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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?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

THE ASIAWEEK POWER 50

The Future Is Now


SWEEPING CHANGE IS AT the doorstep of Indonesia and, indeed, all Asia. What will it bring? A return to the past? Dramatic reform? For insight, follow the ebb and flow of individual power.

In Jakarta, a key is likely to be the interaction of two men who represent the ego and id of the nation's military: Suharto's son-in-law, Lt.-Gen. Prabowo Subianto, 46, and Gen. Wiranto, the 51-year-old defense minister and armed forces commander. In March, Prabowo formally assumed command of Kostrad, 20,000 special troops assigned to the capital. Suharto himself commanded Kostrad in 1965. But whereas Prabowo's intentions are a mystery, Wiranto is seen as moderate and loyal to Suharto - and, surprisingly, a reformer. Time will tell whether these qualities are valued.

At least as important a question is whether the current turmoil will yield an old solution - military-dominated leadership - or a new one. Could an outspoken Suharto critic like Amien Rais, 54, who leads an organization of 28 million Muslims, emerge? Rais has recently shown a politician's flair for reinventing his public persona as the situation demands. Central to all who covet Suharto's throne may be the support of Abdurrahman Wahid, a quiet and respected Islamic leader who heads a 30-million-strong moderate Muslim group. As bloody riots erupted in Jakarta days ago, several influential figures visited Wahid for his view of the situation.

Elsewhere, as well, the forces of status quo will square off against reformers. Vincent Siew Wan-chang, the 59-year-old premier of Taiwan, is seen as the likely standard- bearer for the entrenched Kuomintang in the run-up to an election to replace President Lee Teng-hui in two years. He is expected to battle maverick Taipei mayor Chen Shui-bian, 47, already seen as the front-runner.

In Japan, Kan Naoto, 51, of the Democratic Party represents a fresh face and new style. Two years ago, Kan apologized to Japanese hemophiliacs who were given unheated blood products tainted with HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS. The action set Kan apart from traditional Japanese politicians, many of whom have struggled to apologize for Japan's World War II atrocities.

Sam Rainsy, 48, is a reformer to watch in Cambodia. His own party will butt heads with Hun Sen in July elections. In Hong Kong, change may be based on less contentious forces. The two sons of tycoon Li Ka-shing are expected to continue inheriting bits of their father's empire. Victor Li Tzar-kuoi, 34, and his younger brother, Richard Li Tzar-kai, 31, have begun to take charge where their father allows. But in these instances, as elsewhere, power cannot be gifted like a shiny car. It must be seized - and rarely in quiet.

- By Tim Healy, with bureau reporting


This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home

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