Melinda Liu

Stories by Melinda Liu

  • The Mind Of The Iraqis

    It's impossible to know exactly what hit the Shaab market in Baghdad last Wednesday morning. The Iraqi government says the explosions killed at least 14 civilians, and dozens of others were injured. Having visited the site a few hours afterward, I have no reason to doubt those figures. The dead and wounded had been taken away, but agitated residents pointed out pools of blood, severed body parts, even the spot on the ground where some swore they had seen a severed head. "We are all civilians, and yet many people were killed here," said Hamdia Ahmed Hussein al-Reccabe, a 35-year-old schoolteacher in a flowing black abaya. "My brother, his wife and my mother are all injured." Then she blurted: "All Iraqis are Fedayeen [freedom fighters] for President Saddam Hussein--God bless him!"Al-Shaab is a working-class Shiite area, the kind of place where U.S. military planners expected strong grass-roots support for the war to topple the Iraqi dictator. It might have been that kind of place...
  • Live From Baghdad

    Saturday was a quiet spring day in Baghdad. Early in the morning I drove around town to look at the effects of the previous night's "shock and awe" airstrikes. Just a few hours before, the night sky had pulsed with crimson fireballs and Iraqi tracer fire, the concussion had knocked the plaster from my hotel's ceilings and an entire riverbank of government buildings had disintegrated as I watched from an upper floor. Now, the streets were mostly empty, except for groups of Iraqi soldiers digging trenches and bunkers for a last stand against the Americans. The July 14 Bridge was strewn with bits of shrapnel, perhaps the remains of the huge military complex that once stood at its southern end. A palace on the other side appeared intact, but a water main or hydrant had burst in front of it, turning the street into a lake. An acrid, burning smell hung in the air. I saw coalition aircraft flying overhead, but the air-raid sirens had stopped for now, and the antiaircraft guns were silent...
  • Babylonian Booty

    It had been conquered and re-conquered a dozen or more times, by (among others) the Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Parthians, Arabs, Ottomans and British, and in February 1991, yet another foreign power raised its flag over the ancient city of Ur, near the mouth of the Euphrates: the Americans. Daring the allies to bomb the birthplace of the patriarch Abraham, Iraqis had parked their jets near Ur's 4,000-year-old ziggurat, but the planes were shot up all the same. American soldiers toured the ancient tower, then got out their entrenching tools and began digging for souvenirs. A forlorn Iraqi gatekeeper ran among them, wailing protests in Arabic, until U.S. officers put a stop to the looting. Last week, when NEWSWEEK visited the site, it was virtually deserted, except for a lone guide, the son of the old gatekeeper, keeping a wary eye on the American and British warplanes streaking overhead. "Ninety-nine percent of Americans don't know the country they'll...
  • 'The Early Stages'

    "Will the war begin tonight?" asked Mohamed, an Iraqi friend, "tonight for sure?" For weeks he'd asked me the same question and for weeks I'd answered: probably not yet. But on Wednesday, I had to say, truthfully: 'yes, maybe tonight or perhaps tomorrow, the bombing might begin.'"I can't wait until tomorrow," he blurted out, "Iraqis have waited too long. Saddam Hussein will be finished and people will all come out in the street to celebrate. Just you wait and see." He laughed and almost started dancing a jig himself, then and there.We'd figured all along that war would trigger panic, desperation and, yes, jubilation among Iraqis. After weeks of denial and feigned indifference, raw and complex emotions had began pouring out in recent days. After decades of censoring their every word, some citizens now dared to speak out (albeit still privately in most cases) against the regime of Saddam Hussein. "He killed everything that was beautiful in Iraq," said Mohamed (a pseudonym), "The...
  • The Will Of The Tribes

    The sheik and his men still chuckle about being captured by the Americans. Back in 1991, as Iraqi soldiers retreated from Kuwait, a revolt erupted in cities across southern Iraq against President Saddam Hussein. In the district of al-Battha, not far from the ancient Biblical city of Ur, Iraqi tribal warriors led by Sheik Kadhim Al-Menshab Al-Habib rallied to the side of Baghdad's troops to crush the rebellion. But afterward, on the dusty highway home, the sheik and 14 of his men suddenly found themselves surrounded by about 50 U.S. soldiers.As hereditary leader of one of Iraq's biggest tribes, Sheik Kadhim is a vital supporter of Saddam's regime. His capture would have been bad news for the Baghdad government. But he lied to the Americans. "I said we were rebels," the sheik says. "So the U.S. soldiers returned our weapons and told us how to find other antigovernment forces in the nearby marshes. I guess they hoped we would regroup and destroy more cities." He and his men drove a...
  • Babes In Saddamland

    Looking out from the top of a red double-decker bus careening through Baghdad, American antiwar activist Ken O'Keefe sees the whole world as on his side. "How can The New York Times say Iraqis are hoping for war?" asks the California-born veteran of the Persian Gulf War, busily videotaping himself with a minicam, "How do you explain all those Iraqis waving and clapping out there?"On the street, local Iraqis seemed at first startled, then bemused, at the bizarre convoy snaking through their suburbs. Led by buses festooned with peace slogans, Beatles pictures and a panoply of mostly European antiwar activists, the convoy was headed to a power station, where some "human shields" would hunker down to try to thwart possible U.S. bombing. As someone strummed a guitar, a long-haired Turkish hippie, dressed in a patchwork jacket embroidered with tiny mirrors, flashed peace signs out the front window of the bus in between tokes on a marijuana cigarette.More than 200 international human...
  • Boom Before The Bombs

    Mahmoud Yassin never thought of himself as a real-estate speculator. But 11 years ago the Baghdad hardware dealer couldn't resist the low prices for property in Karbala. Thousands of inhabitants had fled the city during Desert Storm, and even more had surged out during the subsequent anti-regime revolt and the merciless government crackdown that followed. Yassin (a pseudonym) bought three houses cheap. Two weeks ago he sold one, a spacious bungalow with a garden, for 12 million Iraqi dinars ($5,000)--more than 36 times his initial outlay. In the preceding two weeks alone, the house's market value had jumped nearly 15 percent. "The buyer was in a rush," says Yassin. "He wanted to hand the cash over right away. But it would have taken me two hours to count all the bills."Iraqi real estate may sound like a terrible investment right now. Yet the market is booming in all but a few places like Safwan, on the Kuwaiti border, where people worry that the soil is dangerously contaminated with...
  • Imagining The Day After

    The old U.S. embassy in Baghdad hasn't hosted an American ambassador since April Glaspie shipped out just before the 1991 gulf war. Located down an alley in a bustling commercial area of Baghdad, Glaspie's office has been preserved just as she left it. But last Wednesday, the Polish diplomat entrusted to look after U.S. interests in Iraq closed down the office and left the country. It was a move watched with no small amount of interest by the rest of the jittery diplomatic community. The next tenant, they know, could be the man who is in line to administer postwar Iraq: retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner. If so, Garner will find a handy reference book still sitting on Glaspie's shelf: a gold-lettered volume of "American Caesar," William Manchester's biography of the lordly occupation governor of postwar Japan, Gen. Douglas MacArthur.Back in Washington, U.S. officials who are quietly--and gingerly--making plans for postwar Iraq dismiss comparisons to the imperial MacArthur. The last...
  • Letter From Tikrit: Native Son

    About 110 miles from Baghdad, lampposts suddenly appear alongside the dusty highway snaking north--and each one has a portrait of President Saddam Hussein attached to it with neat little brackets. Here lies the city of Tikrit, hometown of Iraq's leader and a stronghold of loyalty to the regime.Over the weekend, the town showed its devotion to Iraq's strongman with a special parade. And while many Iraqi cities have hosted similar events in recent weeks, Tikrit's demonstration of devotion can only be described as a tribal lovefest for Saddam.About 30,000 Baath party civilian volunteers--led by groups of ululating women draped in long black abaya that reached down past their knees--marched in a vast plaza before sparsely populated marble viewing stands. Just as one group of volunteers from Al-Siniya district marched past wearing ominous-looking gas masks, another crowded into the grandstands shouting pro-Saddam slogans and waving rifles in the air.One militiaman ran around brandishing...
  • Psy-Ops And War Prep

    Dr. Muthafar Adhami, a prominent Iraqi academic, was watching TV at home not long ago when his 14-year-old son Farad suddenly stopped surfing the Internet and said, "Daddy, come see this." Adhami had received an unusual e-mail titled "Important Information," transmitted by U.S. psy-ops specialists. It warned Iraqis to "protect their families" by reporting any information about weapons of mass destruction to U.N. inspectors--or face "grave personal consequences." The e-mail also urged Iraqis to sabotage any WMD they know about--or at least to ignore any orders to use them.Is President George W. Bush's message getting through to the Iraqi people? Adhami told NEWSWEEK--in the presence of a government-assigned "escort"--that the e-mail's message "was so funny it made me laugh. If any other country had sent a similar e-mail to Americans, they wouldn't accept it either." Given that Baghdad has a formidable secret-police apparatus, Adhami also did what any smart Iraqi would do: he reported...
  • The Man Who Will Run China

    Hu Jintao has a trait that's rarer than his photographic memory: the more power he has, the more enigmatic he becomes. Even longtime colleagues in the Politburo are stumped by the flawlessly smooth exterior of China's new party chief, who is scheduled to assume the presidency in March. His uncanny skill at keeping a low profile, no matter how high he climbs, has served him well on his way up. China specialist Murray Scot Tanner of Western Michigan University says: "Hu has shown himself able to simultaneously impress people on both the right and the left, and to be promoted when his nominal patrons were at each other's throats." Yet that same unassertive approach has also led critics to label Hu an apparatchik and a flunky. They wonder if he is really up to the job of leading a country of 1.3 billion that is fast emerging as Asia's dominant military and economic power.He's plainly nobody's fool, and proves that every time he opens his mouth. China's top officials can be painfully...
  • Learning From China

    "A Western doctor would say you are perfectly healthy, but you are not!" proclaims Nan Lu, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine in New York's Chinatown. Dr. Lu has just examined a reporter's tongue and taken her pulse--or rather pulses, one for each of 12 organs. The diagnosis: an "energy leak" from the heart, causing insomnia. "The heart governs the mind," Lu explains. "You have too many thoughts. You can't get them out of your brain when you want to sleep." This feels like a palm reading, but the doctor's description is accurate. OK, says the reporter. What's the remedy? According to Lu, it will require acupuncture, qigong (Chinese yoga), meditation, dietary --modifications and herbal remedies--in short, major lifestyle changes. The journalist leaves with three herbal formulas containing green orange peel, sour-date seed and licorice root along with dozens of exotic ingredients, and promises to come back for a qigong class. Acupuncture? She'll think about it.If traditional...
  • Party Time In Beijing

    China last week had its first orderly transfer of power since 1949--perhaps a bit too orderly. Communist Party boss Jiang Zemin, still a sprightly 76, stepped aside in favor of a new party chief, 59-year-old Hu Jintao. Half of the Central Committee was replaced with younger faces (average age: 55.4). And the party Constitution was even revised to welcome into its ranks private entrepreneurs, once reviled as capitalist "exploiters." When members of the new Politburo Standing Committee finally appeared in a neat chorus line before hundreds of journalists, they were a picture of bland uniformity. Even their outfits matched: somber navy suits, white shirts, red power ties.One among them, No. 5 in the lineup, beamed and waved at the media like a celebrity, as if the moment were his. And in some ways, it was. Zeng Qinghong has long served as Jiang's protege and hatchet man, and he had helped his boss engineer a quiet coup. Two thirds of the new Standing Committee's members are allies of...
  • China's Princelings Problem

    The time had finally come. China's new Politburo Standing Committee--in effect, the country's nine most powerful men--emerged from behind a carved wooden and lacquer screen to meet the nation. Every detail had been carefully scripted to give these leaders a proper debut as they lined up in a neat symmetry. Even their outfits matched: somber navy suits, white shirts, red power ties. China's new party chief, Hu Jintao, who was taking the helm from his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, introduced his colleagues in order of rank. One of them, No. 5 in the lineup, just couldn't restrain his grin. Zeng Qinghong beamed and waved at the media like a celebrity, as if the moment were his.And in some ways it was. As Jiang's longtime protege and hatchet man, Zeng had just engineered a political coup. Two thirds of the new Standing Committee's members are Jiang allies, ensuring that the 76-year-old former leader will be a formidable presence as the party's elder statesman. China's first orderly...
  • How To Make A Metropolis

    As far as most people are concerned, Xinji is halfway to nowhere--that is, if they've even heard of the place. It's a landlocked former county seat in Hebei province, the heart of China's grain belt, some 250 kilometers southwest of Beijing. The guidebooks barely mention its existence. Why would they? There's nothing here for sightseers. The land is flat; what passes for scenery is just corn and concrete roads, and hardly any buildings have survived from before the communist revolution. The place is especially worth avoiding in hot weather, when the aroma of freshly tanned hides wafts through the air.Still, watch what you say about the place in front of Xie Shaoming. Forty years ago he quit school at 13 and took a job with a local leathermaker for $6 a month. Today he's president of the Dongming Industrial Group, a business empire whose import-export trade last year amounted to $41 million in leatherwear, fur coats, sheepskins and tannery equipment. He has traveled the world on...
  • The Blood Ties That Bind

    At first, Ruili seems a lot like any other provincial Chinese town. You might not even guess you were teetering on the very edge of the Chinese Empire. Members of China's ethnic majority, the Han, are a minority in this little city on Yunnan's Burmese border. Still, that fact isn't particularly noticeable. Almost everyone on the street is wearing Western-style clothes, except for a few men in traditional Burmese sarongs. But something is not right, and eventually it sinks in. "The place is filled with junkies," says a woman who has lived here for 12 years. "It's easy to recognize them. They're incredibly thin, and they look like all the blood has disappeared from their faces."It's worse in Jiegao, a few minutes outside town and right on the Burma border. Heroin use appears completely out of control there. Users sprawl in lanes just off the main drag, injecting themselves. Local police seem to have given up trying to stop them. According to one denizen of Jiegao's alleys, as many as...
  • Time To Shoot For The Moon

    Space travel is deeply imprinted on the Chinese imagination. Ever since China's first rocket hurtled toward the heavens in 1970, millions of Chinese have dreamed of the day their country would reach up and explore the stars. Postage stamps bear satellite images; sci-fi magazines envisage Chinese rocket men on the moon. China's indigenously produced spacecraft--Shenzhou (or Divine Vessel)--is frequently featured on consumer goods, from mobile-phone cards to water heaters. And Beijing doesn't plan to let its people down. Chinese scientists expect to shoot for the moon by 2010. This voyage will then be followed by setting up a base camp, "as we did at the South and North Poles," says Ouyang Ziyuan, a prominent scientist. That's just for starters. Ye Zili, head of China's Space Science Society, predicts that once Chinese astronauts land on the moon, "we'll do more than just set up a flag or pick up a piece of rock."Those are bold words--and for a space program that just had its first...
  • China's Changing Of The Guard

    Becoming the leader of the People's Republic of China is all about survival. In the 53-year history of the regime, China's two pre-eminent leaders--Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping--collectively anointed no fewer than eight men as their successors. Mao's final choice to take the helm, Hua Guofeng, lasted less than two years before he was outmaneuvered and pushed aside by the wily Deng. As Deng began to confront his own mortality in the mid-1980s, he promoted two rising stars--Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang--only to discard them, one after the other, when their politics proved more liberal than his own. (Zhao, who disappeared from public view after showing sympathy for the June 1989 protest movement, remains under house arrest today.) Only one heir apparent among them all survived the vicissitudes of Chinese politics to serve out his expected term at the top. That man is Jiang Zemin, and on Nov. 8 he is widely expected to stand before a somber gathering of the Chinese Communist Party and...
  • Rain Called On Account Of Games

    A year ago Beijing won its bid to host the 2008 Olympics, and it's been consumed with a frenzy of preparation ever since. Weather is a particular concern, since the city's eye-searing pollution almost nixed China's bid. So now Beijing is banishing polluting factories from city limits, planting trees to keep out dust blown in from the Gobi Desert and clamping down on vehicle emissions in hopes of guaranteeing blue skies by 2008.Beijing's bureaucrats have also embarked on a Great Leap Forward in manipulating the weather by dispelling rain and fog, trying to ensure that nothing, er, clouds China's achievements and image during important public events. "We'll definitely be consulted on how to create beautiful conditions for the Olympics," says Wang Wang, one of China's foremost experts at Beijing's Study Institute of Artificial Influence on the Weather.Chinese officials' interest in controlling weather dates to the 1950s, when Beijing had access to "cloud seeding" expertise from the U.S...
  • Late Great Wall

    The Great Wall of China can't quite match the myths that have grown up around it. Still, the truth is astonishing enough. The Chinese call it the Long Wall of 10,000 Miles--an exaggeration, even though its actual length would stretch from Paris to Karachi. The wall wasn't built 2,000 years ago, as some sources claim, and yet a few parts are centuries older. In fact, it's really not a single wall at all, but a tangle of parallel and proximate fortifications. The pieces weren't organized into a unified system until the Ming dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644. And one more quibble: it's not visible from the moon.The sad part is, less and less of it is visible from earth. The Great Wall is vanishing, unable to withstand the destructive forces of nature and economics as deserts, development and tourists spread across China. This year the New York-based World Monuments Fund added the wall to its "most endangered sites" list. "It's harder for really well-known sites to be selected...
  • The Late Great Wall

    The Great Wall of China can't quite match the myths that have grown up around it. Still, the truth is astonishing enough. The Chinese call it the Long Wall of 10,000 Miles--an exaggeration, even though its actual length would stretch from Miami to Seattle. The wall wasn't built 2,000 years ago, as some sources claim, and yet a few parts are centuries older. In fact, it's really not a single wall at all, but a tangle of parallel and proximate fortifications. The pieces weren't organized into a unified system until the Ming dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644. And one more quibble: it's not visible from the moon.The sad part is, less and less of it is visible from earth. The Great Wall is vanishing, unable to withstand the destructive forces of nature and economics as deserts, development and tourists spread across China. This year the New York-based World Monuments Fund added the wall to its "most endangered sites" list. "It's harder for really well-known sites to be selected...
  • Battle Of The Greens

    Indonesia has been viewed through a red lens lately--the red and white of its flag, hoisted proudly over a resurgent democracy; the red of the blood spilled in anger on several of its 17,000 islands. The country has twisted uneasily between those poles ever since the fall of Suharto in 1998. The dictator's ouster unleashed a whirlwind of pent-up civic forces--politicians, journalists, activists, artists. It also released less appealing spirits, the jinns that have fueled communal riots in Ambon, ethnic killings in Borneo, atrocities in East Timor.Increasingly, though, the battle for the soul of Indonesia looks to be painted in shades of green--the flags of militant Islamists versus the camouflage of the Army. "The government's weakness is breeding radicals," says Ulil Abshar-Abdalla, head of a moderate Muslim group. That's true on both sides: without effective civilian leadership, the debate over which kind of country Indonesia should be is slowly being ceded to fire-breathing...
  • See Chen Run

    Chen Shui-Bian must be the most photographed man in Taiwan. When he invites new guests over for dinner, he has his picture taken with each one and then presents it to them, framed and autographed, at the end of the meal. Foreign delegations have their portraits clicked; even journalists interviewing Chen get a snapshot. On a recent sweltering afternoon in the port city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's snap-happy president outdoes himself. Presiding over an outdoor mass wedding, Chen bounds up to the podium to recite vows for the 40-odd couples lined up before him, the women resplendent in white silk and chiffon, the men awkward in black and beige suits. He returns later to share a bit of fatherly advice ("If you love Taiwan, you must love your spouse first") and strides down the aisle, using a meter long sparkler to light a similar firecracker gripped by each couple. Only then--when tiny ballerinas have taken the stage and the moment has moved from the mildly comic to the truly surreal--does...
  • Road Warriors

    His love affair with the car began when Wang Qishun was just a toddler. In 1966 he caught a glimpse of flag-waving Red Guards crammed into green Army trucks. Even at the uncomprehending age of 4, he thought the spectacle was "grand." Now 39 and living in Beijing, Wang's been driving his own cars since 1985. Just two months ago he bundled his wife and son into his Cherokee Jeep for a family vacation, which wound up becoming a hair-raising 17-hour journey to Shanghai in a blinding snowstorm. Never mind, Wang loves his wheels. He happens to be the founder of China's first--and only--drive-in theater, located not far from Beijing's posh embassy district. "We're entering the automobile age," he told NEWSWEEK one evening in the drive-in's "clubhouse," where young Chinese sought refuge from their chilly cars to sip sodas and nibble popcorn. "Cars are bringing a new culture to China, and I want to explore it."Chinese are going crazy for cars. They're buying more private vehicles, driving...
  • Why China Cooks The Books

    The People's Republic of China is awash in gaudy numbers. For much of its exceedingly long history (5,000 years), the country has held out the promise of the world's biggest market (now more than 1.2 billion consumers). Beijing posted the highest growth rate of any major economy last year--an estimated 7.3 percent, when much of the world was stumbling closer to zero. China is at once the recipient of the most foreign investment of any country in Asia (nearly $47 billion last year), the sponsor of the world's biggest hydroelectric project (the $27 billion Three Gorges Dam) and the site of the world's highest railway, to Tibet (5,000 meters). The parade of gloating statistics would seem to portray a country that is larger than life--or at least larger and more illustrious than nations that must rely upon less quantifiable measures of worth, like, say, France.Yet those figures are themselves hardly scientific. Historians trace China's current economic boom back to Deng Xiaoping's...
  • Keeping The Lid On

    The kind of labor unrest that has roiled China since 1997, when state-owned factories began shedding millions of jobs, did not pause for the recent Lunar New Year festival. In one bizarre incident in Guangzhou, seven hotheaded migrant laborers from Sichuan climbed up a 40- meter-high construction crane and threatened to jump unless someone coughed up their back pay. After an eight-hour standoff--during which the workers swung precariously back and forth on the crane--police and local authorities talked them into climbing down. One of them, Yi Yong, told the Southern Metropolis News, a local newspaper, that if the men didn't get paid, they would return "and reclaim the money with our lives."A couple of decades ago Chinese had only one primitive method for seeking redress from the government. Citizens wrote petitions outlining their grievances and hand-carried them to government departments hoping that a sympathetic official might take notice. Hundreds of petitioners still gather each...
  • Barefoot Lawyers

    The riot in Liushugouzi unfolded all too typically. Last May a band of local officials descended upon the village in Shandong province to collect overdue taxes and fees--the bane of China's farmers. The authorities set up a "special court" in the primary school and, in a scene reminiscent of Cultural Revolution-era "struggle sessions," hired roughnecks armed with electric batons to threaten and beat farmers who didn't pay. After farmer Wei Wendong was pummeled senseless, other peasants began fighting back. About 150 of them took up crude farm implements--hoes, shovels, sticks--and went after the abusive officials. The scrum didn't break up until hours later, when an ambulance and additional authorities arrived.What's happened since then is even more unusual--and more promising for China's beleaguered peasantry. Liushugouzi's outraged residents have turned to the law. "I want to go to court to fight," Wei fumed after picking up a $300 hospital bill recovering from his injuries. "How...
  • Another 'Cultural Massacre'

    There's one thing that current pilgrims making the hajj to Mecca won't see when they visit the holy city. In early January, Saudi Arabian authorities allowed the partial demolition of a 222-year-old Ottoman fort on the historic Bulbul hill in Mecca, triggering a howl of protest from authorities in Turkey. (Turkey, led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, arose in its modern Westernized form in 1923 from the former Ottoman Empire.) Turkey insists that Saudi authorities had pledged not to raze the monument, built in 1780 by Ottoman rulers. A residential complex for hajj pilgrims is slated to be built on the site. ...
  • Beijing's Latest Look

    Some Americans know Li Zhao-Xing, Beijing's former ambassador to Washington, for his stern lectures on Chinese sovereignty. But Li--now deputy foreign minister--has, in his own way, found religion. In Washington last week, before a lunch gathering of the U.S.-China Business Council, Li recalled how he had come across a Bible in his hotel room and began reading it. He noted a passage quoting Jesus: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last." As forks halted midbite and quizzical looks darted around the room, Li quipped: "I am not the Alpha or Omega, but something in between." ...
  • Turning The Page

    His slicked-back hair is still ink-black, and his glasses are still as big as saucers. But insiders say Chinese President Jiang Zemin, 73, may be a changed man. Not long ago analysts were convinced that Jiang would try to emulate Deng Xiaoping and resign from only two of his three posts by March 2003, staying on as chief of the Central Military Commission in order to wield influence behind the scenes. For his ambition he has been mocked by supporters of the populist Prime Minister Zhu Rongji (also 73). His plan has spurred speculation that other septuagenarian leaders might also refuse to step down. Now sources tell NEWSWEEK that late last year, Jiang insisted at a high-level meeting that all Politburo members over the age of 70 would retire this fall--including him. In fact, says one Western diplomat in Beijing, "over the past two months, I've heard he's thinking of giving up [entirely] to avoid a split in the party... He's tired, he's slowed down." ...
  • Apocalypse, Er, Not

    The symbolism is almost too obvious. U.S. Green Berets deploy in a steamy Southeast Asian jungle in order to help their local proxies hunt down hardy, elusive guerrillas. The scenario describes Vietnam three decades ago as easily as today's Philippines, where American Special Forces troops have been invited to bolster the campaign against the Muslim terrorist group known as Abu Sayyaf ("Bearer of the Sword"). Left-wing groups in Manila have already drawn the Vietnam parallel, and at least one senator has accused Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of treason for inviting foreign troops onto Philippine soil. ...