Jonathan Adams

Stories by Jonathan Adams

  • History and Great Views on China's Gulangyu Island

    This lovely island is the highlight of any trip to Xiamen, a bustling metropolis on China's southeast coast. It's a favorite of domestic Chinese tourists for its hodgepodge of colonial architecture, swimming beaches, well-kept gardens and stunning views.
  • Taiwan Vote: Economic Focus

    In choosing a new president, Taiwanese voters focused more on their pocketbooks than fears of Chinese dominance.
  • Is China’s Labor Law Working?

    New labor regulations designed to protect China's workers are already having an impact, according to an American-based watchdog.
  • Warming Trend in China, Taiwan Relations

    For decades, Taiwan kept ahead of rival China through dollar diplomacy, luring allies with cash and aid. Then China's economy roared, and it started winning the global contest to buy friends. Malawi, the latest target, switched allegiance to Beijing last month, and has given Taiwan until the end of this week to withdraw all embassy staff. Left with only 23 official allies, down from 30 in 2000, Taiwan accused Beijing of "buying" Malawi with $6 billion; China's Foreign Ministry rejected the charge. More important, the losses have Taiwan reconsidering what Antonio Chiang, a former official in Taiwan's National Security Council, calls "a stupid war."This signals a warming trend on one of the world's most dangerous fronts. On March 22 Taiwan will choose a successor to independence-minded President Chen Shui-bian. Both candidates plan to curtail dollar diplomacy and tone down Chen's brash approach to Beijing, which still claims Taiwan as a renegade province. The Kuomintang's Ma Ying-jeou...
  • Why We Should Respect Rats

    Without humans, rats might still be an obscure species endemic to a forest in Asia. Now scientists are trying to understand the global pests we're responsible for creating.
  • Hot Spot: Angkor Village Hotel and Resort

    Siem ReapAimed at tourists visiting the Angkor Wat temple and surrounding sites, these luxury accommodations consist of a lodge in central Siem Reap and a resort closer to the main temple complex.Ambience: The rooms feature a mix of colonial Indochinese and traditional Cambodian touches, with fully modern amenities. The lodge is nestled on a quiet street in the old colonial area, while the resort offers more-exclusive cottages.Décor: Ornate wooden exteriors open onto cozy, colonial-style lobby cafés and airy rooms with French doors. The hotel features a large flower-festooned pool, with a restaurant perched in the middle. The resort boasts a curved, 200-meter-long "river pool" and full spa facilities.Food: The fusion of French and traditional Khmer flavors features fresh spring rolls, chicken soup with lemongrass and "Saraman" pork with coconut milk, red spices and peanuts. The resort's restaurant, Le Jardin, also offers Lao, Thai and Vietnamese dishes.Excursions: Hire one of Angkor...
  • China's Toxic Algae Problem

    Something is out of whack in China's lakes and rivers. Algae blooms are making fresh water undrinkable.
  • Even In China, English Is King

    China's recent rise has brought with it a new conventional wisdom: that everyone must learn Mandarin. But no one's told South Korea yet. Though Chinese is increasingly popular here, the nation seems to be suffering a profound case of English fever. South Korea now boasts at least 10 "English villages"—mock Western communities complete with post offices, pharmacies and the like where kids can practice their language skills. An entire English-only town is due to open on Cheju Island in 2010. And one Internet-based company here even offers English courses for fetuses in the womb.Next door, mighty China itself seems to have caught the English bug. Beijing guesses that more than 40 million non-native speakers now study Mandarin worldwide. But that pales next to the number of those learning English. In China alone, some 175 million people are now studying English in the formal education system. And an estimated 2 billion people will be studying it by 2010, according to a British Council...
  • China's (Controlled) Virtual World

    Zhao Gang surveys his nearly empty virtual world, and finds it to be good. Zhao is head of the tech team that built HiPiHi—China's answer to Second Life. With the virtual world's basic landscape complete, one of Zhao's jobs these days is to wander HiPiHi, schooling roughly 10,000 ethnic Chinese from the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore who have been specially invited into the test phase to help work out the kinks. The "residents," as they're called, roam, swim and fly around the new world. Zhao approaches two avatars for a chat. Face to face with the virtual world's Master Builder, they have an urgent question: "Can you tell us how to change our clothes?"Thus begins the education of China's 137 million (and counting) Netizens into the ways of 3-D virtual worlds. With a launch planned for the end of the year, HiPiHi appears to be on track to becoming the first homegrown Chinese competitor to Second Life, the virtual world that's all the rage in the United States. HiPiHi's 38...
  • Cleaning the Straits

    South Korea isn't the only democratic success story in Asia these days. The competition isn't just coming from Japan; it's Taiwan, rarely recognized as an independent state, that's making some of the best progress. Since holding its first free presidential elections in 1996, Taiwan has most often been associated with the fistfights that occasionally break out in its fractious legislature. But under the surface, the island has been quietly fortifying its political system. Recent surveys by the research group Asian Barometer rank Taiwan third, after Japan and South Korea, on support for liberal democratic values such as civilian rule and an independent judiciary. And its citizens support free speech more strongly than those of any other surveyed country.Recent reforms virtually guarantee that the country's politics will grow even more pluralistic. In 2003, citizens were granted the power of referendum. In 2005, they were given final say via plebiscite over constitutional amendments,...
  • The Internet Trembles

    In 1866, the British ship Great Eastern lowered a grappling hook by rope down to the frigid Atlantic Ocean floor far below. Its quarry: a line that had snapped the previous year during one of the first attempts to lay a transatlantic cable connecting the United States with Europe. One hundred and forty years later, repair ships are performing the same task, using essentially the same methods, in the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines. They're trying to snag at least six cables that were damaged in a massive Dec. 26 earthquake off the coast of Taiwan. The mangled cables are out of reach of remotely controlled submersibles often used in such work. By the latest estimates, the task won't be finished until at least mid-February.While the earliest transatlantic lines bore messages in Morse code, the cables near Taiwan carried 90 percent of East Asia's voice and Internet traffic. A month after the earthquake, services in the region were still not back to their full capacity....
  • Delicate Balance

    News that China had destroyed one of its own satellites with a missile last week sent shockwaves through capitals from Washington to Tokyo. But for security experts like Lin Chong-Pin, who have closely watched the rise of China’s military in recent decades, Beijing’s capability came as little surprise. Lin has studied the People’s Liberation Army as a scholar, and verbally sparred with China as a top Taiwanese government official. Now, he watches developments across the Taiwan Strait and in the region from his perch at a Taipei think tank. NEWSWEEK’S Jonathan Adams spoke with Lin about Beijing’s satellite-slaying test, the cross-strait military balance and China’s ambitions for regional domination. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Why did China decide to go ahead with this antisatellite test?Lin Chong-Pin: This didn’t happen overnight. I remember in the late ‘80s they were talking about “occupying the heights” in the future, which meant space … The technology has reached a stage at which it now...
  • Failed Expectations

    It was a fitting end to a punishing year for Asia's new democracies. Two days before regional heads of state were to arrive in the central Philippine city of Cebu for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' annual summit, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo abruptly postponed the confab--citing an approaching tropical storm. Pundits immediately identified two more plausible reasons for the delay: fears of a pending terror attack (spurred by recent warnings emanating from several Western governments) and the very real storm clouds gathering above the presidential palace in Manila.Arroyo is one of several Asian leaders who came to power as a reformer, then devolved into a backslider. Days before the scheduled ASEAN gathering on Dec. 11, Arroyo and her backers had attempted to rewrite the Philippine Constitution in a manner that would disband the powerful Senate, establish parliamentary rule and allow her the option of staying in power (as prime minister, not president) after her...
  • Divided Island

    There’s a phrase in Chinese for Taiwan’s political divide: lan tian, lu di (or “blue sky, green ground”). The north is the base of the China-friendly Kuomintang and its allies, the “blue” camp, which traces its heritage to the mainland and dreams of a reunified China. The south is the stronghold of the pro-independence “greens,” who emphasize the island’s distinct culture and history, and seek to cement its independence.Heaven and earth have rarely been so far apart. Last Saturday, the island’s two main camps split elections that were widely seen as a stage-setter for the key 2008 presidential vote. In the south, the pro-independence party won the mayor’s office in Kaohsiung by a nose, in a race that’s still being disputed. In the north, the KMT won, but for the Taipei mayor’s seat, the “green” candidate, Frank Hsieh, did far better than expected and took a respectable 41 percent of the vote.Both results surprised observers, who had expected a KMT sweep in the wake of corruption...
  • A President's Last Stand?

    Annette Lu, Taiwan's vice president, was on a windswept island in the Taiwan Strait when the call came. Back in Taipei, prosecutors were about to indict President Chen Shui-bian's wife for allegedly misusing state funds in a case that implicates the president himself. Lu skipped lunch and rushed back to the capital to help manage the crisis--and, if called upon, assume the presidency.Chen was scheduled to defend him-self publicly last weekend against charges that he, his wife and key aides had misappropriated some $450,000 from a discretionary state fund; the indictment claims the money was used to buy everything from a diamond ring for the First Lady to baby clothes for Chen's grandkids. Chen's defense had been that the money was spent on secret diplomacy and could not be accounted for due to national-security concerns. But prosecutors say they've found scant evidence of such use. Already embattled, Chen now faces renewed street protests and another opposition-led recall vote in...
  • Periscope

    In search of a creative way to stop militants and weapons smugglers from infiltrating from across the Egypt-Gaza border, Israelis are talking about building a 10-kilometer moat filled with Mediterranean seawater along the southern boundary. The plan was first considered seriously at the start of the second intifada in 2000, and in 2004 the Defense Ministry went so far as to open bids for construction. But the project was later dropped after government legal experts feared it would require destroying hundreds of Palestinian houses along the canal route. Brig. Gen. Tzvika Foghel, who studied the idea in 2001 as the Israeli military's Southern Command chief of staff, says geologists warned that if the construction wasn't done right, it could contaminate water supplies in both Gaza and Egypt and destabilize land under Palestinian homes. It would also have been prohibitively expensive, he says, at roughly $250 million.That doesn't matter so much now. After this summer's conflicts--during...
  • Culture: A Matter of Style

    Clad in jeans and a black sweatshirt, Taiwanese singer Lim Giong croons his rendition of a golden oldie. Elvis? The Beatles? Try Sung Dynasty poet Huang Ting-chien, who composed his greatest hit way back in 1087--in script that now ranks among the best surviving calligraphy from imperial China. Seated at a mixing board, Lim performs the piece to a techno soundtrack as images of Huang's brushwork flash on TV monitors. "He sings the ancient poem in Taiwanese," says Lin Mun-lee, who commissioned Lim Giong's music video last year to promote Taiwan's National Palace Museum. "It sounds even more beautiful than in Mandarin."Beauty, of course, is in the eyes and ears of the beholder. And not everyone is applauding Lin's campaign to repackage the world's premier collection of Chinese antiquities to a Taiwanese backbeat. Her ascension to the directorship of the Palace Museum in January marks a bold new direction that's likely to launch another culture clash on the island.Lin, an art-education...
  • Keeping China Quiet

    Of all the points of friction that could have roiled last week's summit meeting between George W. Bush and Hu Jintao--trade, North Korea, human rights--one caused hardly a ripple. The U.S. president brought up the topic of Taiwan, repeating to his Chinese counterpart the longstanding U.S. position that the cross-straight dispute be settled peacefully. Hu reiterated the mainland's position, that Taiwan is Chinese territory, and apparently little else was said by the two leaders on the island or the hugely sensitive issue of its sovereignty.Hu may not be as skittish about Taiwan these days as he has been in years past. Beijing has maintained a fairly constant stream of invective against the island's pro-independence president, Chen Shui-bian, ever since he was elected in 2000. But as Hu no doubt recognizes, Taiwan's complex political dynamics might be turning in the mainland's favor. Chen has become deeply unpopular; he's blamed for Taiwan's stagnant economy and for failing to deliver...
  • Dawn of the Wireless Utopias

    Taipei is dreaming big: it wants to be the world's first completely wireless metropolis. Other cities boast a patchwork of hotspots at hotels, coffee shops and colleges, and tiny towns in the United States and elsewhere have already been blanketed with anywhere, anytime Wi-Fi. But the Taiwanese capital (population: 2.6 million) is on track to become the first major world city to attain geek nirvana. Its ambitious Wifly project will stretch a single wireless network over the city's 272 square kilometers. Beginning in 2003, the city has so far installed 2,400 access points in the central part of town. If all goes well, by the end of June, 5,000 access points will provide a seamless network available outdoors and in, covering some 90 percent of Taipei. In a year, that number is expected to double to 10,000.Taipei won't stay at the top for long. Philadelphia, San Francisco and a 3,800-square-kilometer patch of Silicon Valley have Wi-Fi projects in the works. So do Bangalore and cities...
  • 'Conditions Aren't Ripe'

    The next presidential election in Taiwan is more than two years away, but there's already a front runner. Ma Ying-jeou, the 55-year-old mayor of Taipei, is seen as a shoo-in to be the candidate for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), which favors closer ties with China and eventual unification. Admired for his clean image and movie-star good looks, Ma led his party in trouncing the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in local elections earlier this month, making him the man to beat in 2008. The mayor and KMT chairman spoke to NEWSWEEK's Jonathan Adams about what his party would do to nudge Taiwan closer to China, and why conditions aren't yet "ripe" for unification. Excerpts: ...
  • Can Taiwan Come Back?

    The numbers look like a victory for Taiwan. In recent years, Taiwanese manufacturers watched and worried as Korean rivals rose to the top of the consumer-electronics world, with Samsung and LG Electronics becoming global household names in everything from washing machines to televisions. Now a group of five Taiwanese companies--none with recognizable brands--are on pace to outship the Koreans in a booming sector, liquid-crystal-display screens. These are the skinny screens that go into everything from iPods to new flat-panel TVs. They make up the lion's share of an overall display market expected to reach $100 billion in 2010, up from $62 billion last year. But while their prowess may provide a boost to national pride, the success of the Taiwanese companies may not be sustainable.These are troubling times for Taiwan, which for decades has held the lead over South Korea as Asia's second richest nation after Japan. In international markets, the two nations were once commonly mentioned...
  • PERISCOPE

    Raising the Bar AgainCould Turkey become the true victim of the twin "no" votes on the EU constitution in France and Holland? Ankara is due to start formal EU negotiations in October. But many European politicians are interpreting the referendums as a vote against further enlargement. "Turkey will take the blame for the two 'no' votes," says Daniel Hannan, a British member of the European Parliament. Last week EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso emphasized that negotiations would be "open ended"--in other words, not automatically leading to membership. And Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said Turkey would face the "most rigorous" test of any EU candidate thus far. In practice, that surely means Ankara will be judged not just on promises of reform, but implementation. Several laws passed at Brussels' insistence--for example, freedom-of-speech reforms allowing the use of the Kurdish language in schools and in the media--are now on the statute books but are widely ignored...
  • GREATER CHINA: A LITTLE NERVOUS

    One might expect citizens in Hong Kong and Taiwan to share the anti-Japanese fervor of their mainland brethren. But many of them find China's rage over atrocities committed by Japanese invaders more than half a century ago more than a little discomforting. Hong Kong doesn't fully embrace China's new-superpower-on-the-block assertiveness, while the Taiwanese find it downright alarming. Neither place buys Beijing's argument that Tokyo threatens stability in Asia today, whereas both see China as having that potential. The fervent nationalism now on display makes Beijing's critics particularly nervous. "Nationalism can be a powerful, sharp rapier," says pro-democracy lawmaker Emily Lau in Hong Kong. "I don't think [China] should try to whip up such furor."History helps explain the divergent perspectives. In Hong Kong, for example, cynicism over China's political motives runs high because many citizens are former refugees who fled communist tyranny. In Taiwan--a Japanese colony for 50...
  • To Stop a Tech Deal

    It's no secret that the two firms share common DNA. The elder, Taiwan-based United Microelectronics Corp.--the world's second-largest contract chipmaker--owns the patents allegedly used by an up-and-coming Chinese competitor, He Jian Technology. In fact ex-UMC employees established He Jian in 2001 and UMC chairman Robert Tsao now admits to having coached the mainland start-up in the hope of acquiring it someday. The problem: this kind of technology transfer requires official approval. And UMC didn't get it. Last month Taiwanese prosecutors swarmed UMC headquarters and searched senior executives' homes. More than 20 He Jian employees visiting from the mainland were barred from leaving Taiwan, and prosecutors briefly detained He Jian head J. H. Shyu. After weeks of denouncing legislators critical of his firm as "clowns" and accusing prosecutors of practicing "white terror," Tsao flew out of the country. "I believe he's in the States on business right now," says UMC spokesman Alex...
  • SOFT POWER, HARD CHOICES

    Ask a party bureaucrat in Beijing about China's foreign ambitions these days, and the reply may sound like a beauty contestant's doe-eyed promise to work for world harmony. "Peaceful resolution of global problems is both our aim and our style," asserts one official involved in international affairs. China has no interest in becoming a military superpower, he insists. "A power, yes, but not a superpower," he says. "We don't want to be enemies with anyone."Don't laugh. One of the hottest topics among foreign-policy specialists is China's rapidly growing "soft power." The term, coined 15 years ago by Harvard political scientist Joseph S. Nye Jr., refers to influence arising from attraction and persuasion rather than threats and force. Nye was talking about the global reach of American arts and ideas--and about the danger of overplaying U.S. weaponry while neglecting the country's cultural and intellectual clout. Back then, Beijing had scant international leverage aside from its nuclear...
  • BURYING THE HATCHET

    They battled each other for more than two decades. Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian launched his political career as a defense lawyer for critics of an authoritarian regime that counted James Soong as its brightest rising star. But last week Soong, the mainland-born head of a small opposition party, stood beside Chen to unveil a common set of principles to guide Taiwan's troubled relations with Beijing. The duo even exchanged gifts: Chen gave his guest a calligraphy scroll with the Chinese characters for sincerity (a virtue Chen's critics say he lacks), while Soong reciprocated with a lapis snail--telling observers it represented democracy "inching toward a beautiful garden."In inching closer together themselves, the two men are trying to end five years of increasingly partisan turmoil in Taiwan. They affirmed Taiwan's need for a strong defense and vowed to work together toward peace with Beijing. For his part, Chen restated pledges not to formally declare the island's independence...
  • OFFERING AN OLIVE TWIG

    He's a leader in search of a legacy. Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, often blamed for destabilizing Asia with his fiercely independent rhetoric, now says he wants to talk peace with China. In an interview with NEWSWEEK, he offered to consider a plan to freeze the cross-strait status quo for a generation. Perhaps more remarkably, he dared to imagine a day when Taiwan and China might unify on equal terms. The catch: China must democratize first, and achieve parity in living standards. Chen spoke with NEWSWEEK's George Wehrfritz and Jonathan Adams at the Presidential Office in Taipei. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Your critics say you've contributed to cross-strait tension by being needlessly provocative.CHEN: Over the past 400 years we have experienced various rulers, including different ethnic groups, foreign governments, autocrats and colonial powers. Beijing should understand that the [anti-China] referendum and protests last year only reflect the people's love for our homeland. Some want to...
  • TAIWAN: The Cold Shoulder

    The year of the rooster came in mild in Taipei, and the political climate seemed warmer, too. For the first time in 55 years Taiwan allowed Chinese airlines to land on its territory after a landmark agreement on two-way cross-strait charter flights for the holiday. Since Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's pro-independence party failed to win a legislative majority in December, he's had conciliatory words for both China and his domestic opposition....

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