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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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The Week Ahead
Playing the Waiting Game
By ANN MORRISON

November 22, 1999
Web posted at 2:45 p.m. Hong Kong time, 1:45 a.m. EDT


    INTELLIGENCE
Bill and the BubbleBoy
Microsoft claims it puts customers first. Then can we get some service here, Mr. Gates?
by Stuart Whitmore
- Friday, Nov. 19, 1999

The Dazed Lion in Winter
Post-election, the Habibie administration's inadequacies come out
- Thursday, Nov. 18, 1999

Into the Year of the Dragon
What's Ahead for China
by David Hsieh
- Wednesday, Nov. 17, 1999

Ascendant Zhu?
With WTO agreement, Zhu Rongji on the comeback trail
- Monday, Nov. 15, 1999

'Just Be Yourself, Dear'
Hong Kong has to find its own techno-identity
- Friday, Nov. 12, 1999

How Rais Missed Being No. 1
Indonesia's first contender never made the final cut
- Thursday, Nov. 11, 1999

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This is one of those weeks in which we find ourselves waiting. Waiting for the ASEAN summit which begins in Manila on Saturday, Nov. 27; waiting for the Malaysian elections next Monday, Nov. 29; and waiting for the WTO meeting that begins the next day in Seattle.

But what makes the wait interesting is watching the personalities and issues present themselves in advance of such planned major events. Take the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit. This annual meeting will mark the debut of President Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia, ASEAN's largest country and, until the downfall of Suharto, its most powerful. Of course, Wahid, in his whistle-stop tour of the region a few weeks ago, has already met eight of the other nine ASEAN leaders. But since then, he has promised a referendum to Aceh, a resource-rich province of 4.1 million people. Though it is yet unclear whether the Acehnese will be able to vote on independence -- as East Timor, another restive province, did -- there is much resistance to any kind of a referendum in Jakarta, and much nervousness about the implications of growing independence movements among the other ASEAN nations, almost all of which have significant minority populations.

But, given the longstanding policy of non-interference in fellow-members' internal affairs, the question is whether the ASEAN meeting will take up the matter of Aceh, or of helping Indonesia deal with it. How ironic on so many levels, then, that Wahid has offered to meet with a Philippine separatist leader, Chairman Hashim Salamat of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, around the ASEAN summit. Taking on the role of peacemaker, Wahid hopes to persuade Salamat to be satisfied with autonomy within the Philippines (President Estrada's position) rather than establishing a Muslim republic independent of it (the goal of a three-decade-old insurgency). Maybe in selling autonomy abroad, Wahid can sell it better at home. (In fact, it will be an equally hard sell in both the southern Philippines and western Indonesia.)

Australia, China, Japan, Korea and the U.S. expect to hold meetings meetings around the summit. Premier Zhu Rongji, fresh from an apparent victory over China's conservatives in the WTO deal and a four-nation trip through Southeast Asia, will represent the PRC. This will be his first trip abroad since his visit to Washington in April; one in which his initial and generous WTO terms were rudely spurned by the U.S. Will the meeting reinstate Zhu's image as a power-broker?

As usual, China, Japan and Korea will meet with the ASEAN leadership in an informal grouping called ASEAN-plus-three. Its membership looks a lot like Mahathir Mohammad's proposed East Asian Economic Caucus, or EAEC. But Mahathir won't be present in Manila, he will be in his last days on the hustings before the Malaysian polls. The election campaign, which pits Mahathir's Barisan Nasional (National Front) against the Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front) a collection of three opposition parties, has not been a pretty one, with the specter of sacked former deputy Anwar Ibhahim always in the background. Mahathir is sure to win, but will he retain his two-thirds majority in Parliament? Will his party lose control in any state assembly? Will it win back Kelantan, the only state not under Barisan leadership? If, as Mahathir, who is almost 74, recently suggested, this is to be his last election, will the vote point to his successor?

These are just a few of the questions that keep journalists busy while they wait.

Write to us at mail@web.asiaweek.com

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