouring skills. At the Yamaichi Securities firm, which
Tanimoto joined in 1997 as an in-house newscaster, she was chided for
daring to voice her opinions on news content—and for cropping her
uniform skirt from mid-calf to a scandalous length just below the
knee. "The company was looking for cute, non-ambitious girls," says
Tanimoto. "We were supposed to make copies quietly, not think." In
2000, Tanimoto moved to the electronics giant Matsushita, but things
weren't much different. Only 2% of the women she worked with were on a
career track; the rest were so-called office ladies who rarely
graduated from tea and copy duty, even after years of service. After
getting her M.B.A. in the U.S. last year, Tanimoto couldn't face
working for another Japanese company. So in March, she took a job with
CNBC as their Tokyo markets reporter. "As a woman, I can rise much
higher at a foreign company than at a Japanese one," says Tanimoto.
"The Japanese business culture is not changing quickly enough for
people like me."

As Japan prepares for an election widely thought likely to define its
future, it might contemplate why half of its population is still
preserved in the amber of a tradition-bound past. During the country's
bubble years, when jobs were plentiful and hopes were high, women
began to expect both a greater role in the workplace and a lesser role
in the home. In 1985, Japan's parliament passed a law ensuring gender
equality at work, and men's magazines ran serious articles on the joys
of cleaning a toilet. But then the golden apple was snatched away.
Once the bubble economy burst in 1992, women were the first to be laid
off. Although more women work now than a decade ago, they are still
the last to be rehired to full-time jobs and must often eke out a
living on part-time work. In May, a gender-gap survey by the World
Economic Forum found that, in terms of economic opportunity and
political empowerment, Japanese women ranked 52nd and 54th
respectively out of 58 developed and emerging economies. And even
though women were named as heads of two major Japanese companies
earlier this year—at supermarket chain Daiei and electronics maker
Sanyo—only 7.7% of departmental and section managers in the world's
second-largest economy are female. Of those women who do manage to
cultivate careers, just 30% continue working after childbirth because
the rest cannot juggle both home and a job, according to the Ministry
of Health, Labour, and Welfare. "This is a critical period in Japanese
history," says Hiroko Hara, a member of the Advisory Committee for the
Prime Minister's Office on Gender Equality. "We have to figure out
whether to keep fighting for our dream of equality or just give up on
having it all."

In one way, there's nothing special about Japan. Women in the
developed world have played out variations on the work vs. home theme
for decades. But the stark career-or-kids choice in Japan has created
a demographic nightmare. Because Japanese women are expected to quit
their jobs when they have children, a record number are foregoing
marriage altogether. Today, one in four Japanese women in their early
30s is single, up from 14% a decade ago. As a consequence, Japan's
fertility rate fell to a record low of 1.29 in 2004 compared to 2.13
in the U.S., giving it one of the lowest birth rates in the world.
Demographers predict that the country's population will actually start
declining in 2007. If present trends continue, Japan will shrink from
a nation of 127 million today to 64 million by the end of this
century—and from 2010 onward, the declining population will adversely
affect the economy. Yet compared to other developed economies, Japan,
under the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been
notoriously slow in implementing policies like flexible hours for
working mothers, enhanced day-care options and financial incentives
for bearing more children.

That means that Japan is not getting anything like the most out of its
workforce. Indeed, even though Japan will soon face a shortage of
workers, a Cabinet Office survey released in July found that 63% of
Japanese companies had no plans to try to hire more women. Tomoyo
Nonaka, who took over as chairman of Sanyo in June, remembers her
first attempts to get a job as a photojournalist. Nonaka had an
advanced degree in the field but was told she was unqualified because
she wasn't male. "That was my start in Japan," she says. "A very clear
'No thank you.'" And those who get "Yes" for an answer know they are
fortunate. Yukari Yamashita-Yui, who develops satellites for the Japan
Aerospace Exploration Agency, works for an open-minded government
agency, so her hours are regular. "I'm very lucky, because I couldn't
do this at a private company," she says. "Half of my female friends
from university have quit their jobs as astronomers. They wanted to
continue working, but they had no choice. The working environment is
almost impossible for mothers." Only 11.6% of Japan's scientific
researchers are women, compared to one-third in the U.S.

You'd think the government might want to do something about that. On
the contrary, allege critics: "There is no sense of crisis within the
LDP, and no interest either," says former House of Representatives
member Seiko Noda, who is often mentioned as a future leader of the
party. "Why? Because the main opinion is that [the falling birthrate]
is the women's fault and the men do not need to do anything." If
anything, many LDP politicians would prefer to see women return to the
role of okusan—which means "person in the back of the house"—as wives
are commonly called in Japan. Last year, an LDP panel on
constitutional reform issued a report recommending that Article 24 of
the constitution, which guarantees equality between the sexes, should
be revised because it has promoted "egoism in postwar Japan, leading
to the collapse of family and community." Similarly, former Prime
Minister Yoshiro Mori has argued that childless women should not
receive pension benefits: "It is truly strange to say that we have to
use tax money to take care of women who don't even give birth once,
who grow old living their lives selfishly."

In the run-up to next month's lower house elections, Japan's tabloids
have sensationalized the fact that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
has approached several prominent women to stand for office against the
37 LDP party members who voted against his postal reform bill. So far,
however, only four women have committed to run as so-called LDP
"assassins." While postal reform is the election's key issue, the
party has included a few family-friendly planks in its latest
manifesto, including tax breaks for households with kids and proposals
to improve childcare at smaller companies. But critics like Noda have
charged that the party leadership panders to women only in times of
crisis. And, according to the latest tally, the LDP still has the
lowest number of female election candidates—just 17, compared to 23
for the Democratic Party of Japan and 68 for the Japanese Communist
Party.

Certainly, less-than-progressive attitudes remain surprisingly common
among the LDP élite. This summer, a faction of ruling-party members,
including acting LDP secretary-general Shinzo Abe, often tipped as a
likely future Prime Minister, publicly criticized a governmental draft
report on how to achieve gender equality. "A [gender-free] concept
which ignores the value of marriage and the family is linked to the
destruction of culture," said Abe during a party conference. Minoru
Nakamura, a popular assemblyman from the Tokyo suburb of Funabashi,
was even more blunt about those who advocate equality between the
sexes. "Pitiable women who direct their dissatisfaction at being
ignored by men toward society ... are truly laughable," Nakamura said.
He then added: "It's also strange how these women, compared to their
peers, are uglier. "In theory, younger Japanese men are far more open
to equality than their fathers. They have to be: two incomes are often
the only way that a family can maintain a comfortable lifestyle in
Japan's big cities. Still, the pressures of a workaholic culture
dissuade men from cutting out early and doing a little dusting. Work
in Japan can extend to late-night drinking sessions with the bosses,
and men who don't guzzle beer with their peers may find career
prospects stunted. Only 0.4% of men take paternity leave, while 73% of
women take maternity leave. Wives also shoulder most of the burden of
caring for the country's rapidly aging population. "Women must work
twice as hard as men to advance their careers because of prejudices
within Japanese companies," says women's rights activist Hara. "And
then they have to go home and work three times as hard there." Hara's
housework estimate, in fact, may be too low: a survey by the Japanese
Broadcasting Corporation found that women spend a daily average of 3
hours and 49 minutes on household duties. Men? They spent just 32
minutes a day on the chores.

It was all supposed to be so different. In 1988, when the Japanese
economy—remember?—was the wonder of the world, the Nikkei publishing
group launched a magazine called Nikkei Woman. "We thought the age of
the career woman was about to start, and we wanted to be at the
forefront of the trend," says editor-in-chief Hiroko Nomura. It was a
false dawn. By the mid-1990s, Japan was deep in a recession and many
women had scaled back their career expectations. "We knew that men's
attitudes would be slow to change," says Nomura. "But we found that
women's own expectations of what they could do were changing, too.
They were putting the brakes on their own careers." So Nikkei Woman
rebranded itself as a handbook for office ladies and part-timers.
(One-third of Japanese women work largely dead-end "women-only" jobs.)
Recent articles have focused on such topics as "Summer
skincare—protecting yourself from office air and the sun." Nomura is
philosophical about the shift in content. "We were too far ahead of
the times," she says. "If the bubble had continued, then progress for
women would have been much faster." A recent poll by Nikkei Woman
found that 61% of its readership wanted a job that guaranteed no work
after 5 p.m. and weekends off—conditions hardly suited to climbing the
career ladder.

To be sure, not everyone has given up. Indeed, the changing fortunes
of Japanese professional women over the last two decades have produced
sharp divisions in the way that women look at work. Some have bailed
out, depressed because they think they will never crack the bamboo
ceiling—full-time female workers earn just 69% of what Japanese men
make—or because they are unwilling to commit to the rigors of working
in Japan. But for women who have managed to secure a career, life can
be good. Many thirty-something women in Japan who began their lives at
work during the final years of the bubble economy now revel in their
ability to live like the stars of Sex in the City, buying their own
apartments, traveling the world, trading cramped kitchens for bistro
outings—sans husbands, of course. (See sidebar.) Junko Sakai, 38, is
single, buys chic clothes and laments dating men who are "like toilet
paper when what you really want is tissue paper." Last year, she
published a collection of essays entitled Howl of the Loser Dogs,
which has sold more than 340,000 copies. Japanese society, she says,
venerates the winner dog, the housewife who waits at home with a vat
of miso soup for her husband and kids. Sakai, a childless single,
champions a very different lifestyle. "Society may call us loser
dogs," she says, "but we are happy and independent."

Yet Sakai admits that Japanese women in their 20s seem skeptical of
the way that those like her have focused on their careers. "We are
seen as selfish," Sakai says. "The lesson younger people take from us
is that if you do as you please and have a job and buy things, then
you end up alone." As if to make that point, the poster child for the
new Japanese woman is a demure, doe-eyed model named Yuri Ebihara.
Through her appearances in popular youth fashion magazine CanCam,
Ebihara is spawning clothing lines, TV shows, calendars and manga that
all extol the virtues of the office lady. "In the '90s, the trend [in
fashion magazines] was 'New York career women,'" says CanCam's
editor-in-chief Yutaka Onishi. "The concept was cool, sharp.
Independence was a trend. Ten years later you look around and realize
that it was just an illusion ... Women in their 20s perhaps see people
in their 30s and decide that they don't want to end up like them. You
give everything to your company, your career, but you're still getting
laid off." Says newscaster Tanimoto, who is also single: "I thought
our exciting careers would show younger women that there is a path to
success. But I think they actually feel sorry for us."

The answer, perhaps, is to define an exciting career in a new way.
Since so many of Japan's conglomerates have proven themselves wary of
placing women on the career track, females are becoming entrepreneurs
themselves. Today, 65,000 companies in Japan are owned by women. Most
are mom-and-only-mom operations that allow working mothers flexible
hours. To avoid client meetings in which female bosses are often
mistaken for secretaries, many rely on direct sales through the mail
or the Internet.

Mika Noguchi, a mother of four, runs a company larger than most.
Although she never went to college, Noguchi at age 21 knew one very
important thing: what lingerie women liked to wear. Eschewing the sexy
styles of male designers, Noguchi in 1987 began designing frilly,
flowery creations that she calls "I love me" underwear. Her company,
Peach John, started out as a catalogue company, and is now Japan's
answer to Victoria's Secret, with $8 million in sales last year. At
Peach John's Tokyo headquarters, all but one of the 42 employees are
women. (The lone man is in charge of office management.) The company
structure is unorthodox: to avoid the pressures of a hierarchy,
Noguchi has divided her staff not by job type but by flower names. The
head of public relations, for instance, is in the peach-blossom
category, while Noguchi is in the chrysanthemum division. And unlike
the pattern at most other Japanese companies, Noguchi encourages
anyone to speak up during meetings. "In Japan, business rules are all
made by men," says Noguchi, now 40. "Instead of forcing myself into
that system, I wanted to create a different environment through which
I could compete with all those men."

If it can't find places for women like Noguchi, Japan Inc. will lose
out. Just as in the bubble years, those women who don't want to start
their own businesses are flocking to foreign firms, which have a long
history of being less prejudiced. The president of Merrill Lynch Japan
Securities, Izumi Kobayashi, spent four years preparing tea for male
colleagues at Mitsubishi before switching to a foreign firm in 1985.
Fumiko Hayashi, 59, made headlines in June when she took over as head
of struggling supermarket chain Daiei, which made her one of the most
powerful women in Japan. But she got her first big break from
Volkswagen in 1999, when the German automaker recruited her to head a
division of its Japan operation. Before that, says Hayashi, she had to
lobby firms like Honda, writing letters explaining why she would be a
good salesperson despite the fact that she was a woman. "I started
working at 18 years old," says Hayashi, who like many women her age
never attended college. "And no one came after me until I was 53 years
old"—when VW hired her.

Yet for all those who appear to be harbingers of a new Japan, many
more have watched the retrenchment of opportunities after the bubble,
and left the labor market. Hitomi Asano, once the owner of her own
casting agency in Tokyo, now lives on the outskirts of Sendai, in a
placid, rice-growing patch of northern Japan. In 1995, aged 35, Asano
married a doctor she had known from childhood. The pair moved first to
a small mountainous town where he worked at a local hospital—wives in
Japan follow their husbands' jobs, not vice-versa. One day, she wore
her fur coat out, and an elderly man scooted away in terror. "He
thought I was a bear," recalls Asano. "I didn't fit in very well." Two
years later, the couple moved to Sendai, also a place that had no need
for casting agencies.

So Asano did what middle-class housewives in rural Japan do. She
joined the choir, planted orchids, learned traditional calligraphy.
But she still feels that something is missing. "In Tokyo, I had a
passion, and in Sendai I don't," she says. "Sometimes when I'm at home
alone, I put on my fancy clothes from Tokyo and just walk around
pretending I'm back at work." Asano knows she's a winner dog by
Japanese standards; she is married to a doctor, no less. But so long
as Japan—aging, shrinking, Japan—can't find a way to lure skilled
women like her back into the workplace, the whole nation will lose.

With reporting by Yuki Oda, Toko Sekiguchi and Michiko Toyama/Tokyo

http://www.time.com/




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Casey
2005-08-24 02:51:11 UTC
Permalink
Need office ladies for my IT department.
Hrm... Japanese women fits that role!
Am also looking for secretary to keep my desktop orderly.
Imagine having 「ショムニ」 like staff running my department...



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Uncle Yap
2005-08-30 00:51:04 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine

A Very Sweet Drug
Medicine from Chinese herbs can help fight mosquito-borne malaria
BY BRYAN WALSH

Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005
For more than 400 years, the world has largely relied on quinine to
combat malaria, especially the most severe cases, which kill up to 2.7
million people a year. But a study by the medical-research charity
Wellcome Trust published in the Lancet last Friday showed that an
injectable version of the drug artesunate—one of a range of medicines
derived from sweet wormwood, a traditional Chinese herb—can reduce the
chances of death from severe malaria by 35% compared to quinine. The
results were so striking that the study is likely to alter the World
Health Organization's (WHO) recommendations for treatment of severe
malaria. "This is quite significant," says Dr. Peter Olumese, a
malaria-drug-policy expert at the WHO. "This drug is a good product."

Artesunate is easier to use than quinine and has fewer side effects.
(Quinine can be toxic if incorrectly administered.) The drug's main
advantage is its ability to prevent malaria-infected red blood cells
from sticking together in a process called sequestration. When this
occurs in the brain it can cause cerebral malaria, one of the most
deadly forms of the disease. "It's just like Bangkok traffic in the
mornings," says professor Nick White of Mahidol University in Bangkok,
who led the study. "[Artesunate] reduces the traffic jam, which is
what kills people." The study's results still need to be replicated in
African children, by far the worst victims of the disease; it's
possible they will react differently than the subjects in the Wellcome
Trust trials, which took place in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and
Burma. In addition, the Chinese companies that manufacture the
injectable version of the drug haven't yet received full approval from
the WHO. When they do, the world will have a formidable weapon against
an ages-old scourge.

From the Sep. 05, 2005 issue of TIME Asia Magazine

http://www.time.com/




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Uncle Yap
2005-08-30 00:52:57 UTC
Permalink
From The Time Magazine

Peril at the Pumps
Queues at filling stations in China, gas rationing in the Philippines,
job losses in Indonesia—the global oil-price crunch is starting to get
real. Will Asian economies run out of gas?
BY BILL POWELL SHANGHAI

Monday, Aug. 29, 2005
The factory floor at Asia Tile, in Surabaya, Indonesia, about 650km
from Jakarta, is not a very happy or productive place these days.
Earlier this summer, the company sent a quarter of its 2,700 employees
packing, and employees fear another round of layoffs may be imminent.
The reason, says Bambang Wicayo, the company's technical manager, is
no mystery: skyrocketing oil prices have increased the cost of
bringing in raw materials and delivering goods, while higher natural
gas prices make it more expensive to fire the kilns that produce
tiles. "If the price of gas continues to go up, we will not be able to
compete," says Wicayo. "Things are only going to get worse."

Welcome to Oil Shock 2005. The spot price of brent crude hit $68 last
Thursday—up 44% in the past 12 months—before easing slightly the
following day. With the price of oil on the rise, its effects in Asia,
on producers and consumers alike, are everywhere to be seen. Last week
Beijing continued its frantic push to secure foreign energy reserves
when China National Petroleum, a state-owned oil company, trumped an
Indian government-controlled firm with a winning $4.2 billion bid for
PetroKazakhstan, a Canadian-owned firm with vast oil and gas reserves
in the former Soviet republic. China certainly needs the go juice.
Motorists lined up for hours at filling stations in the country's
southern province of Guangdong two weeks ago, waiting to fill tanks
with petrol that was suddenly in short supply. The scenes of idle gas
pumps and irate drivers, which evoked memories of oil shocks of the
1970s, were the result of weather-related supply disruptions,
according to the government. The fuel flow was quickly restored, but
no one is willing to predict the gas lines won't recur.

The impact of the 21st century's first oil alarm was equally apparent
in other developing Asian countries. In Indonesia—a proud member of
the OPEC cartel, never mind the fact that it's now a net importer of
crude oil—the currency is in free fall and the government is burning
through its foreign exchange reserves, thanks to a longstanding and
increasingly ruinous policy of providing subsidized fuel to consumers.
Gasoline in Jakarta costs a mere 27¢ per liter; some economists worry
that if the government continues to spend an estimated $1 billion a
month on fuel subsidies, as it's currently doing, a rerun of the 1998
financial crisis isn't entirely out of the question. In the
Philippines, the fallout from higher oil prices only deepens the
troubles of embattled President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. A four-day
work week and gas rationing are among the economically dubious coping
strategies that Manila is now mulling. Arroyo, who has stopped flying
and reduced the number of SUVs in her presidential entourage as a
symbolic step, pleaded with her nation last week to conserve energy.
"We must act now before it's too late," she said, "before the ruin
sets in because of callousness and complacency."

Even developed, energy-efficient economies like Japan and South Korea
are feeling oil's bite. Growth in Korea is likely to be at least 20%
below what the Ministry of Finance and Economy was targeting at the
beginning of the year, economists estimate. In Japan, $60 oil for 12
months could shave half a percent off GDP growth in an economy that
had recently begun to perk up, according to Reiji Takeishi, a senior
fellow at the Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo. The oil-price hikes
so far, estimates Morgan Stanley economist Andy Xie, mean the
Asia-Pacific region is spending 1.2% more of its total GDP on oil
imports than it did last year. "There's no question that oil is the
strongest headwind for growth now," says Xie. And if crude prices stay
at current levels or go higher, the pain will only intensify. "This is
a very delicate moment, no doubt about it."

Just how delicate? That depends on where the price of oil goes from
here. The oil industry is already producing flat-out, and demand is
still increasing—albeit not as quickly as last year—driven by
increasing consumption in China, India and the U.S. Unless that demand
cools, the fear is that prices will inevitably continue to surge.
Analysts who expected global economic growth to slow—thus curbing some
demand for crude—as oil passed $40 and then $50 per barrel have been
proved wrong. "Warnings that [$50-a-barrel oil] would threaten a
global downturn turned out to be too pessimistic," says Richard
Berner, an economist at Morgan Stanley in New York. With prices
threatening to bust through $70, though, the chances of an
energy-related economic slump are growing by the week.

For many, that slump is already here. Jung Jun Ki, 65, owns a factory
south of Seoul that makes plastic containers such as lunch boxes and
trash cans, which are produced using oil-derived polypropylene. Jung,
whose factory employs about 50 people, says as many as 40% of Korea's
small and mid-sized plastics manufacturers have gone out of business
in the past 18 months because, in a highly competitive industry,
they've been unable to raise prices to compensate for higher
production costs—the price of polypropylene has soared from $800 per
ton last year to $1,200 per ton today. "Consumers expect plastics to
be cheap," says Jung, whose own raw-material costs have increased by
50% in the past year without him increasing prices. "Now I lose money
on every plastic container I make. Maybe it's about time I retire."

For Asia—indeed for the world—retirement is not an option. The
critical question now is what impact the current surge in oil prices
will have on the global economy's two great growth engines, China and
the U.S. To a remarkable extent, the two economies have so far seemed
bulletproof, absorbing the price hikes and steaming ahead. China grew
at a shade under 9% last year and its oil consumption rose more than
15%. But due in part to its outmoded factories and lack of insulation
in most buildings, China is a highly inefficient user of energy: to
produce a dollar of GDP it burns two and a half times the energy that
the U.S. uses, and nine times what Japan consumes. Analysts now worry
that the economy is finally beginning to show the strain. "We're
particularly concerned that rising energy costs will amplify the
existing squeeze on corporate profit margins in China," says Ben
Simpfendorfer, an economist at JPMorgan Chase in Hong Kong. Indeed,
Shanghai Petrochemical, a unit of the state-owned oil company Sinopec,
warned last week that profits in the second half of this year will
decline significantly. If other companies feel a similar pinch, as
Simpfendorfer fears, that could crimp one of the main drivers of
China's current economic boom—spending by companies to build and equip
new factories and other businesses. While the economy is still growing
at an impressive clip, says Morgan Stanley's Xie, the trend toward
deceleration "is pretty clear."

And as China goes, so goes much of Asia, because the mainland's
booming demand is critical for regional industries as diverse as
Malaysian palm oil, Korean steel and Japanese high-definition TVs.
Optimists point out that the impact of the oil-price spike may be
softened by the fact that coal, not oil, generates most of China's
electricity, somewhat shielding its factories from the effect of
rising oil prices. The government also limits the impact of rising
fuel costs by dictating the price of gasoline and diesel at the
wholesale level each month. Wholesale gas prices in China are
currently about 80% of what the market price is in, say, Singapore.
But fixing prices at an artificially low level also has the
less-desirable effect of cutting profits at China's major refiners—all
of which are state-owned. Energy analysts suspect this was one reason
for the recent gasoline shortages in southern China, with some
companies perhaps holding back oil from the domestic market rather
than selling it at a steep discount. Still, the overall economic
impact of higher fuel costs may not be calamitous, even if Beijing
allows wholesale prices to creep up closer to market levels. For one
thing, only seven out of 1,000 Chinese own cars, compared with 222 out
of every 1,000 people in a country like South Korea.

More pressing for China and the region: the impact of oil on the
world's most powerful economy, the U.S. Like China, America has
absorbed the rising price of crude with surprising ease so far. But
$70, if that's where prices stick, is a different story. It's already
clear, at least anecdotally, that the oil virus is finally beginning
to have an impact on spending by U.S. consumers, who drive much of the
world's demand. Wal-Mart, for example, has warned that its profits are
already getting hit by high gasoline prices. And the retail giant may
not be alone. According to the University of Michigan's monthly
survey, released last Friday, consumer confidence in the U.S. dropped
sharply in August, due mainly to oil. "If growth in the U.S. slows
significantly, all of Asia's exporters will feel it," says Xie. The
good news is that oil demand falls when the economy flags, which in
turn sends the price back down—sometimes sharply. But economic
recession is a painful way to get cheaper gasoline.

In the meantime, governments in the region are scrambling to cope with
the oil shock—risking popular ire in the process. Malaysia, a net
exporter of oil, cut its subsidies on gasoline and diesel fuel by 7%
and 23% respectively last week. Indonesia did the same in March,
increasing the price of gasoline by 29%. In Thailand, Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra, who last year resisted pressure to eliminate fuel
subsidies during an election year, reversed course this year as the
oil bills mounted. On July 12 he announced the end of subsidies, which
he hopes will curb demand for oil imports that have wrecked Thailand's
current account. Last year, Bangkok ran a $7.1 billion current-account
surplus, versus a deficit of $6.2 billion in the first half of this
year.

In Beijing, too, the soaring price of oil and sporadic gas and diesel
shortages are drawing the attention of the government, which has
drafted plans to levy steep taxes on gas-guzzling cars and SUVs. The
new taxes could add as much as 27% to sticker prices. As one of the
world's growing gas hogs, China's conservation efforts matter
enormously. But it will take time for such measures to have much
impact—and until they do, China's neighbors may simply have to get
used to oil at almost $70 a barrel. It's a painful prospect.

—With reporting by Chaim Estulin/Hong Kong, Robert Horn/Bangkok,
Donald Macintyre and InJae Hwang/Seoul, Mageswary Ramakrishnan/Kuala
Lumpur, Toko Sekiguchi/Tokyo, Nelly Sindayen/Manila and Jason
Tedjasukmana/Jakarta
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Price to Pay
Asia will suffer if soaring energy costs dent U.S. consumer spending
BY STEPHEN ROACH

America’s appetite for Asian exports has been a huge boon. Will it
last?

Monday, Aug. 29, 2005
We are in the midst of the first oil shock in the modern era of
globalization. In today's U.S.-centric world, that spells unusual
vulnerability. If higher oil prices take a toll on the over-extended
American consumer, nations that rely on exports to the U.S. as major
sources of growth will be hurt. That puts Asia right in the crosshairs
of the energy shock of 2005.

The risk is mounting of a sharp global slowdown—and possibly a
recession—sparked by rising oil prices. U.S. consumer spending is
likely to slow markedly if oil prices just stay at about $60 a barrel.
This is true for several reasons. First, U.S. households have precious
little flexibility in their budgets. They have drawn their personal
average savings rate down to zero—far below the 9.5% average during
the two oil shocks of the 1970s and the 7% rate during the shock just
prior to the Gulf War in 1991. Today, the only backstop for most
consumers is the transitory wealth created by America's increasingly
precarious housing bubble.

Second, just prior to the two oil-price spikes of the '70s,
discretionary spending of U.S. households had become excessive—setting
the stage for America's most severe consumer-led recessions. A similar
overhang is evident today: spending for consumer durables and
residential construction has averaged 14.3% of America's GDP over the
past year. That's virtually identical to levels reached just before
the energy-shock-induced consumption collapses of the '70s.

With real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) oil prices having more than
tripled since the last recession ended in late 2001, a pullback by the
heretofore unflappable American consumer is a distinct possibility
that would spell trouble for the rest of the world. Particularly
worrisome is the possibility of a double whammy for the world's
fastest growing region, non-Japan Asia. This economic bloc is likely
to be hit especially hard by the combined impacts of its inefficient
energy consumption technology and its excess dependence on the
American consumer.

China is the most obvious case in point. Its oil consumption per unit
of GDP was double that of the developed-world average in 2004. China,
like many Asian countries, tends to subsidize the price of retail
energy products. While that means the blow of higher oil prices is
softened for Chinese consumers, a heavy toll is taken on the
government's finances. Moreover, about a third of China's total
exports go to the U.S. That means one of China's largest and most
dynamic sectors is very much a levered play on the staying power of
the American consumer. That's a tough place to be for any economy
during an energy shock—even China's.

The rest of Asia may not be in much better shape. Still lacking in
support from domestic demand, most other Asian economies have become
tightly integrated into a Chinese-centered manufacturing supply chain.
To the extent that China's exports to the U.S. slow as American
consumers are shaken by surging energy bills, production adjustments
will ripple through Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. That's yet
another manifestation of the interdependencies of globalization.

Japan and India may fare a little better. Japan has seen an
improvement recently in domestic demand, which—if sustained—would
cushion any shortfall in exports. Japan also benefits from the
extraordinary progress it has made in improving its energy efficiency.
Since 1973, Japan's oil intensity ratio—a measure of the amount of oil
consumed as a proportion of economic output—has fallen by 83%, well in
excess of the 50% decline experienced by the U.S. over the same
period. Nevertheless, with China now Japan's largest export market,
any weakening in Chinese economic growth traceable to the energy shock
could do real damage to the nascent recovery in the Japanese economy.

For India, it's a different story—less of a China connection and more
a tale of inefficient use and pricing of energy. India, like China,
uses energy only half as efficiently as the developed world. Like
China, India heavily subsidizes its domestic pricing structure of
retail energy products, meaning that rising energy costs will
adversely effect its already strained fiscal position. Consequently,
while Japan and India are somewhat less exposed to soaring energy
prices than other Asian economies, they can hardly be expected to
emerge unscathed.

For the most part, globalization is a blessing for the world economy.
But for a world that relies too much on U.S. consumption, it faces
grave risk if that growth engine gets derailed. Such is the case with
the energy shock of 2005. If the over-extended American consumer gets
hit—as I suspect will happen—Asia could be in serious trouble.

—Stephen Roach is chief economist and director of global economic
analysis at Morgan Stanley

http://www.time.com/




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