By Joel Blocker and Esther Pan
Prague, 10 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- In recent days, Western press commentary has been ranging far and wide in its choice of subjects. This week's annual National People's Congress in Communist China has attracted some attention, as has the current economic and political difficulties faced by the giant island country of Indonesia in southeast Asia. There has also been comment on Turkey's troubled relations with the European Union and, especially, Germany.
FINANCIAL TIMES: The reforms being put forward are bold
Two major British newspapers, the Financial Times and the Guardian, today assess the Chinese party congress in Beijing. The Financial Times finds this year's meeting "more interesting" than previous ones since, its says, the "congress is likely to confirm the ascendancy of Zhu Rongji --and determine the future of his radical reform program." Zhu, the paper believes, "is virtually certain to be named premier at the congress (because) with the support of President Jiang Zemin, he is building a formidable political power base." As for his program, the paper's editorial writes: "The reforms being put forward are bold. There are plans to slash jobs in the civil service; to restructure the state-owned enterprises; and to re-capitalize the banking system." The editorial goes on to say: "This all sounds like good news. But some commentators...fear that the combination of the reform package and the Asian (financial) crisis could lead to a serious downturn in China (that) would undermine the credibility of the authorities." The paper concludes: "Mr. Zhu's plans indicate he that is aware of what will be needed to reform the economy. He must be given the authority to carry through his plans, even when the going gets tough."
GUARDIAN: Dialogue is beginning to pay off
The Guardian, in its editorial, agrees that the new "premier Zhu Rongji will offer an economic New Deal in the face of an unemployment threat as serious as that of the pre-war depression.....If he gets it right," the paper says, "the outside world will heave a sigh of relief --except for those who believe that 'getting it right' should include real improvements in China's human rights."
The Guardian writes: "China's economic problems --and possibilities-- have long provided a rationale for playing down human rights. The agenda is beginning to shift; yesterday a China Daily commentary did not deny the right of foreign countries to express their concern; it argued instead that this should be achieved by dialogue --as the British-led EU is proposing to do-- rather than by "confrontation" --as it accuses the U.S. of doing." The paper goes on to say that dialogue is "beginning to pay off." It notes that last November's release of the dissident Wei Jingsheng was a (big) step. (British Foreign Minister Robin) Cook meets with him tomorrow, tactfully after rather before his recent visit to Beijing."
WASHINGTON POST: The EU resolution all but gave up the pursuit of human rights
But Wei Jingshen himself, now living in the U.S., is not happy with the European Union's new policy toward Communist China. In a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, he wrote: "At a meeting last month, the foreign ministers of the European Union adopted a resolution that will do great harm to the cause of advancing human rights in China. Based on distorted facts, this resolution shirked the EU's obligation to condemn abuses in China and all but gave up the pursuit of human rights, democracy end peace in the world." Wei continued: "The resolution's basis for concluding that China's human rights situation has improved was the 'release of Wei Jingsheng.' But was I released? The whole world now knows that I was forced into exile in the U.S. in the name of medical parole. Yet according to a public statement of the Chinese minister of justice, I am still a prisoner. That is to say that the government's illegal sentence against me remains valid."
He concluded that the EU's foreign ministers have "sent the Chinese government and people a message: that the Communist human rights standard is entirely acceptable and that China's atrocities against human rights no longer need to be condemned, according to the standard of European politicians."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Yilmaz heads an anti-Western government
Moving on to Turkey, a recent (Mar. 6) commentary in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung by correspondent Wolfgang Koydl focuses on last week's critical remarks about Germany by Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz. Writing from Istanbul, Koydl says: "Yilmaz is one of the few heads of government in the world who speaks fluent German. Unlike hundreds of thousands of his compatriots, he learned it not as the child of an immigrant worker in Germany but in German-language schools in Istanbul. Therefore one can assume that Yilmaz knows what he is talking about when he accuses the German government of seeking "Lebensraum" (living space) in Eastern Europe just as the Nazis once did, but this time by different methods." The commentary continues: "With this outburst Yilmaz has descended to an astonishingly low level, even by his standards. But perhaps his insult will have a positive side-effect: It could sharpen the view in Bonn of a Turkish politician people had always assumed to be a friend of Germany." It is clear, Koydl says, that "Yilmaz (heads) an anti-Western government. Yilmaz started his career with the extreme Right, though nowadays the arch-nationalist Bulent Ecevit is the driving anti-European force (in the Government). The only new thing is the Prime Minister's language."
DAILY NEWS: Turkey is being pushed around by its Western friends.
The English-language Turkish Daily News, based in Ankara, is also concerned with explaining its Government's recent clashes with the EU and Germany. In its issue today, an editorial signed by Ilnur Cevik says that Turkey is "being pushed around by (its) Western friends. (Prime Minister Yilmaz's outburst last week, lambasting) the Germans and (causing) new rifts with Bonn, is a product of Turkish frustration at being elbowed out of the (EU.)." The editorial continues: "But...whether the Europeans like it or not, we still live on one of the most valuable lands in the world and that is our greatest asset. They have to rely on our cooperation for their safety....None of our neighbors, including the Greeks, can afford to fight with us because they realize we are too big (and have) a huge war-toughened army and modern capabilities....We remain an island of stability despite all the (problems) at home and the troubled areas around us."