Asian Anxieties

Asian Anxieties

Asian Anxieties

What the foreign papers are saying.
June 17 1998 3:30 AM

Asian Anxieties

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Australian Prime Minister John Howard came under strong attack both at home and in Asia for his failure to curb the political momentum of the racist, anti-Asian One Nation Party, which won nearly a quarter of the votes in elections in Queensland this weekend. The Age of Melbourne said in an editorial Monday that "[t]hese are dangerous times for Australian democracy" and that the danger "will not recede" until the mainstream parties meet the challenge posed by Pauline Hanson, the right-wing extremist leader of One Nation. "The essence of that challenge is that One Nation peddles simplistic certainties in times that are anything but simple and certain," the Age said. "The Prime Minister has, through timidity and ineptness, helped to make this monster. He must lead the way in ensuring that it does not grow any larger."

In Hong Kong Monday, the South China Morning Post ran its second editorial in a week about One Nation, observing the Queensland election result "says very worrying things" about Australia, with "deep implications" for its relations with Asia. "It would be deplorable if other parties tried to play the extremist card in the run-up to the next general election," the paper said. "Rather, their job is to work out ways of showing a quarter of the voters of Queensland how mistaken they were."

Amid the continuing economic crisis in Asia, former Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew (now senior minister in the Singapore government) said in an interview Sunday with Japan's main economic daily, Nihon Keizai Shimbun (or Nikkei), that Japan and the United States must help the economic reconstruction of Indonesia, because the rest of Asia does not "have the strength to solve Indonesia's trade problems." He also told the paper that the International Monetary Fund will need to review its Indonesia aid program, which had been drawn up on the assumption of an exchange rate of one U.S. dollar to 6,000 rupiahs; the rupiah has since fallen to a rate of one U.S. dollar to 13,800 rupiahs.

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The Times of India, in an editorial Monday titled "Eagle and Dragon," said India's first foreign policy task is to deal with "the challenge of China, and the possibility of a Sino-U.S. condominium in Asia." It said India "must alert Asia and the rest of the world to the danger posed by the Sino-U.S. alliance." "France, Russia and others who have advocated a multipolar world should be made to realise that what the U.S. is trying to establish is neo-bipolarism," it said, adding that India should embark on talks with Pakistan as soon as possible, even over Kashmir, because "the defusing of tension is in the interest of both countries." It concluded, "When the alternative is the unthinkable, it is churlish to quibble over dates, venues and terms of reference."

Russia's biggest circulation newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, led its front page last week with the news that Leonardo DiCaprio has fallen in love with 18-year-old top Russian-born model Alyssa Sourovova. "DiCaprio's female fans around the world are in despair," it claimed. But the paper also quoted the model's mother, Svetlana, as saying she does not believe the story, because, if anything serious were going on, her daughter would have told her about it. But Svetlana admitted that Alyssa was much impressed by DiCaprio's performance in the film Titanic and had met him in a New York night club.

The daily paper Segodnya (circulation 100,000) claimed in its lead story that proceedings to impeach President Boris Yeltsin look set to become a permanent feature of the Russian Duma (parliament). Proceedings begun June 12, the Russian Independence Day holiday, would fill the deputies' working hours until the mid-July summer recess, the paper said. They intend to set up a special commission to investigate all the accusations against the president, and there will be no time limit on its operations, it added.

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a small circulation daily controlled by financial magnate Boris Berezovsky, made fun of the eight-year-old Independence Day holiday, saying its absurdity has been obvious from the start, because nobody knew whom Russia was supposed to have gained its independence from. In the meantime, everyone who wanted to be independent from Moscow had already become so, it noted sarcastically, pointing out that some Russian regions had become independent of even their investors, by issuing their own bonds and heading toward bankruptcy.

In Rome, La Repubblica reported from New York on the ambivalence of President Clinton's attitude toward Hollywood, pointing out that a few hours after accusing it of promoting violence and having direct responsibility for massacres in American schools, he had gone to dinner in Beverly Hills with film industry friends who had poured millions of dollars into Democratic Party coffers. "This contradiction of Saturday night summed up the inability of the American political class to come properly to terms with the interweaving of show business and death, of dollars and guns."