Prague, 11 February 1997 (RFE/RL) -- With problematical situations developing around the world and solutions on the horizon rather than in hand, Western commentary today fails to find a focus.
Two British newspapers, "The Daily Telegraph" and the "Financial Times," examine with concern Sino-US relations.
DAILY TELEGRAPH: America is edging toward a cold war with China
Diplomatic editor Christopher Lockwood writes in a news analysis today: "Step by step, America is edging toward a cold war with China, one that may condition the first half of the 21st century just as the Cold War with Russia has shaped the past 50 years."
Lockwood continues: "America's China policy appears to have mutated away from straightforward engagement -- working to bring China into the community of nations -- toward something that has more than a smack of cold war-style containment about it. The pundits call this conditional engagement, or even constrainment, the idea that the West should knit China into the civilized world, but only according to strict rules. It is precisely being dictated to in this way that China most hates."
FINANCIAL TIMES: Sino-U.S. relations are likely to cool this summer
Peter Montagnon writes today: "Ms. Madeleine Albright, the new U.S. secretary of state, sets out for China later this month on the first steps of a long journey designed to culminate in a summit between presidents Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin this autumn. But an equally important aim will be to develop a more stable relationship between the United States and Asia's fast-emerging superpower after the difficulties between the two countries during President Clinton's first term."
Montagnon continues: "State Department officials acknowledge that Sino-U.S. relations are likely to cool during the summer when Hong Kong reverts to China. But they hope any chill will be temporary. There are already signs that Mr. Clinton's more measured approach, introduced in the later months of his first administration, is bearing fruit, they say."
He concludes: "In the long march to a summit, Ms. Albright and Mr. Clinton will have to plot a careful course if they are to build the better relationships both countries are seeking."
In the German press today, "Die Welt" and the "Suddeutsche Zeitung" carry commentary on developments in Serbia.
DIE WELT: Milosevic has used two-faced tactics in a masterly manner
Carl Gustaf Strohm comments: "There used to be a saying that the Serbian peasant was a master at the art of two-face tactics. Showing one face to the foreign rulers of the land -- the Ottomans at that time -- he reserved the other, real face, for his own people." He says: "President Slobodan Milosevic has carried forward the tradition of two-face tactics in a masterly manner, practicing the art of Byzantine intrigue in his dealings with the West, as well as with his own people."
Strohm writes: "The fear is already being voiced amongst the opposition ranks that by making a U-turn on the local elections issue, Milosevic has taken the wind out of the sails of the demonstrators and critically demotivated them --perhaps even divided them. There are Jacobins and Girondins in every crowd: those who will risk everything to get what they want, and those who would also be satisfied with a partial success or compromise."
He says: "President Milosevic knows his people. He has clearly far from given up the game as lost. But the question that is niggling the West is whether things would be so different under (opposition leaders Vuk) Draskovic or (Zoran) Djindjic than with the current grande chef. Democracy in Serbia? That is another, probably long, story."
SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The opposition should agree to conditions for ending demonstrations
The paper says today in an editorial signed by Bernd Kuppers: "Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's first steps towards concessions were welcomed abroad, if somewhat skeptically, as a first step. The Serbian parliament is scheduled (today) to pass a special law resolving the local election victory of the Zajedno opposition in Serbia's major cities, in accordance with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe findings. This caused the Zajedno troika to stumble on a visit to Paris. Vuk Draskovic was quoted as saying that protests would be discontinued as soon as parliament had recognized the election results. Previously people had been saying that protests would continue until all local councils and the Belgrade city assembly had been duly constituted."
The editorial concludes: "The opposition must soon decide what further steps it wants to persuade Milosevic to talk at a roundtable. More urgent, however, is to agree on the conditions for ending the demonstrations."
In the U.S. press today, two newspapers analyze aspects of European economics.
WASHINGTON POST: Russia should emulate tiny Estonia
Fred Hiatt comments: "In school geography class, we decorated our maps with little symbols of natural wealth: oil derricks, sheafs of wheat, gold bars. The more crowded with symbols, the luckier the country. Or so we were taught. In the real world, things are not so simple."
Hiatt writes: "When the world's biggest country, the Soviet Union, fractured into 15 separate nations in 1991, Russia emerged as still the world's largest, and perhaps most naturally blessed -- overflowing with oil, gas, diamonds, gold, nickel and more. Estonia, a tiny nation on the shore of the gray Baltic Sea, had nothing but . . . Estonians. Lucky Russia, right? Yet five years later, Russia's economy continues to shrink, at least according to official numbers. It is little Estonia that has put its house in order. Although it will be years before its standard of living approaches that of Western Europe -- 50 years of Soviet misrule isn't quickly overcome -- Estonia's economy is growing steadily."
Hiatt theorizes that natural riches themselves may contribute in some cases to corruption, government officiousness, and complacency that inhibits economic growth. A surfeit of resources may even militate against what the writer calls "the kind of transparency in government and faithfulness to the rule of law" that has enabled Estonia to attract foreign investment. He concludes: "For Russians, raised to think of themselves as living in the wealthiest of countries, the answer may be hard to swallow: You may not envy tiny Estonia, but at the least you'd better emulate it."
WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The government can turn the tide of Germany's high unemployment
The paper editorializes today on what it calls "Germany's Inertia." The U.S.-owned newspaper says: "The January unemployment figures in Germany prompted a sobering observation from the press: The last time German unemployment topped 12 percent, Adolf Hitler rose to power. Unlike in 1933, however, the German economy is not in recession."
The editorial says: "If growth isn't translating into jobs, it is not because, as Luddites (people opposed to applied technology) claim, German companies are substituting automation for human labor wherever possible. Or rather, this substitution is only a symptom of the real reasons unemployment remains so stubbornly high -- excessive taxes, inflexible labor markets, high wages and nonwage costs, and overregulation. If the government addresses these problems, the tide of battle will start to turn."