Melinda Liu

Stories by Melinda Liu

  • ASIA: FURIES UNLEASHED

    For China's top leaders, the unrest seemed like a recurring bad dream. Last Saturday 20,000 furious Chinese protesters shouting "Japanese pigs, come out!" rampaged through Shanghai, tossing stones and tomatoes at the Japanese Consulate, trashing shops and flipping over a Nissan van. Two Japanese were reported injured by an angry mob; smaller demonstrations broke out in Hangzhou and Tianjin. The previous week, thousands of unruly Chinese in Beijing had broken windows at the Japanese Embassy. Just hours afterward, China's powerful Politburo Standing Committee called an emergency damage-control meeting. President Hu Jintao warned against letting the unrest spread, to avoid giving protesters "a pretext to vent their dissatisfaction" over other issues, according to a high-level Chinese source. The mood of alarm evoked the Politburo strategy sessions back in 1989, added the source, when massive protests paralyzed Tiananmen Square for weeks. "They don't want to lose control."The immediate...
  • A MONSTER ON THE LOOSE

    If there was a script, this wasn't in it. China's president, Hu Jintao, convened an emergency session of the Politburo's powerful Standing Committee two weekends ago, just hours after anti-Japanese protests in the capital first turned violent. Thousands of marchers had converged on the Japanese Embassy, breaking windows and chanting "Kill the Japanese!" and "Come out, Japanese pigs!" Diplomacy aside, Hu's big worry was the threat of a new Tiananmen-style showdown. A well-informed Chinese source tells NEWSWEEK that in a jittery scene reminiscent of the leadership's 1989 war room, Hu warned against allowing the turmoil to spread. That, he said, would only give dissidents "a pretext to vent their dissatisfaction."His concern came too late. Unrest erupted in Guangzhou, Shanghai and other cities while police fought to maintain order. The public outcry was supposedly set off by advance reviews of a revisionist history textbook to be released in Japan this May. (Even Japan's leading...
  • THE MERCHANT MARINE

    The new port of Gwadar will be unveiled April 6 as the "Dubai of Pakistan," even if it lacks the theme-park glitz of the Gulf's fantasy city. The point, say Chinese officials, who bankrolled 80 percent of the $248 million project, is that this new deepwater cargo port is "strictly commercial." But hawks in Washington and New Delhi believe Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has given Beijing the nod to use Gwadar as a port of call for the Chinese Navy. "Gwadar's a strategic location, just 400 kilometers from the Strait of Hormuz," says William Triplett III, a Washington-based conservative analyst who warns Gwadar will become a Chinese naval base "on little cat feet."Alarm bells are ringing in Washington, where some see a pattern in Beijing's naval build-up, combined with a foreign-port building spree and efforts to secure maritime oil-transport routes. An internal report circulated among Pentagon officials late last year says Beijing is assembling a "string of pearls"--including...
  • Bottom Dollar

    THE GREENBACK'S FALL IS STOKING FEARS OF A GLOBAL CRISIS. BEHIND THE SLIDE: A WORLD ECONOMY WILDLY OUT OF BALANCE.
  • Migrants' Rights: Opening Up the System

    Thanks to economic reforms that began in Zhao Ziyang's time, an estimated 140 million rural-born migrants now live and work in Chinese cities, lending energy and cheap labor to China's economic boom. But their right to live in the city is still bedeviled by the rigid Maoist-era registration, or hukou , system that categorizes them as rural residents. They've often been treated as second-class citizens, and denied access to education, social welfare and other urban rights. Some migrants haven't received back wages for years.Now, jittery in the wake of Zhao's death, Beijing authorities are scrambling to keep migrant workers happy. Months ago authorities laid plans to pay migrant workers nearly $4 billion in back salaries before the Chinese New Year. (The holiday, which begins Feb. 9, is a traditional time for clearing debts and spending time with family.) In the past some migrants, unable to return home for lack of pay, have resorted to desperate protests--demonstrations, suicide,...
  • WORSE THAN WAR

    In the wake of the tsunami, Sippiah Paramu Tamilselvan and his colleagues are scrambling to manage a massive relief operation. Soldiers, medics and even psychological-trauma counselors swung into action with impressive efficiency after the quake-triggered waves struck Sri Lanka's northeastern coast. But this boyish 38-year-old calling the shots is far from your typical Asian official, and the operations under his control have little connection to the island nation's Sinhalese-dominated government. Far from it: Tamilselvan is a senior guerrilla figure, the combat-hardened leader of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or Tamil Tigers, which launched an armed rebellion against Colombo in 1983. "Two decades of war has created an entirely different magnitude of disaster here compared to elsewhere," he says from his headquarters in Kilinochchi, a hardscrabble town that functions as the LTTE capital.Now the Tigers' de facto administration in northeastern Sri...
  • SRI LANKA: GETTING RELIEF TO TIGER TERRITORY

    Not so long ago, you would have been courting death by trying to drive from Colombo to Kilinochchi. Now aid convoys are rolling all the way from the capital to the nerve center of Sri Lanka's rebel army, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Even so, the 250-mile journey is like a visit to another universe. A disintegrating highway leads through a gauntlet of Army emplacements as far as the Sri Lankan government's control extends. Behind the Tigers' lines, the landscape abruptly changes. The road threads its way through lush greenery and signs warning of land mines. Many houses are roofless ruins. They're miles inland from where the tsunami hit. This damage was done by the island's civil war.Will peace emerge from the coastal destruction? Although both sides say they hope so, reasons for skepticism abound. Decades of tit-for-tat ethnic cleansings and atrocities have deepened the hatred between Tamils in the northeast and the Sinhalese majority in the south. The LTTE has been...
  • SEEING THE FUTURE

    As a child, Chen Tianqiao's greatest dream was to fulfill his parents' expectations and become a government official. After graduation he joined a state-owned enterprise for four years--but then jumped into private business. Now he's one of China's most successful entrepreneurs. Chen's company, Shanda Interactive Entertainment, has become the biggest online-gaming firm in the world. The company's stock, which trades on NASDAQ, has doubled in the past six months. Shares owned by Chen and his relatives are now worth more than $1 billion, making him China's wealthiest person.That's hardly the end of the story. Online gaming has reached only a fraction of the potential audience in Asia, and it's only started to catch on in the West. Chen, 31, is leading the way. Back in 1999, when most new IT companies in China were copying Western dot-com businesses, Chen and a few friends came up with an original business model. A fee-per-minute gaming service, they reasoned, would be impervious to...
  • Runs Like a Camel

    Group think: China is a nation governed by committee. That approach may work for fine-tuning the world's hottest economy. But it has also muddled Beijing's strategic vision
  • GODS OF POLITICS

    At 15 the Dalai Lama--whom followers consider the reincarnated Buddha of compassion--became leader of both the Tibetan government and the Tibetan Buddhist faith. After a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, he fled to exile in India in 1959 and became a symbol of religious faith, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He spoke recently in Mumbai with NEWSWEEK's Melinda Liu and Sudip Mazumdar about religious and temporal leadership. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Did your spiritual and temporal roles ever clash?DALAI LAMA: No. If you're a religious leader you're less likely to act in a scandalous or corrupt manner.You never felt torn between the interests of government versus religion?Not during my time. During the time of the 10th Dalai Lama [Tsultrim Gyatso, 1816-37], there was a form of corporal punishment involving the amputation of limbs. He largely stopped the practice. However, I feel there is potential conflict, being head of a religious organization as well as head of government....
  • SCALING DOWN THE BIGGEST DREAMS

    From the Taj Mahal to the Great Wall, the Asian landscape is littered with monuments to imperial ambition and engineering. In recent decades, cities from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei have competed to construct the world's tallest building. But just when it seemed that Asia's "edifice complex" was reaching near-pathological proportions, it peaked. In the past year new leaders have been pulling their nations out of the race to build the biggest, longest and most expensive of everything.Moderation is now in vogue. When Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi took office a year ago, he postponed a $3.8 billion railway-building plan that was going to be one of Asia's biggest infrastructure projects. In India, newly elected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently called for rethinking a vast river-linking scheme promoted by his predecessor. And Beijing last month announced the cancellation of five out of 10 major venues for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Officials have quietly dropped a slogan...
  • The Proxy War

    Corruption scandals are a battleground for jousting among the nation's top leadership
  • SPACE VEGGIES

    The produce departments of the future may look like nothing on earth, and with good reason. Chinese scientists have been growing tomatoes the size of softballs, cucumbers as long as baseball bats and other outsize fruits and vegetables, using seeds that have been shot into space. The seeds are then exposed to seven types of extraterrestrial conditions, from zero gravity and cosmic radiation to subatomic particles. As these space veggies grow back on earth, they are selected for desirable traits--bulk, appearance or certain nutrients--then bred through successive generations to ensure that the mutations are consistent.Chinese scientists don't understand exactly how a trip into space alters the seeds' DNA and yields such effects, but it's not just size that changes. Tong Yichao, whose firm, the Beijing Flying Eagle Green Foods Group, has been sending seeds and seedlings aboard Chinese spacecraft since 1999, says it has grown space tomatoes with 27 percent more of the antioxidant beta...
  • BYE-BYE, BUSYBODY

    When Guang-Zhou resident Ma Yiyong, 57, went to renew his unemployment certificate last month, something extraordinary happened: he did so efficiently and discreetly, with a few keystrokes. "It used to be troublesome in the past," says Ma. "I would have to stand in line several times, and sometimes officials weren't at their desks. Now it's fast."China's romance with e-government is making life easier, but its biggest benefit may be in circumventing one of the last bastions of communism: the infamous neighborhood committees. These groups of local party members have served as the authorities' eyes and ears. They made it their business to know who was having marital problems, grumbling about the government or out of work. Citizens in Guangzhou, the capital of one of China's most prosperous provinces, can now apply for official documents, gripe about uncollected garbage or post their opinions about current affairs, all online.Government departments have also begun using similar...
  • WOES OF A DO-GOODER

    The Chinese government does not like being embarrassed. In April 2003 Dr. Jiang Yanyong became a Chinese folk hero after disclosing the true extent of Beijing's SARS epidemic and exposing a government cover-up. The retired Army surgeon, who is one of China's best-known antigovernment critics, surely saved lives with his alert; indeed, his name was even bandied about this month as a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize. But Jiang, 73, wasn't exactly rewarded for his effort. After a seven-week detention this summer, the whistle-blower remains under a loose form of house arrest--unable to leave his residential compound without permission. Three weeks ago Jiang was permitted to leave home and enjoy a meal in public with relatives and friends. It was his second outing in a matter of days. Ever since Hu Jintao assumed leadership of the military as well as the government during the Communist Party plenum in mid-September, Jiang (who remains an active member of the People's Liberation Army)...
  • SCALING DOWN

    From the Taj Mahal to the Great Wall, the Asian landscape is littered with monuments to imperial ambition and engineering. In recent decades cities from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei have competed to build the world's tallest building. But just when it seemed that Asia's "edifice complex" was reaching near-pathological proportions, it peaked. In the past year new leaders have been pulling their nations out of the race to build the tallest, biggest, longest and most expensive of everything.A new sense of moderation is ending the era of ego-driven megaprojects. When Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi took office a year ago, he postponed a $3.8 billion railway-building plan that was going to be one of Asia's biggest infrastructure projects. In India, newly elected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently called for a rethink of a vast river-linking scheme promoted by his predecessor. And Beijing last month announced the cancellation of five out of 10 major new venues for the 2008 Summer...
  • SEEDS OF INVENTION

    The only thing a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science did for Amit Nanavati was make him overqualified for most of the available jobs in his hometown of New Delhi. So he did what many ambitious Indians did in the late 1980s: he went to the United States for graduate school. The move worked wonders on his career. As soon as he finished his Ph.D. at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 1996, a fast-rising start-up called Netscape snapped him up. Nanavati would have preferred to go back home to India, but figured he'd have an even tougher time marketing himself. He was mistaken. In the time it took him to get his degree, career prospects for engineers and scientists in India had brightened considerably. By 1998 he found himself back in New Delhi, as a researcher at IBM's new lab, where he's been ever since. "India is the right place and this is the right time," he says.These are indeed boom times for research in Asia. U.S. and European corporations, in an effort to get closer...
  • THE COMMISSAR'S NOT IN TOWN

    When Guangzhou resident Ma Yiyong, 57, went to renew his unemployment certificate last month, something extraordinary happened: he did so efficiently and discreetly, with a few keystrokes. "It used to be really troublesome in the past," says Ma. "I would have to stand in line several times, and sometimes the government officials weren't at their desks. Now it's fast."China's romance with e-government is now reaching the grass-roots level, bringing efficiency and convenience to citizens. But its biggest benefit may be in circumventing one of the last bastions of communism: the infamous neighborhood committees. These groups of local party members have for decades served as the authorities' eyes and ears. They were also notorious busybodies, making it their business to know who was having marital problems, grumbling about the government or out of work.Citizens in Guangzhou, the capital of one of China's most prosperous provinces, now go directly to the source. In several pilot...
  • SUBTLE POWER STRUGGLE

    On the surface, the article was unremarkable. The China Youth Daily recently reported that the Sichuan town of Wanyuan had laid on a lavish concert to commemorate a 1934 Red Army battle. Wanyuan is too poor to have a proper stage, but that didn't stop authorities from paying popular pop singer Song Zuying more than $50,000 to sing just four songs in a school auditorium, the paper said. In addition, Wanyuan government offices, schools and businesses reportedly received a "political assignment" to buy $165,000 worth of tickets to help bankroll the event.What the article didn't say, but many believe, is that Song is a "close friend" of former president Jiang Zemin, 78. In private, he's been known to accompany her singing by playing a Chinese fiddle, or erhu. The China Youth Daily is associated with the Communist Youth League, a stronghold of support for President Hu Jintao, Jiang's younger successor. So its report wasn't just provocative gossip: it's widely perceived as the latest...
  • Unearthing The Bible

    SACRED RELICS LIE SCATTERED BENEATH THE DESERTS OF THE MIDDLE EAST. IN IRAQ, OUR RELIGIOUS HISTORY IS BEING OBLITERATED; IN ISRAEL, IT'S A QUESTION OF FAITH
  • China's Glasnost

    The country's communist leaders are beginning to embarace the avant-garde art and literature they once considered taboo
  • GETTING THE WORD OUT

    Wang Zhonghua was almost giddy with excitement. As head of a private think tank in China that studies efforts at grass-roots democracy, he has traveled across the mainland monitoring local political movements. But now he was in Hong Kong to meet real-life democrats--and watch first-hand a mass protest on the seventh anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty. His purpose: to learn "lessons" for the development of democracy on the mainland--and "to watch the action." "You can't have such a big political rally on the mainland, of course," says Wang, who asked that his real name not be used. Still, it's a heady experience for the Beijing researcher, who last witnessed a massive political demonstration at the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, adding that last year "a lot of mainlanders came to watch the action in Hong Kong on July 1."Beijing now encourages mainlanders to travel to Hong Kong to shop and dine. Indeed, 12 million of them are expected to make the trip this...
  • IT'S THE POLITICS, STUPID

    On a teeming street in the gritty Hong Kong neighborhood of Mong- kok, vendors peddle everything from driving lessons to cable-TV subscriptions to Citibank accounts ("and get a free cordless phone!"). These days there's more on offer, too. A gaggle of pro-democracy street performers entertain passersby with a pantomime. Next to them, a man sitting inside a giant metal bird cage--painted pink, with a red hammer and sickle on top--protests Beijing's efforts to keep the island's political aspirations penned up. Nearby, Democratic Party member Gary Fan is raising money for his planned campaign for a seat in the Legislative Council, or Legco, the closest thing Hong Kong has to a Parliament. A district councilor, Fan is enthused by what he sees as a new political energy in one of the world's most money-obsessed cities. "More and more young people have become politically aware in the past year," he says. "They're joining rallies, they're encouraging people to register to vote. Five or 10...
  • DANGEROUS STRAITS

    The Taiwan Strait has long been at the center of a war of words. Beijing and Taipei frequently exchange statements full of vitriol--each accusing the other of bringing them closer to the brink of war. But last week it was Washington that dropped the rhetorical bombshell. Buried deep inside a 54-page Pentagon report on China's military readiness, U.S. defense planners speculated that, in the event of a war across the strait, Taiwan might seek to hit "high-value targets" like the prestigious Three Gorges Dam as a way of deterring a Chinese invasion.Predictably, such speculation did not sit well with Beijing. If the dam were attacked, warned Chinese Lt. Gen. Liu Yuan in the state-run China Youth Daily, Beijing's retaliation would "blot out the sky." Liu, who is the son of the late Chinese president Liu Shaoqi, slapped down the Pentagon's suggestion that such a threat could ever stop a war over Taiwan. "It will have the exact opposite of the desired effect," said Liu, who for good...
  • BETTING ON AN OLD HORSE

    Politics doesn't get much spookier than the way it's played in Iraq. Back when Saddam Hussein ruled, the opposition consisted of numerous sworn rivals, each with his own team of covert operatives and dirty-tricks artists. Nowadays those old spymasters belong to the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. The 22 members, ranging from Kurdish warlords to Shiite clerics to wealthy former exiles, have continued to feud and squabble, pausing now and then to denounce the United States or even the agency that used to bankroll some of them: the CIA. Over the decades, their disputes led to one covert fiasco after another. The most disastrous, in 1996, ended when Saddam eradicated a huge chunk of the underground opposition inside Iraq. When the crackdown was over, Saddam's agents used an opposition member's CIA-supplied satphone to ring up and taunt the agency's station chief in Amman.Suddenly--for a moment--the backstabbing seems to have stopped. The Governing Council unexpectedly closed...
  • Doctor, Defector, Patriot, Spy

    Many Iraqis denounce former exiles for leading gilded lifestyles abroad while their compatriots back home suffered in hellholes such as Abu Ghraib prison. But Ayad Allawi wasn't a stereotypical "Gucci guerilla." He had wealth, to be sure, but his three decades in exile had their horrors. While living in London, Allawi and his wife were sleeping in bed one night in 1978 when an ax-wielding assassin attacked them. He was struck in the head, chest and right leg, which was nearly severed at the knee. It took him a year to recover from the wounds.Arriving back in Baghdad on the heels of U.S. forces last year, Allawi began searching for documents related to the assassination attempt. He quietly put the word out to former military and intelligence personnel. Some of them were the very Baathists that Allawi's opposition group, the Iraqi National Accord, had been trying to convert during Saddam Hussein's regime. About a month after American troops entered Baghdad, a former intelligence...
  • A Longing For Normalcy

    Just six weeks before American occupation authorities are due to transfer sovereignty to Iraqi institutions, the killing of Ezzedine Salim has intensified a heated debate inside Iraq: just who is responsible for the country's escalating spiral of violence?People knew him as Ezzedine Salim, but that was a pseudonym. His real name was Abdul Zahrah Othman and he was president of the U.S.-appointed Iraq Governing Council (IGC), a position that rotated monthly among the IGC's 25 members. His death is emblematic of the campaign by anti-Coalition forces to threaten and kill Iraqis who aid the U.S. occupation. The bomber's red Volkswagen had sped up and then exploded close to Salim's five-vehicle convoy, killing nine people altogether and injuring 15. The attack took place just outside Baghdad's Checkpoint 12, which leads into the heavily fortified Green Zone where authorities of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority live and work.The bombing that killed Salim is seen as an attack on...
  • Questions Of Justice

    One by one, the reasons for sending America to war in Iraq seem to have crumbled. Investigators found no weapons of mass destruction and no proof of claims that Saddam Hussein was plotting with Al Qaeda's terrorists. A year after liberation, Washington's last, best justification for the war seemed to be the promise to transform Iraq into a model of liberty and justice. Now many Iraqis have begun to disbelieve that. Instead of the rule of law, they see not only American misdeeds but an explosion among their fellow Iraqis of lynchings, private militias and kangaroo courts. Iraqis are supposed to resume control of the country's civil institutions on July 1, and no one seems remotely ready for the job--although the latest polls say most Iraqis are passionately eager to be rid of the Americans.Even before the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted, people were complaining of American arrogance and hypocrisy. One particularly sore topic, especially among Shiites and Kurds, was the Coalition's recent...
  • Culture Of Impunity?

    The efforts at damage control are picking up steam. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the man sent to clean up Iraq's U.S. Army-run prisons, today announced that the number of detainees held at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison will be reduced by more than half. And in a bid to counter the growing scandal, he's already banned the use of hoods to cover the heads of detainees during transport; instead "pressure bandages" or goggles will be used to cover prisoners' eyes.Miller, who used to command the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, took over responsibility for Iraq's 14 military-run prisons last month after allegations of abuse perpetrated by U.S. military personnel triggered no less than five separate investigations. But it'll take a lot more to remove the stain of Iraq's current prison abuse scandal. Many Iraqis shudder at the words "Abu Ghraib." It was Saddam Hussein's most notorious prison, symbol of a regime so vast and so opaque that Iraqis are still sorting out whose corpses wound...
  • Hungry For Power

    Indonesia has long been a playground for the West's oil giants. The names are familiar enough: Unocal, Caltex, BP, ExxonMobil, to name a few. For decades these Western majors have staked out turf in the Southeast Asian archipelago, hauling in billions in black gold. But the times--and the players--are starting to change: the Chinese are coming. Earlier this year some pin-striped American oil executives in Washington, D.C., were startled to hear Indonesia's visiting Minister of Energy Purnomo Yusgiantoro chide them about losing out to Chinese companies in his country's oil and gas scene. "If American businessmen don't become more active, their Indonesian presence will become less and less," he warned. "Maybe you should learn from the Chinese. [They] are very aggressive."China can't afford to be anything else. Only 10 years ago Beijing was a net oil exporter and its commissars were just emerging from the shadows of socialist energy policies. But this year China overtook Japan to...
  • War of Perceptions

    Even as U.S. warplanes attacked targets in Fallujah again tonight, Marine officers were working up a proposal to end their month-long siege of the city. At first blush, the outlines of the "solution" seem dicey: up to 1,000 Iraqi soldiers, led by a former major general from Saddam Hussein's army, will enter Fallujah and provide security there. On Thursday afternoon, U.S. Marine units on the edge of town were packing up their gear and preparing to pull back to camps outside of the city. Bulldozers were flattening the 10-foot-tall sand berms that had been set up to mark their front lines.Even if the plan gets off the ground--a big "if"--it underscores the Coalition's challenges on the battlefield of public opinion. There was never any question that the U.S. Marines could prevail militarily in Fallujah. But in the war of perceptions, the Coalition has been losing ground. With each minaret destroyed (even if it had harbored armed insurgents), and with each injured woman or child (even...