Chinese Whispers

Chinese Whispers

Chinese Whispers

What the foreign papers are saying.
July 8 1998 3:30 AM

Chinese Whispers

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In a special section on President Clinton's visit to China, the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong reported from Beijing that "the trip has left friends of the U.S. feeling sore and [has] caused friction in China's diplomatic relations." It quoted an East European diplomat as saying that Russian President Boris Yeltsin was "unhappy with the reception China accorded Mr. Clinton, believing it was bigger than the welcome Mr. Yeltsin received when he visited in 1996." European Union diplomats, similarly, were "put out" by the fact that the U.S. Embassy refused to brief them on the visit while the president was in Beijing and chose instead to send a standard press release to Britain in its then capacity as president of the EU. "The decision meant that the only official account of the visit to be transmitted from Beijing to European capitals was based on talks with Chinese officials."

A Japan Times editorial said the United States has rightly "elevated China to a far more central place in its foreign policy than it occupied in the past," given that "China is poised to become a 21st-century superpower and is already playing a major role in stabilizing Asia economically." But it rejected the idea that the United States might be planning to substitute China for Japan as its key Asian ally. China remains "an oppressive communist dictatorship," it said, and this stands in the way of a "genuine" partnership in any field besides trade and business."

An editorial in the Monday Times of India said that the main conclusion to be drawn from Clinton's trip to China is "that the limits of U.S. power have already been reached." It's all downhill from here. Though the size of the president's entourage made his trip seem "like the imperial journey of a mediaeval potentate, his body language was that of a travelling salesman," it said. "There is no sense in relying on the U.S."

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The emotion aroused by the closure of Hong Kong's Kai Tak airport Sunday night (to be replaced by the "modernistic marvel" of the huge new airport of Chek Lap Kok) came "close to rivalling the events of a year ago," when the former British colony was restored to China, according to the SCMP. Referring to the old airport's hair-raising, rooftop-scraping approach and its environmental deficiencies, the newspaper said that "the sheer audacity and improbability of the place so perfectly captured the spirit of the city that Hong Kong will seem lost without it."

The liberal Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz strongly criticized the United States Monday for its failure to get tough with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "Washington's unwillingness to demand that Israel uphold the commitments it undertook in the Oslo and Hebron accords is now threatening to undermine the most vital system of checks and balances in the diplomatic arena." The "initiative" of Israel's "most important ally" could be "superseded by inter-Arab or Arab-European initiatives that will be far tougher," it said, adding that it will now be almost impossible to "rehabilitate the ruins of the trust" the Palestinian and Israeli public once had in the peace process."

The conservative Jerusalem Post led its front page with the warning by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, following his Cairo summit with King Hussein of Jordan and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, that the negotiations deadlock and Israel's plan to expand Jerusalem could ignite violence that might prove unstoppable. In an editorial, it put the blame for the present impasse in the negotiations firmly on Arafat, who, it said, makes "Netanyahu's delaying skills seem almost amateur." Demanding urgent fulfillment of Arafat's 6-year-old promise to amend the PLO Covenant to erase calls for Israel's destruction, the Post also called for "an end to the long boycott by Arafat of direct negotiations with Netanyahu."

Pakistan's Dawn urged Washington to support an Arab-sponsored move at the United Nations to condemn Israel "for its blatant attempts at judaizing" the Al Quds area of Jerusalem. If the United States were to veto the resolution, as it is reportedly proposing to do, "it would detract from its credentials as the principal promoter and protector of the Middle East peace process," it said. "For once President Clinton should put all diplomatic niceties aside and make it plain to Mr Netanyahu that his obduracy must come to an end. For him, there is simply no option but to return to the path of peace and stability in the Middle East."

The front pages of most European newspapers were dominated Monday with the standoff in Northern Ireland between the Protestant Orange Order and the British government, which used police and troops to prevent Orangemen from marching through a Roman Catholic quarter of Drumcree Sunday. The Daily Telegraph reported that David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist Party leader and first minister in the new Ulster assembly, had threatened to resign if the march wasn't allowed through. The Irish News of Belfast called for an improbable compromise by which the Catholic residents of Drumcree's Garvaghy Road would lift their objections to the parade going down it, while the Orange Order would voluntarily decide to return home by another route.

The main French newspapers focused on the enforced Arabization of Algeria, where, on Sunday, classical Arabic became the sole official language of the country, with the use of Algerian Arabic, Berber Arabic, and French being prohibited. Libération said in an editorial that the only people who would rejoice over this are "those struggling with arms and terrorism to transform Algeria into an Islamic state."

Le Monde also reported on its front page that in France, marriages within the military are calmer and more stable than civilian ones.