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Quiet Reaction to China Belies Fears


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CHINA'S internal turmoil has drawn a worried but quiet response from its southern neighbors, who have been vulnerable in the past to changes in Asia's giant. Many Southeast Asian nations had been improving ties with China before the June 3-4 massacre in Beijing and its shift in leadership. Many had hoped China would soon stop aiding Khmer Rouge guerrillas in Cambodia.

Now both Cambodia's future and its bilateral ties are uncertain as the regional leaders look for shifts in China's foreign policy.

Student groups in Indonesia and Thailand protested the Beijing massacre. But official reaction has been noticeably subdued as each Southeast Asian nation wants to keep whatever business deals and good relations it had with China. Also, some nations, such as Indonesia and Burma, face their own protests for democracy.

``Our friendly relations with China are not at issue here,'' says Philippines President Corazon Aquino. Communist guerrillas in the Philippines, who built their cause on the ideas of Mao Zedong, had little to say. ``We don't meddle in other countries' affairs,'' said one Communist Party spokesman. Until the 1970s, China supported many of the communist movements in Southeast Asia.

Some nations hope to benefit from China's woes by luring away that country's foreign investors. ``My clients are asking for opportunities other than China,'' says a Hong Kong investment adviser.

Indonesia, the region's largest nation, indicated that its move begun earlier this year to normalize ties with China will not be halted.


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