Melinda Liu

Stories by Melinda Liu

  • China’s New Guard

    They're called the Sixth Generation. (Everything starts with Mao, of course.) When their day comes, they may well be the country's best hope for change.
  • Burma: Why Sanctions Won't Work

    World leaders may be condemning the junta's crackdown, but foreign businesses don't want to lose their pieces of Burma's energy pie. Why the latest sanctions are unlikely to work.
  • Liu: Can China Avert a Crisis in Burma?

    The junta is so illogical that it used numerology to schedule its last crackdown. That makes the outcome of the current violence impossible to predict and raises doubts about whether even China can influence the country's military rulers.
  • Do China and India Produce A Million Engineers?

    Earlier this year, students would show up for class each day at the Jalpaiguri Engineering College in West Bengal—and find no teachers. The Department of Electronics, Computer Science and Information Technology had just one full-time teacher (it's supposed to have 20). Finally, in May, the students—who faced impending exams despite having had no instruction—went into the streets to protest. Eventually, the government announced it would enlist teachers from other schools. But that proved easier said than done: when administrators went looking for recruits at one of India's oldest educational institutions, the Bengal Engineering and Science University (BESU) in Kolkata, they found that it couldn't spare any teachers—it didn't have enough of its own.Wait a second: this isn't what the picture is supposed to look like. For years, pundits and the press have been warning that the millions of engineers and scientists India and China produce each year would soon challenge the United States'...
  • Liu: China’s Fight to Spin the ’08 Olympics

    The transformation of Beijing for the 2008 Olympics is emerging as perhaps the most ambitious remake of any major world capital in history, short of the postwar reconstructions. The silhouettes of the spectacular new stadium and swimming center are already familiar worldwide, but they are set in a rebuilt urban core that startles return visitors. Lush new green spaces, swirling expressways, shopping arcades roofed with giant LED screens, a new downtown financial center plus a vastly expanded public transport system have all rapidly appeared. To some, the Olympic-driven metamorphosis evokes the remaking of Paris by Baron Haussmann between 1865 and 1887—a complete redesign of the city center, including the creation of the grand boulevards for which Paris is famous today.For others, Beijing's radical rebuild smacks of totalitarian-power architecture, akin to the grandiose but unrealized blueprints of Albert Speer, Hitler's favorite architect. But Albert Speer Jr. disagrees. The younger...
  • China’s Fight to Spin the ’08 Olympics

    Beijing hopes to use the 2008 Olympics to showcase its political and economic gains. But one year before the Olympics, journalists are far from free--and China and its critics are locked in a competition of ideas.
  • Liu: China’s Fight to Spin the ’08 Olympics

    Tu Mingde first became involved in China's Olympic efforts in 1972. Now Tu is assistant to the president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), which is responsible for the city's preparations for next summer's Games. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Melinda Liu and Jonathan Ansfield about the countdown to 2008. ...
  • China Races to Avoid Olympic-Size Food Scare

    It was a harsh penalty even by the standards of China, which executes more criminals every year than any place else in the world. The former head of the State Food and Drug Administration was put to death last week. His crime: approving untested medicines in exchange for $850,000 in bribes. At least 10 deaths have been blamed on bogus antibiotics that were OK'd during his tenure. But his offense went far beyond that—an SFDA spokeswoman said Zheng Xiaoyu had brought "shame" on the agency.Shame has always been a dreaded force in China—and now it has Beijing's leaders scrambling to save face amid the country's multiplying food-, drug- and product-safety scandals. In centuries past, the Chinese emperor's No. 1 responsibility was to guarantee that his subjects were adequately fed. Only then did he earn the "mandate of heaven" that justified his reign. And this in essence has been the Communist Party's bargain with China since the days of Deng Xiaoping: in return for accepting a sometimes...
  • Q&A: China's Top Consumer Advocate

    Wang Hai's mobile phone keeps buzzing with calls from clients. He's China's most famous crusader against fraudulent, shoddy and dangerous goods. The business consultant targets counterfeiters, helps duped consumers and protects whistle-blowers, many of whom face harassment or worse. "A good system for guaranteeing quality control simply doesn't exist in China," says Wang, who's been on the consumer-rights warpath for more than a decade. "Even confidential informants who report to authorities about someone selling fraudulent goods can wind up dead, under suspicious circumstances."All of that ensures Wang is extremely busy these days. Over the past few months, a number of dramatic product-safety scandals have rocked China—and horrified the world. The U.S. media have exposed one badly made Chinese export after another, from poisonous pet food to toxic toothpaste to tires so poorly made they litter American highways with shredded treads. These revelations have raised serious questions...
  • Last Word: Hoshyar Zebari

    Baghdad was already feeling the heat of an increase in suicide blasts and roadside bombs, mortar attacks on the Green Zone, and U.S. pressure to meet its "benchmarks" of progress by September. Amid all this, rumors abound in Baghdad of coup plots, which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has fueled by accusing political rivals—aides say he means former P.M. Ayad Allawi—of "conspiring" against the government with the help of "foreign intelligence." (Allawi has denied any connection to a coup plot.) Few in Maliki's government see more of the internal challenges that the prime minister faces than Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who has managed to retain his post since being appointed to the interim government in June 2004. NEWSWEEK's Melinda Liu and Larry Kaplow spoke to Zebari. Excerpts: ...
  • Of Coups and Conspiracies

    As if Nouri al-Maliki didn't have enough to worry about. Aside from rising violence and his government's laggardly progress on a slew of political and legislative benchmarks set by the U.S., the Iraqi prime minister also seems increasingly consumed by fears of coups and conspiracies. Iraqi media reported this week that Maliki once again accused certain Iraqi politicians of "conspiring" against the government with the help of "foreign intelligence." And Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Iraqi security officials had detained a number of tribal chiefs and former Iraqi Army officers in Dhi Qar province "for their proven links to the intelligence services of an Arab state . . . and for supplying moral, material and logistical support for armed groups that operate in southern Iraq." ...
  • Iraq: New U.S. Ambassador May Be Best Hope

    Two months into his most recent Baghdad posting (his third in nearly 30 years), Ryan Crocker still hasn't opened all his airfreight crates. "I've been a little pressed," he dryly explains to NEWSWEEK. When he finally unpacks, though, the U.S. ambassador will take out a battered calendar from 24 years ago and hang it in his office. It was on his office wall in Beirut when a suicide truck bomb destroyed the U.S. Embassy there on April 18, 1983, killing 64 people. Slammed against a wall but not seriously hurt, the young diplomat immediately began clawing barehanded through the rubble, searching for his colleagues. The calendar has traveled with him ever since, bearing the scars of that day: "a little bit of glass, a little bit of blood, a little bit of spilled coffee." His voice gets quieter: "It reminds me of my responsibilities to the mission. And that in diplomacy, as in the military, you're playing for keeps."Crocker needs no reminders. That is why he and his military counterpart,...
  • The Tribes of Iraq: America's New Allies

    Pungent smoke floats through the chandeliers of the tribal chief's reception room. At his home in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province and a onetime Iraqi insurgent stronghold, Sheik Shakir Saoud Aasi is enjoying after-dinner cigars with his guest of honor, battalion commander Lt. Col. Craig Kozeniesky of the 2/5 Marines. Around the room, Marines and Iraqi tribesmen and police are sitting together, swapping jokes and stories. Some of these Iraqis were probably shooting at Americans less than a year ago. Now they and the Marines are fighting side by side against Al Qaeda. "We are not just friends but also brothers," the sheik tells Kozeniesky. "This is a new beginning for both of us." Kozeniesky can only agree: "Things have changed dramatically." A 5-year-old Iraqi boy in traditional robes and headdress is racing around the room and vaulting into U.S. troops' laps. What does he want to be when he grows up? He proudly announces: "American general named Steve!"The Pentagon is praying that...
  • High-Tech Hunt for Hostages

    Two high-profile abduction incidents in Iraq recently--three soldiers near Mahmoudiya last month and five British civilians in Baghdad this week--have focused attention on the U.S.-led Coalition's search and rescue operations. The Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at an air base in Southwest Asia--the nerve center for U.S. Central Command air ops--utilizes full-motion video captured by aerial drones and internal chat rooms showing communications at various command levels to help support the recovery of missing personnel. Although for security reasons he declined to disclose details of ongoing operations, CAOC's Col. Gary Crowder spoke on the phone with NEWSWEEK's Melinda Liu about the use of air assets in such efforts. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Tell me about important innovations in your work.Gary Crowder: First let me explain how personnel recovery efforts are organized. Each service branch is responsible for its own people. But each component does not necessarily hav...
  • A Somber Return

     A familiar blast of hot air hit me as I stepped off the plane in Baghdad. It seemed for a moment as if I'd never left Iraq. The arid, dusty wind that sucks your lungs dry. The cumbersome (or reassuring?) weight of body armor while riding into town from the airport along roads littered with debris from IED blasts. But many things have changed since 2005, the last time I worked in Iraq. The old, familiar Humvee has morphed into a demented, humpbacked narwhal on wheels, surmounted by an elaborate super-structure enveloping the gunner on the roof. Protruding out front is a device that looks like a square ping-pong paddle with a long, attenuated handle. Called a WARLOCK, it emits electronic countermeasures to block signals that can trigger IEDs.The Green Zone is a lot less green (meaning a lot less secure) these days. Inside this fortified enclave, rocket attacks killed four foreign contractors late last week. It was the third straight day of rocket or mortar attacks on the Green...
  • The Olympic Effect

    Late in march, the actress Mia Farrow wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal calling for a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Denouncing China for its support of the murderous Sudanese government (which happens to be China's sixth largest oil supplier), she dubbed the upcoming Games the "Genocide Olympics."Beijing, which has been wary of Hollywood's PR power ever since Richard Gere and others began campaigning for Tibet's independence years ago, quickly kicked into damage-control overdrive. Even as the state-run China Daily complained that it was an "insult to the Olympic spirit to wantonly blame China for the Darfur crisis," Beijing sent a special envoy, Zhao Jun, to Khartoum to press the regime there to accept U.N. peacekeepers; Sudan duly agreed to such a force on April 16.As the episode showed, the upcoming Olympics and the international spotlight being shone on China are proving a potent catalyst for change. Beijing seems to be growing more vulnerable to...
  • China's Roadside Eats

    Spring has sprung. The hills north of Beijing are alive with ... the sound of noisy restaurant attendants, some waving red banners, standing at the side of the road shouting, "Stop here for a delicious meal!" at the throngs of city dwellers zooming by in their cars.Chinese are hitting the road in record numbers. Car ownership more than tripled between 2000 and 2006, and China is now the world's second largest auto market after the United States. This love affair is spawning booming new auto-service industries, from vehicle accessories to roadside eateries. For better or worse, China is beginning to look—and taste—a lot like America in the 1950s. McDonald's and KFC (known for its Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets all over the country) plan to open 25 drive-through restaurants in China; both began testing the waters with drive-ins in Beijing and elsewhere in 2005.McDonald's has entered into a strategic alliance with Sinopec, China's biggest oil producer and marketer, to open drive...
  • Beijing Invokes FDR's New Deal

    What a difference a mere $1.41 can make. To most residents of affluent countries, the figure is minuscule, small change. The same goes for most middle-class residents of China's booming cities. But for rural Chinese farmers, whose $460 average income is less than a third what China's city dwellers earn, it's a very different story. One dollar and forty-one cents drove 20,000 residents of Zhushan Village in Hunan province into the streets last Monday, to violently protest a rise of that amount in bus fares; $1.41 meant life or death to one student, who was reportedly killed in the clash with 1,500 baton-wielding police. Several dozen more protesters were injured. As600 cops continued to patrol Zhushan last Wednesday, a farmer named Sun, who requested anonymity to avoid trouble with authorities, explained why she and others had risked their lives over so small a sum. Their village is remote and desperately poor, she said. "Some men go and work in construction in town, earning just $64...
  • Liu: Let 500 Olympic Flowers Bloom

    Preparing for the 2008 Games, Beijing horticulturists are breeding and pruning up a storm—and even shooting flower seeds into space.
  • The Last Word: Alex Leong

    Hong Kong has an election coming up for its next Chief Executive on March 25. The choice won't go to the people, however; the only voters will be 800 bureaucrats and functionaries vetted by Beijing. Yet defying all odds, Alan Leong Kam-kit has managed to get on the ballot as a pro-democracy candidate. Not only that: if he somehow manages to defeat the incumbent Donald Tsang, Leong vows to bring universal suffrage to Hong Kong residents within five years. During a telephone interview last week, Leong talked with NEWSWEEK's Melinda Liu about his quixotic race and whether Beijing should trust Hong Kong's residents with free elections. Excerpts: ...
  • The Usual Suspects?

    Sometimes in China you read about the funeral before you much know about the violence that led up to it.  Last week’s media reports of the emotional memorial ceremony for 21-year-old Chinese policeman Huang Qiang was, for some of us, the first clue that something unusual had erupted in Xinjiang, China’s “Wild West,” where 8.5 million Muslims—most of them Turkic-speaking Uighurs—comprise three-fifths of the population.  Newspaper photos showed dozens of Chinese police—some bowing deeply, some apparently weeping—gathered before Huang’s bier, which was draped with the Chinese national flag.Huang was killed, and another policeman injured, when authorities raided what they called a terrorist training camp in western Xinjiang on Jan. 5. Chinese media reported that public security personnel killed 18 and arrested 17 "terrorists" of the "Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement" (ETIM), seizing 22 homemade antitank grenades and the makings of more than 1,500 more. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu...
  • Beijing Starts to Feel The 'Olympic Effect'

    Once every decade or two, in the life of a great nation, celestial bodies align just right and set the stage for change. For the People's Republic of China, which has already achieved a stunning rags-to-riches transformation, 2007 promises to be such a year.The biggest catalyst for the country's extreme makeover, of course, is the looming 2008 Summer Olympics. Over the past few years Beijing's race to erect prestigious Olympic venues and create a "Chinese-style Manhattan" scarred the Chinese capital with vast, yawning construction sites. Now many are morphing into glittering, cutting-edge architectural gems. Yet the "Olympic effect" is more than a physical face-lift. Preparing for the Games has become a nationwide exercise in soul-searching and self-improvement, too. "People are learning how to behave in the eyes of the international community," says Xing Yue of the International Studies Institute at Tsing-hua University, where she reports that students have begun signing up as...
  • The Paulson Push in China

    In imperial times, visiting foreign plenipotentiaries were compelled to kowtow--touch their foreheads to the ground--in front of the Chinese emperor. The weaker the Chinese government, the more it insisted on such groveling. Beijing's mandarins don't make such demands anymore, but they do tend to mark their "red lines" up front. So it was when China's steely Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi hosted U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and half the U.S. cabinet last week. As a PowerPoint presentation flashed images illustrating 5,000 years of Chinese history, Beijing's most powerful female official didn't mince her words: "We have had the genuine feeling that some American friends are not only having limited knowledge of, but harboring much misunderstanding about, the reality in China." She said her government wanted the world to know China's development "is an opportunity instead of a threat."Her main audience wasn't just Paulson and his "dream team" of top U.S. officials. The real...
  • The Olympic Effect

    International media will soon feel the “Olympic effect.” Almost as soon as Beijing won its bid to host the 2008 Summer Games, it was clear the Olympic phenomenon would be felt in China far beyond the realm of sports. After years of frenetic preparation and construction of Olympic sites, Beijing residents already have seen their city transformed, their sense of national pride burnished, their connection with the outside world enhanced.Now, with the unveiling of new regulations Friday, visiting international media will have greater freedom to travel and report during the 2008 Olympics and the run-up to the Games, from Jan. 1, 2007, to Oct. 17, 2008. The most important aspect of the nine-point regulations is article 6, which states that “to interview organizations or individuals in China, foreign journalists need only to obtain their prior consent.”This article supersedes—for the period of its validity—some of the most stringent restrictions that have bedeviled foreign journalists in...