Melinda Liu

Stories by Melinda Liu

  • A Delicate Balance

    China's campuses were abuzz last week. As soon as Taipei's election results flashed through cyberspace, student activists began printing banners and organizing protests to condemn Taiwan separatism. In Sichuan, thousands of Chongqing University students took to the streets, pleading that President Jiang Zemin "send in the PLA... to wipe out Taiwan splittists!" A similar protest erupted in the city of Changchun. Communist Party commissars scurried to cool the nationalist fervor. "Jiang doesn't want a repeat of what happened last May," when howling protesters besieged the U.S. diplomatic buildings after NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy, says one Beijing scholar. "It's a very sensitive moment."Jiang is on the hot seat. Before Taiwan's polls, his party's propaganda howled that a Chen victory "means war." Beijing had hoped to scare Taiwan, but Jiang is now trying to step back from the brink. Many Chinese took the rhetoric seriously, especially military hard-liners and nationalistic...
  • Beijing's Worst Nightmare

    Talk about a strategy that backfired. The propaganda campaign was intended to scare Taiwanese voters away from opposition candidate Chen Shui-bian. Beijing's leaders and experts alike issued doomsday threats. As Chen's victory seemed ever nearer, Beijing's panic broke out into the open. Victory for Chen, a panel of scholars warned, could force China to accelerate its timetable for completing reunification of Taiwan with the motherland. People's Liberation Army commentators painted Chen as a sweet-tongued liar. China's reformist Prime Minister Zhu Rongji yelled and gestured angrily as he laid out Beijing's "bottom line"--no independence for Taiwan--just before the island's voters headed to the polls. Raising his voice dramatically in a press conference, Zhu warned Taiwan: "Don't vote on impulse. You might not get another opportunity to regret."Why is Beijing so scared of Taiwan's new president? As head of the erstwhile opposition Democratic Progressive Party, Chen represents a new...
  • Cyber Rattling

    This week the international media will descend on a concrete-walled police-academy auditorium nestled in the suburban hills outside Taipei. It's the digital nerve center for the Taiwan Election Commission--and beginning Saturday, millions of votes for Taiwan's next president will be tallied there. But the election won't be the only competition of interest to the Taipei government. Behind the scenes another battle may be raging--this one between Taiwanese defense-ministry computer specialists (stationed at five command centers around the island) and "patriotic" mainland saboteurs. Taiwan is concerned that "red hackers," as they call themselves, could try to disrupt the island's computer networks--and spoil the election. Hunched over high-speed terminals, Taiwan's cyberwatchdogs will be searching for the Internet equivalent of "Reds under the bed." They'll scrutinize incoming Internet data packets for possible trouble--e-mail "bombs," viruses and clandestine Chinese attempts to crack...
  • Palace Intrigues

    For those who are into Pekingology, President Jiang Zemin's recent bedside reading has provided rich material for speculation. According to Jiang watchers in Beijing's diplomatic community, the president was stunned to hear of Boris Yeltsin's New Year's Eve resignation. The Russian leader had just been in Beijing, bearhugging with the Chinese leaders and commiserating over the NATO-led war in Kosovo. Diplomats think the resignation was such a shock to Jiang that it set off a bout of soul-searching. The president reportedly asked his aides to bring him books on Russia, including David Remnick's "Lenin's Tomb," which chronicles the chaos that led to the fall of the Soviet Union. The book's implication: leaders who cling to power too long jeopardize their legacies. Yeltsin's resignation "got Jiang ruminating about his place in history," says one Western diplomat in Beijing. That, he adds, helped Jiang decide to find a way "to keep his hand on the throttle."This is the real agenda at...
  • The Politics Of Reincarnation

    At the Gyuto Monastery in the foothills of the Himalayas, a love both familiar and exotic was in the air. Some 60 Tibetan schoolgirls had come to be in the presence of the living Buddha--who, in this case, just happened to be a strikingly handsome 14-year-old boy. The 17th reincarnation of the Karmapa had recently made a daring escape from Chinese-controlled Tibet, and the girls, in a temperate Tibetan sort of way, were flushed with excitement. They sat cross-legged on a cold concrete floor, surrounded by tapestries called tankhas, which portray dramatic stories of Buddhist lore. Sweet incense wafted through the air, and a table was covered with offerings--biscuits, apples, bananas and oranges--for the teen deity who was already part of an eternal legend.A murmur rose as the six-foot Karmapa--dressed in maroon and saffron robes and shadowed by Indian security guards--strode into the hall and sat on a downy, makeshift throne. First the Karmapa politely thanked the few Westerners in...
  • The Day Of The Living Buddhas

    From here to the north, in the east of the land of snow, Is a country where divine thunder spontaneously blazes In a beautiful nomad's place with the sign of a cow...This cryptic note, said to have been found in an old talisman in 1991, led at last to a yak-herding family's encampment in eastern Tibet. The searchers were looking for the 17th Karmapa, the reborn leader of one of Tibetan Buddhism's four main sects. The master's previous embodiment, the 16th Karmapa, had died of cancer in 1981--and his followers had been awaiting his return ever since. The nomadic family's eighth child, a 7-year-old son, was a strange little boy. The nomads said he was fond of vanishing into the mountains by himself, riding on the backs of goats and jackals. On the day of his birth, they recalled, three suns appeared in the sky with an overarching rainbow. People heard the blare of unseen conch shells on all sides, then the music of flutes and cymbals.The searchers still could not rest. Celestial signs...
  • A Buddha Busts Out

    At the Gyuto monastery, in the foothills of the Himalayas, a love both familiar and exotic was in the air. Some 60 Tibetan schoolgirls had come to be in the presence of the living Buddha--who, in this case, just happened to be a strikingly handsome 14-year-old boy. The 17th reincarnation of the Karmapa had recently made a daring escape from Chinese-controlled Tibet, and the girls, in a temperate Tibetan sort of way, were flushed with excitement. They sat cross-legged on a cold concrete floor, surrounded by tapestries called tankhas, which portray dramatic stories of Buddhist lore. Sweet incense wafted through the air, and a table was covered with offerings--biscuits, apples, bananas--for the teen deity who was already part of an eternal legend.A murmur rose as the six-foot Karmapa, dressed in maroon and saffron robes and shadowed by Indian security guards, strode into the hall and sat on a downy, makeshift throne. First the Karmapa politely thanked the few Westerners in the audience...
  • A Catholic Crackdown

    What could be so threatening about an 80-year-old Roman Catholic archbishop that Beijing would need 150 police to arrest him? Two weeks ago, according to the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, authorities hauled in John Yang Shudao, who'd previously spent nearly three decades in prison. It was the latest assault in the Communist Party's war against Catholics who refuse to denounce the pope as their supreme authority. At least eight bishops have been detained since August, according to the foundation, a human-rights monitoring group. Dozens of clerics have disappeared and several underground churches have been torched or blown up.There's more here than meets the eye. The detentions coincide with private talks between Beijing and the Vatican. The two sides broke ties in 1951, when mainland Catholics were pressured to renounce the pope and join the state-sanctioned "patriotic" church. The Holy See still has an embassy in Taipei, but last year a Vatican official said the church was...
  • The Mad Swim For Freedom

    Guo Lusheng looks like any other Beijing mental patient: buzz-cut hair, striped padded pajamas and, tied to his wrist, a key to the nightstand drawer holding his meager possessions. But Guo, now 51, was once China's most famous underground poet. During the early days of the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards hand-copied his poems and recited them to each other--much to the irritation of Mao Zedong's wife, Jiang Qing, who wanted to straitjacket the minds of Chinese youth. "During the Cultural Revolution, no one had his own art or culture," says poet Mang Ke. "Guo's poems were the beginnings of something freer."He has paid sorely for his political passions. Despite his underground status, Guo was never imprisoned and his illness--diagnosed in the '70s as schizophrenia--has clinical, not political origins. Still, he felt the barb of Jiang Qing's ire; she denounced his work as "unhealthy" in 1970. Soon afterward, Guo became depressed and delusional; his family agreed to stints of...
  • Secrets Of The Past

    A seven-inch scar, hidden by a black toupee, explains Song Yongyi's lifelong obsession. For 30 years, the Chinese historian has been struggling to exorcise the painful memories of the Cultural Revolution, the decade of mass madness and factional fighting launched by Mao Zedong's Red Guards. Song spent three and a half years in jail--and endured beatings and torture--for reading "counterrevolutionary" books. China's salvation, Song thought after his release, would come in facing the dark past, and he set out to uncover the origins of the tumultuous decade. So it was no small irony that last summer, when the Dickinson College librarian went back to China, his Cultural Revolution research landed him in jail again. For six months, interrogators pressured him to confess, first to trafficking in state secrets and later, transporting "intelligence" to a foreign country. They told him his wife, also in detention, was "weak and growing ill" because of his refusal to confess. "It was like...
  • Lost In Nepal

    Jigme Palbar Bista was quite content to be king of a "lost kingdom." He rules the ancient Nepalese fiefdom of Mustang, where the upper regions have no telephones, no airport, no banks, no cars. The capital of Lo Manthang has a part-time post office, which opens only when there are stamps. Perched 4,000 feet up in the Himalayas, Lo Manthang is separated from the nearest road by a four-day trek through the deepest gorge in the world. Or at least it is for now. Powerful businessmen want to build a road linking Lo Manthang to the border with Tibet, just seven miles to the north. "It could shatter the peace of this tranquil valley," King Jigme recently told NEWSWEEK. "My head is hurting from this issue."Mustang epitomizes the dilemma of modernization. Though it is part of Nepal, Mustang is a living museum of Tibetan culture more pristine even than in Tibet--where Chinese rule has stamped out many of the old ways. Lo Manthang lacks the hospitals and schools that the Chinese have built...
  • A Great Leap Backward

    One day in 1998, Zhao Jingxin returned home to find this shocking message painted on the wall of his centuries-old house: to be demolished. Built during the Ming dynasty, he says, and purchased by Zhao's father in 1950, the courtyard home was to be torn down to make room for a new development. But Zhao and his wife refused to budge. When the developer threatened to evict them with a bulldozer last October, the couple sat tight--but donated their antique furniture and old books to museums for protection. In early November several prominent intellectuals, including Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei, warned that demolishing the Zhao house "would damage Beijing's traditional culture beyond estimation." Now the Zhaos' courtyard is the only one left in a snow-covered lot cleared for new construction. It's "a lonely island," says Zhao, 82, a retired professor. "I can't run away from my responsibility to keep the courtyard while I'm still alive, but I know I'm going to lose this fight....
  • The Mafia City?

    President Jiang Zemin was infuriated by news from his discipline commission. After busting smuggling rings up and down the east coast, Jiang's war on corruption had stalled on the turf of a suspected billionaire smuggler masquerading as a legitimate tycoon in the Fujian province Port of Xiamen. It seemed the alleged crime boss had cultivated top government and Army officials who were now defending his character and his cronies. When the chief of the Communist Party Central Discipline Inspection Commission told Jiang that his offensive was bogging down because of resistance from these powerful patrons, or hou tai, the president exploded in anger. "Now I'm your hou tai, and no one's higher than me," Jiang yelled. With that, he ordered his prime minister, Zhu Rongji, to step in and push the Xiamen crackdown "as far as it will go." A year later hundreds of uniformed and civilian investigators have descended on Xiamen. They've taken over a downtown hotel, sealing off the atrium lobby...
  • A Tale Of Two Cities: Beijing

    The man who made it happen was nowhere to be seen. More than anyone else, it was Prime Minister Zhu Rongji who closed the deal with the United States, bringing China's 13-year campaign to join the World Trade Organization to within sight of its goal. Early last Monday morning American negotiators had packed their bags and were threatening, once again, to go home. Then Zhu startled them by arriving unannounced at the Trade Ministry in Beijing to help hammer out a breakthrough. But that afternoon he stayed away from the signing ceremony, where one giddy Chinese official burst into tears of joy. Nor did he appear at a celebration hosted by a beaming President Jiang Zemin in the Zhongnanhai leadership compound. Initial Chinese press accounts avoided using Zhu's name in their reports on the last-minute negotiations; they said only that a "senior-level official" had intervened. The WTO agreement was a personal triumph for Zhu, but it also made him China's invisible man.Several sources...
  • The New Deal For China

    To look at the sina.com internet portal is to understand why it took 13 years, countless political struggles and six days of round-the-clock negotiations to hammer out a deal that will open the way for China to enter the World Trade Organization. "I'll save my money in American banks!" one Chinese Netizen exulted last week. Another predicted deeper change: "Princelings will no longer make big money [through] smuggling; they're finished!'' Yet another voiced what many a Communist Party hard-liner must fear: "There won't be authorities anymore [to restrict] our behavior and thinking."To the world, China's entry into WTO means business. But to any Chinese who wants to buy a car, or to log on to the Internet, or to open a bank account, WTO is about much more than trade. It's about what kind of society China will become. Ever since Deng Xiaoping launched his reforms in 1978, hard-liners and reformers have fought over how wide China should open to the world. Now, external rules and...
  • Crisis Of Faith

    It's sometimes best to hide in a public place. Liu Zhanguo slipped into a Beijing Starbucks last Tuesday for a quiet rendezvous. A Communist Party member from northern Fushun city, Liu wanted to tell NEWSWEEK why he was willing to risk his life in a show of support for Falun Gong. The state had arrested thousands of his fellow believers in an effort to smash what authorities call an "evil cult." Liu, 50, credits its mystical blend of Buddhism, Taoism and deep-breathing exercises with curing his hypertension and his wife's psychological problems. A teacher of the discipline, he was about to join a public protest against the crackdown. "It doesn't matter if I live or die," said Liu. Gesturing around the upscale coffeehouse, he added: "The next time we talk it may not be here. Maybe I'll be in jail. After we finish talking I plan to go to the square to be arrested."Fatalism hung in the air the next morning, as Liu and more than 20 other Falun Gong followers prepared to depart for...
  • A Goose Step Into The Future

    He didn't look like the jovial Jiang Zemin that Washington has come to know--the well-tailored fellow with the agreeable smile. On Friday, dressed in a somber Mao suit, a dark gray speck amid a colorful sea of 500,000 Chinese, China's president spoke from atop a crimson gate of the Forbidden City. Jiang stood on the same rostrum, overlooking Tiananmen Square, from which Mao Zedong had inaugurated the new revolutionary China exactly a half century before--to the hour. Now, celebrating the 50th anniversary, Jiang took a swipe at "hegemonism"--his code word for America's post-cold-war dominance. And he vowed to "unite" China and make it powerful again.China billed last week's goose-stepping gala as a celebration of progress. But apart from a high-tech, modernist veneer, it looked far more like a throwback to the cold war. A float bearing a giant portrait of Jiang followed those of his predecessors: Mao the Revolutionary, and Deng Xiaoping the Reformer. To cement his own legacy as China...
  • The Great Firewall Of China

    Hengde Lian's daytime boss has no idea the mild-mannered information-systems specialist is a "cyberguerrilla" by night. Jailed as a dissident in China after the Tiananmen protests of 1989, Lian later moved to the United States and now spends his evenings at home in a manicured Virginia suburb, where he helps publish VIP Reference. Written in Chinese, this e-zine offers a daily critique of Beijing's communist leaders. They've tried to set up an online blockade to halt delivery, and imposed harsh prison terms on anyone who helps distribute the e-zine--even inadvertently--inside China. Transmitting from a different U.S. e-mail address each day to avoid detection, Lian helps message copies of the magazine to more than 250,000 addresses in China. Many of his targets are government officials. "This is like a war," says Lian. "The Internet is the front line."China's dissident movement, battered by crackdowns since 1989, has found a refuge in cyberspace. Party leaders are battling back by...
  • Getting Ready To Party

    On Oct. 1, 1949, a silent but excited crowd of half a million people assembled to watch Mao Zedong announce the birth of the People's Republic of China. Suddenly, a yellow dog bolted along the parade route on Changan Avenue. "Look! It's Chiang Kai-shek," shouted onlookers, referring to Mao's defeated rival, who'd fled with his army to Taiwan. "He's running away!" The crowd hooted and whistled, recalls eyewitness Li Sha, whose late husband was a senior party leader. "It was totally unexpected."For months now, Beijing authorities have been cracking down to stifle such surprises during China's 50th National Day anniversary this week. They have dispatched at least 100,000 rural migrants back to the provinces and shut down 6,000 saunas and beauty salons offering "illegal erotic services." Around the country, police are rounding up anyone, from mentally ill beggars to an 81-year-old Roman Catholic bishop, whose voice might dampen the party spirit. In Guangzhou, city workers are impounding...
  • In Love With A Vision

    For Mao Zedong, the summer of 1944 was a time of new openings. The war with Japan was raging across China. But at his revolutionary base in Yanan, Mao was busily wooing a group of American journalists and military observers. He told them he admired America's early leaders, especially Abraham Lincoln, as "revolutionary democrats." (The British, by contrast, were blatant "imperialists.") Mao spent hours urging John S. Service, a U.S. diplomat, to establish an official consulate in Yanan. The Chinese leader, says Liu Yu, a Yanan historian, "was out to win over the Americans."Soon after that meeting, Franklin Roosevelt sent a special envoy to help unite the communists and the rival Nationalists against the Japanese. Mao and other communist leaders rushed to the airstrip in their only motor vehicle, a battle-scarred ambulance. The Chinese and Maj. Gen. Patrick Hurley shared warm talks and toasts of homemade pear wine. Mao confided he had once herded sheep; Hurley said he had once been a...
  • A Secret War On The Roof Of The World

    In 1958, the Dalai Lama was a 23-year-old god-king on the verge of losing his realm. The Chinese communists were closing in, and Tibet's spiritual leader was desperate. That's when he first heard that the Central Intelligence Agency was stepping up its activities in his domain. The Dalai Lama's lord chamberlain arranged a meeting for him with two CIA-trained guerrillas, so they could demonstrate their skills. The Tibetan warriors pulled out a bazooka, fired it, then took 15 minutes to reload before they fired again. His Holiness was incredulous."Will you shoot once and then ask the enemy to wait 15 minutes?" he asked his disciples. "Impossible." But the lord chamberlain and other advisers were enthusiastic. Although the Dalai Lama would have to flee into exile in India, freedom fighters were already battling China's Army, and they had direct radio contact with the CIA. "They gave the impression that once I arrived in India, great support would come from the United States," the Dalai...
  • Mao Vs. The Mystic

    From the propaganda, you might have thought Li Hongzhi was an ax murderer, or at least an incendiary figure. Over and over, Beijing's government-controlled television ran an Orwellian tape recounting the dangers of joining his spiritual movement, called Falun Gong. Li's followers denounced the movement and called him a charlatan. Communist Party members gathered in political study sessions to exorcize his ideas. Officials destroyed 2 million of his texts and tapes. Bulldozers crushed videotapes of his breathing exercises, based on an ancient regimen called qigong. The official Xinhua News Agency called the campaign against Falun Gong "a serious political struggle." Authorities issued a warrant for his arrest and posted his description--"single eye folds, heavy northeast accent"--with Chinese border-control officers in case he should try to return from his home in New York. The Chinese hadn't seen this kind of propaganda campaign since the aftermath of the bloody crackdown on the...
  • Apocalypse When

    Grandma Tang, a 71-year-old resident of the Hunan city of Shaoshan, doesn't believe in Falun Gong. But that doesn't mean she's not covering her spiritual bases. The red wall shrine in her home features a forest of incense sticks and a wooden ancestor tablet. There's a statue of the Taoist Goddess of Mercy. Nearby sits a pair of smooth wooden crescents, found in many Buddhist temples, which are thrown on the floor to reveal answers to a petitioner's questions. In the center of it all is a porcelain bust of China's late Great Helmsman Mao Zedong, who was born virtually next door to Tang's house. "I throw these once in a while to help me make decisions," she says, pointing to the crescents. "But I believe only in Chairman Mao."The Chinese want to believe. Problem is, Beijing's post-Mao leadership is increasingly hard pressed to come up with something they can all believe in. Once upon a time Marxist dogma was the answer. But today officially recognized religions--Buddhism, Taoism,...
  • Echoes Of '89

    The 2,000 devotees of master Li Hongzhi stood calmly, five or six rows deep, their hands carefully folded in front of them. Nobody shouted a slogan. Nobody waved a banner. Nobody tried to break into the nearby Zhongnanhai leadership compound, where top officials of the Communist Party live and work. When Chinese police ordered the protesters to board government buses last Thursday, they politely obliged. All they wanted, they said, was the freedom to follow the way of Falun Gong, a mixture of Buddhist, Taoist and other mystical teachings. "I'm a follower of Falun Gong. Why won't they let us practice our beliefs?" said one middle-aged woman, proudly patting her chest. An acquaintance interrupted her: wasn't she afraid of being arrested? "I'm not at all afraid," she said. "As long as Li Hongzhi is around, we're not afraid of anything."The Chinese Communist Party is afraid. Last Monday, security agents burst into the homes of more than 70 local Falun Gong leaders after nightfall. They...
  • Against The She-Wolves

    The meeting in Shandong province was supposed to be about rural markets, but instead it focused on something more important: women's football. State Councilor Wu Yi opened the July 5 meeting with the latest news from the Women's World Cup in America: "In the first half-hour our team scored two goals against Norway." Throughout the morning, messengers kept passing notes and whispered updates to Wu, the Chinese government's highest-ranking woman. When China trounced Norway 5-0 in the semifinal, conference participants erupted in cheers and applause. "Now we'll go head to head against the United States at the Rose Bowl," she exulted.Alas, when that historic battle occurred, the Americans won. For many Chinese, the defeat rankled; local resentment against the United States still simmers in the wake of NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. Although the final took place before sunrise in Beijing, the city's police appeared ready for trouble, congregating in unusual strength...
  • How Low Would He Bow?

    In imperial times, Chinese officials expected foreigners to kowtow to the emperor, lying prostrate and knocking their foreheads on the ground nine times. They expected almost as much from U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, who arrived in Beijing last week to explain why NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. His delegation spent eight hours outlining an embarrassing string of intelligence snafus behind the May 7 bombing. In private, the mood was "courteous" and "professional," said one U.S. official. But publicly, the Chinese state press dismissed Pickering's explanation as an unconvincing "fairy tale." ...
  • Broken Dreams

    Wang Dan is back in the pillory. As a Beijing University history major 10 years ago, he became one of the most outspoken leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests. After the government's tanks rolled out to crush the demonstrations on June 4, 1989, Wang was arrested and vilified as a "black hand" behind the turmoil. After two stints in prison, he was finally released into U.S. exile last year. ...
  • China's Man Of Mystery

    Unrest erupted in China almost immediately after the bombing of its embassy in Belgrade, but for 24 hours the top Chinese leaders disappeared from view. "Your people are crying and bleeding," scolded one computer chat-room message. "Why do you not dare show yourself on TV?" When a leader finally stepped forward, it was not President Jiang Zemin or Premier Zhu Rongji. It was Vice President Hu Jintao, who emerged from relative obscurity to make a nationwide address declaring support for anti-NATO protests. He was center-stage at the victims' homecoming as well, greeting the injured and embracing one comrade who cried, "Thank the Communist Party!"Who's Hu? The former hydroelectric engineer is an enigma. His official biography reveals that Hu "occasionally danced solo at parties" when he was young. As former head of the Communist Youth League, Hu is identified with the young--the majority in last week's protests. In the powerful seven-man Politburo standing committee, he's a "swing...
  • Wounded Pride

    When Chinese troops stormed into Tiananmen Square in 1989, they quickly pulled down the students' soaring statue--the "Goddess of Democracy"--which had become a sentimental link between the young protesters and their American supporters. Last week Beijing marchers once again paraded images of the Statue of Liberty--this time on posters showing her grasping bloodstained missiles instead of a torch. One banner shrieked, "Kill the bitch Albright," and another: "Bill Clinton is a son of a bitch and Tony Blair is the grandson of that bitch." As the mob in Beijing pelted the U.S. Embassy with rocks and paint, protests ignited in more than 20 other cities. Rioters in western Chengdu torched the U.S. consul general's residence, ramming the reinforced doors with a bicycle rack. When staffers picked up ringing phones, the callers shouted obscenities in English.By the end of the week, the physical fury had passed. Just days after the anti-American riots exploded, touched off by NATO's bombing...
  • Defending Taiwan

    For a moment the Chinese "invasion" of Penghu, an archipelago controlled by Taipei, seems real. Thick, acrid smoke erupts on the beach; artillery shells pound the jungle. Ten Taiwanese tanks lumber along the shoreline, spitting up sand in their wake. Taiwanese soldiers fire machine guns and mortars toward the mainland, 150 kilometers away, and a rickety wooden fishing boat explodes in flames. "Now we repulse the enemy from the sea," blares a loudspeaker, first in Chinese and then in English for the benefit of Western observers. The simulated assault is over in 30 minutes. Another voice booms: "Now we have annihilated the enemy." A lieutenant grins at a dark green column of newly refitted, U.S.-made M-60A3 tanks. "We bought all these weapons from the U.S.," he says. "Now we need a chance to show them off."Showing off is one way to get attention. The East Asian financial crisis has dragged on for two years now, and in subtle ways the slump has pushed the region's various antagonisms...
  • Where Shells Rained

    Chinese fishing boats are still slipping onto the beaches of Kinmen, just as they did three decades ago. Back then, the flimsy vessels carried communist troops in a bloody but botched attempt to invade the Taipei-controlled island. Today they come in peace, plying a smuggling trade that both Taiwan and China ban, but rarely use bullets to discourage. Laden with fish, food and gewgaws, the Chinese are welcomed by Kinmen locals, who hope for a more open China trade. As for invaders, The most startling intruders seen on the beach in recent years have been a flock of mainland sheep, somehow escaped from a smuggler's ship.Kinmen has become a living museum to its own past as the front line in battles between China and Taiwan. When Beijing wanted to scare Taipei, its artillery had only enough firepower to reach Kinmen, two kilometers off the mainland. As recently as 1978, China bombarded Kinmen every other day with shells containing propaganda leaflets. In response, the Taipei government...
  • China's Balkan Crisis

    The timing was terrible. As prime minister Zhu Rongji arrived in the United States last week to try to revive China's "strategic partnership" with Washington, most Americans were watching something else on TV--fiery scenes of U.S. forces bombarding the Balkans. Zhu was watching, too. What he saw was a high-tech version of the "gunboat diplomacy" that the West once used to bully China. If the Americans send cruise missiles to support Kosovar separatists today, Zhu reasons, what is to prevent them from one day helping separatists in Taiwan, in western China or in Tibet, where the CIA has had a history of covert gamesmanship?Such issues were on Zhu's mind. That came clear when he answered a question on why China's leaders reserve the right to use force in Taiwan by citing Abraham Lincoln as a model leader who used force to keep his country unified. And it was even more obvious when Chinese officials got so rattled by "Free Tibet" protests that they threatened Zhu would boycott a...