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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

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A Done Deal
Almost -- America's historic trade agreement with China paves the way for China's entry into the WTO
By YISHANE LEE

also:
JAPAN, TAIWAN: Sunk
and more stories Below the Fold

November 16, 1999
Web posted at 1:20 p.m. Hong Kong time, 12:20 a.m. EDT


    DAILY BRIEFING
Day Six
U.S. trade officials hang on in Beijing
- Monday, Nov. 15, 1999

Down to the Wire
U.S.-China trade talks extended
- Friday, Nov. 12, 1999

And They're Off
Malaysian PM Mahathir calls snap elections
- Thursday, Nov. 11, 1999

In the Home Stretch
U.S. trade officials arrive in Beijing
- Wednesday, Nov. 10, 1999

Fingers Crossed
Once again, China and the U.S. try to hammer out a WTO deal
- Tuesday, Nov. 9, 1999

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After 13 years of on-and-off negotiations, China and the U.S. finally inked a trade deal, paving the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization. The news of the landmark deal that came after nearly a week of nonstop talks in Beijing caused regional papers to break out the banner headlines. Many opted to splash a photo of U.S. trade representative Charlene Barshefsky and China's Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng beaming at each other over champagne after the signing ceremony Monday afternoon in Beijing. The New York Times described the agreement as "one of the largest trade deals in American history." It will open up the world's largest market by reducing China's tariffs on imports and allowing greater foreign participation in major industries. "Let me just say that this is a profound and historic moment in U.S.-China relations," Barshefsky said. China's state-run People's Daily quoted top U.S. economic adviser Gene Sperling as saying, "This is a win for American jobs, a win for the Chinese economic reform and a win for the global economy." It's also a win for Sino-American relations, badly damaged by spy accusations and an embassy bombing, the Washington Post reported.

Notably, the agreement -- essentially the same one the U.S. rejected seven months ago -- contains a key American concession, the Asian Wall Street Journal reported in one of its two stories about the deal. Foreign companies will not immediately be allowed to hold controlling stakes in Chinese telecoms companies, as they did in the April proposal. Instead they'll start out with 49%, with 50% allowed in two years. "That's a clear victory for conservative Chinese officials who worry that foreigners will dominate what they see as a strategic industry," the AWSJ said. The Washington Post refrained from saying the change was a U.S. concession, instead pointing out that under Chinese law a 50% stake equals managerial control. The Hong Kong Standard, however, said that in April China had allowed only a 49% stake, implying that the final deal was a boon to the U.S. Its story said that China had also made major concessions in the realm of securities markets.

The South China Morning Post's extensive coverage (25 articles) included stories about the Hang Seng index's two-year high, a surge partly stemming from the trade deal; Taiwan's wish to join the WTO; and a commentary predicting "vastly increased business for China's traditional gateway," Hong Kong. The SCMP's main WTO story illustrated the bottom line by quoting Chinese businessman Zhang Ligang, chief executive of eLong.com, "an Internet startup firm that was illegal when it was founded last week but became legal yesterday with the lifting of a ban on foreign Net investment." "If we say that Deng Xiaoping opened China to the world in 1979, we can say that this time China has entered the world," he said. China faces additional hurdles before its WTO entry is set: Congress -- often anti-China and anti-Clinton -- must approve the deal, and it must hammer out side deals with the European Union and Canada, among others.

Sunk
Japan's struggling space program stumbled again when a rocket self-destructed and fell into the sea after developing engine trouble. The Daily Yomiuri (filing its story under "Crime/Accident") said the Japan-made rocket was carrying a satellite; the package was worth more than $300,000,000. "Though launched seven times so far, the H-II rocket has now failed on the last two occasions," the paper reported. "These failures are said to be serious setbacks to Japan's attempt to enter the international satellite market, following the United States and Europe." Meanwhile in Taiwan, Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro met with Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui and referred to the island as "the Republic of China," effectively recognizing it as a separate state, the Daily Yomiuri reported. Despite the provocative comments, Ishihara maintained that his visit was purely charitable. "The aim of my current visit is simple. I am interested in the situation after the quake," he said. An Agence France-Presse report in the Hong Kong Standard said the Japanese government is seeking to distance itself from Ishihara (who authored the jingoistic tome "The Japan That Can Say No" early this decade). "Although I am not fully aware of remarks made by Governor Ishihara, our stance is that we understand and respect China's viewpoint that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China," Chief Cabinet Secretary Aoki Mikio said. China, for its part, "expressed its strong indignation at [Ishihara's] 'wanton remarks,' " the People's Daily reported. Beijing won't like the decision by Israel's parliament speaker to meet the Dalai Lama later this month either. A news item in the AWSJ reported that the Dalai Lama's visit -- coming one day before former premier Li Peng is to stop over -- "could hamper Israel's efforts to increase trade with China, including the sale of military technology." Israel had angered Washington when it decided to go ahead with the sale of a sophisticated airborne radar system to Beijing. (See Friday's Daily Briefing.)

Below the Fold

In tune
If trying to squeeze onto a crowded commuter train isn't stressful enough, try doing it to the din of announcements from station attendants, train conductors and even the escalators. Composer Sakurai Takahito thinks his product will soothe the senses. The AWSJ's Bill Spindle reported that the 30-year-old semiprofessional jazz musician has created brief songs (don't call them jingles) that last seven seconds long -- the time it takes a train to roll up to a platform, open and close its doors and roll out again. Sakurai takes his job seriously: he added koto to music for a station near Kyoto's geisha district and created "dripping water sounds" for another near a famous temple, the story said. And though his efforts aren't much appreciated by those trying to reduce Japan's noise level, the composer is really just another in a long line of Japanese miniaturists. His seven-second song is heir to a cultural tradition that has distilled poetic grace to 17 syllables (haiku), reduced hotel rooms to coffin size (capsule hotels) and the radio to a portable listening system (the Walkman).

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