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China: SARS May Help Usher In More Openness--to Truth

As Dexter Roberts' commentary notes, China's Communist Party has "long assumed that the laobaixing -- the common folk -- are better off not knowing too much" ("SARS: An amazing about-face in Beijing," Asian Business, May 5). If we look back into history, we can find many ill results of this wrong position. These bad results can be avoided only if the people and the media express their views freely. We are delighted to see that top Chinese officials finally admit to incompetence in dealing with SARS. And we hope that this about-face is the herald of a new era of press freedom and continuing opening in China, not for foreign investment, but for the truth.

Peihong Yang

Beijing Your article on SARS shows the far larger consequences of natural bioterrorism as opposed to man-made bioterrorism ("Standing guard," Asian Business, May 5). But what about the risks of the spread of disease from goods imported from other countries? While SARS may not transfer in this manner, who is to say that some future microbe will not do so? Importers of goods should be required as part of Homeland Security to test for such microbes.

Atul Govil

Levittown, Pa. Re your review of The New Chinese Empire ("Is China bound to explode?" Books, May 5): For a society to change from autocracy to liberalism and democracy, there are mainly two ways: shock therapy or gradual change. After more than 10 years of shock therapy, many ordinary people still live in much worse conditions than before. Do they have liberalism or democracy now? No.

To achieve liberalism and democracy, the most important part is to change the balance of power. In China, there are now more and more private owners. They will ask for more laws, freedom, and property-right protection -- the crux of liberalism. They have wealth, and to achieve their own aim, they will try to attract and protect ordinary people. This class will represent a new power group in China that can balance the Communist Party.

In the case of SARS, for example, President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have fired cadres at high levels. I feel that this is evidence that the government is responding to this new power group. Even ordinary people understand that they pay taxes to support the government, and the government (and the Communist Party) must respond. This is a very important change in China.

Xiangyang Li

Economics Department

Yale University

New Haven The reform of the university is one of the most delicate issues facing the global society's development agenda for the new millennium ("Colleges in crisis," Education, Apr. 28). Universities must overcome their financial crisis as they face the new demands and responsibilities of a knowledge economy. For once, a developing-country university has taken the lead in the much-needed process of reform. With the initial support of London Consulting Group (Mexico), and taking the year 2000 as a baseline, our university has seen savings in its financial resources increase by 90 times for two consecutive years from better resource management.

Sources for this improvement included: control over telephones, photocopies, and office rental space, improvement of Internet access, improvement of the salary-bonus structure of instructors, joint procurement for all academic programs and four campuses, reorganization of the academic structure by grouping programs and establishing new policies on course work for administrators, full- and half-time instructors, and reorganization of the administration without impacting on employment.

Such reforms were introduced while also investing in new laboratory infrastructure and amid the development of new graduate and research policies.

Carlos Aguirre

National Director for

Academic Planning

Bolivian Catholic University

LaPaz, Bolivia

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