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Suite101 Articles

Democracy Takes a Step: Philippine Elections (May 15, 1998)

    The candidate list started out with a dozen serious contenders vying with 100 not-so-serious contenders, including a transvestite diva, a candidate who painted his name on local dogs, and a movie star with a history of womanizing, gambling, and heavy drinking. The diva didn't make it. The movie star won.

Rock and a Hard Place (May 1, 1998)

    Japan faces a simple dilemma: tax cuts are what it needs to spur its economy and prevent a recession. But a policy of tax cuts would abandon all hope of the balanced budget and deregulation that Japan needs to prevent a recession. Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto is in an extraordinarily unenviable position.

Return of the Haze (April 17, 1998)

    Last fall, forest fires across huge tracts of land in Borneo forced businesses and schools to close, killed crops, scared tourists, and caused tens of thousands to become ill with respiratory diseases. The monsoon rains helped fight the fires, but they have once again flared, with between 80,000 and 100,000 hectares of land on fire in about 500 locations throughout Borneo.

Blending Capitalism and Democracy (Part 5 of 5) (April 10, 1998)

    Throughout this series, the potentially harmful effects of big business, international institutions, and corruption on democracy have all seemed surmountable but for one thing: a lack of resources. How can a poor government resist the lures of corporate billions? How well can a weak nation negotiate with a powerful IMF holding tempting purse strings? And how does a country without the resources to pay its police officers a decent wage prevent them from supplementing their salaries with bribe money?

Corruption and Democracy (Part 4 of 5) (April 3, 1998)

    Any type of corruption, no matter how big or small, is a blow to democracy. In a system that should be ruled by transparent and predictable processes of law, corruption creates favorites, loopholes, and connections-based advantages, and fosters an unpredictable and opaque rule of personality.

International Institutions and Democracy (Part 3 of 5) (March 27, 1998)

    The basic desire for self-rule is what has led so many nations to seek democracy in the first place. But even if they have succeeded in establishing a democracy, and even if they have found a satisfactory internal balance of democracy and bureaucracy, they face a new challenge. How can they balance their national democracy with the pressures of gigantic international bureaucracies?

Big Business and Democracy (Part 2 of 5) (March 20, 1998)

    Governments must provide plenty of disincentives for corporate abuse, but still must cooperate with the companies that are the backbone of the economy. Balancing big business and democracy is a battle that all governments must constantly fight.

The Clash of Capitalism and Democracy (Part 1 of 5) (March 13, 1998)

    Many in the West simply assume that capitalism and democracy go hand in hand; that they are mutually complimentary; that one leads to the other; and that one is impossible without the other. All of these assumptions are myths. In truth, capitalism and democracy can actually clash with each other in many areas.

The End is the Beginning is the End (March 6, 1998)

    Naturally, all endings bring new beginnings. But gridlocked party politics in South Korea, unrest in Indonesia reminiscent of the last days of Sukarno's rule, and violent election maneuvering in Cambodia don't seem like natural cycles. It seems like a constant struggle to create and maintain the simplest of ideas: that people should be free to choose their own government.

Running Amok (February 20, 1998)

    "Amok" is one of the few Indonesian words used in English. Its etymology dates back to 1665, when the meaning in the Malay language was "a murderous or violently uncontrollable frenzy that occurs chiefly among Malays." Indonesia, in the desperate midst of an economic crisis and approaching a controversial political election, is once again defining the term.

The Japanese Locomotive (February 6, 1998)

    Many see Japan as the next most likely candidate to lead Asia out of its doldrums. But the "next best thing" may not be so good... Most recently, the head of the powerful Finance Ministry, Hiroshi Mitsuzuka, resigned on January 27 to take responsibility for a scandal in which two Finance Ministry officials who were responsible for regulating financial houses were arrested for taking bribes from the institutions they were supposed to be regulating.

The Choice Facing Suharto (January 23, 1998)

    Last week, Indonesia's President Suharto agreed to a number of reforms, which, if he actually carries them through, will be a major step in transforming Indonesia's economy from crony capitalism to sustainable capitalism. There is a full-scale currency crisis under way, with all its concomitant features: a dearth of actual hard currency, soaring inflation, and the social unrest that understandably accompanies the fear of being unable to buy rice tomorrow.

A Lack of Ideology, Part II (January 8, 1998)

    Picture the following hypothetical scenario. US Democrats, after losing their majority in Congress in 1994, begin squabbling amongst themselves due to personal, not political, differences. The exact wrong thing to do (in fact, an incredibly stupid thing to do) would be to abandon the party altogether, and split up into five separate parties with five separate leaders. The largest Japanese minority party, Shinshinto ("New Frontier Party"), has done exactly that.

How (not) to Run a Nation (December 26, 1997)

    In response to Kim's confidence-inspiring public remarks, stocks plunged a record 7.5 percent, and 772 Korean stocks plunged to their daily lower limit. The won (which had been stable for a few precious weeks) fell to 1,962, less than half of what it was only 18 months ago. Making remarks that crush the confidence of a nation that desperately needs some is no way to run a country. There is no irrational exuberance in Korea this week.

Korea in Transition (December 12, 1997)

    A casual glance at the news from East Asia lately would suggest that the Republic of Korea is in big trouble. However, this assumption is being made too hastily....The current crisis in the economic system is the natural result of its own success. The "top-down" model of complacency, cronyism and corruption can no longer be used as the engine of success as it was for so long. Korea needs to accept that reform of the political system, though painful, is a necessary condition for stable economic growth.

Asia's Financial Crisis (November 28, 1997)

    One block away from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the streets at noon are normally bustling with life and activity. But today, November 25, the streets are quiet, deathly still. The legions of men in dark blue suits (with company pins on their lapels) stand huddled around the doors of the Exchange, nervously smoking, pacing, staring into the gray misty skies, and silently thinking in unison: can this really be the beginning of the end?

Busy Boris' Bearhugs (November 14, 1997)

    The picture that was splashed around the world this week would have sent American policy analysts into apoplectic fits if it were taken ten years ago: the president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, and the president of China, Jiang Zemin, locked in a bearhug.

Enter the Dragon, Exit Ideology (October 31, 1997)

    If the hypocrisy of US officials complaining about Chinese attempts at influence stopped at the merely silly, no harm would be done. But just as China should not be treated lightly, it should not be threatened lightly. The recent attacks on China are harmful less for the stances themselves than the potential damage to US-China relations.

Haze (October 17, 1997)

    The haze is partly literal. Over the last month, raging fires have consumed over two million acres of Indonesia. The fires have produced a fog of dust and soot so thick that 20 million Southeast Asians are breathing pollution equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

Capitalism, Chinese-style (October 3, 1997)

    The oddest thing on the television screen was not the image of Chinese President Jiang Zemin standing in front of a twenty-foot high golden hammer and sickle embroidered on a blood-red backdrop curtain extolling the virtues of private industry. Indeed, that was odd. But even stranger was the fact that one could watch the speech at all.

What Next? Indonesia's Uncertain Future (September 19, 1997)

    Indonesia, which recently celebrated its 52nd anniversary, is the fourth largest nation in the world. Its leader, President Suharto, has ruled Indonesia since 1968, elected every five years in contests rife with fraud, bribery, vote-buying, and outright thuggery. His political party, Golkar, won 74% of the votes in the general election last May, after disallowing the most popular opposition politician from the race.

A Mixed Victory for History (September 5, 1997)

    It took 32 years, but Ienaga Saburo finally won his court case. Sort of. On Friday, September 26, the Japanese Supreme Court ruled 3-2 that the Ministry of Education acted illegally in 1980 and 1983 when it censored a description of Japan's World War II biological experiments from a high school textbook that Ienaga was writing. The Court ordered the Ministry to pay the historian $3,360 in damages.

North Korea Starves (August 22, 1997)

    And still they play at politics. North Korea, for years on the edge of famine, has crossed that edge and dropped into the abyss... UNICEF has stated that 80,000 children are in "imminent peril" of starvation, and up to 5 million people could starve to death.

Asian Values (August 8, 1997)

    Do "Asian values" exist as something definably different from "Western values"? Or is there one kind of human value, or human rights ideology, that supercedes country or race?

Cambodia and ASEAN (July 25, 1997)

    Last week, the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN), an economic alliance of seven countries with varying degrees of democracy, agreed to put Cambodia's entrance to the economic circle on hold. It seems that Hun Sen's bloody coup and overthrow of the government, and with it the end of all semblance of democratic rule, bothered the ASEAN leadership.

A Lack of Ideology (July 11, 1997)

    Tokyo's summer is heating up, but Tokyo's politicians are getting scorched.

Hong Kong's Reversion (June 27, 1997)

    What both sides of this discussion miss is why China would (or would not) stifle the liberties of this economic jewel, and the answer to this question is indispensable for predicting China's actions.

Overestimating China (June 8, 1997)

    It is true that China, with its fast-growing economy and million-man army is not to be taken lightly, but there is a danger of over-emphasizing China, which would be beneficial neither for the United States nor America's friends in East Asia.

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