More Net Access Doesn't Equal Freer China
In your article "China vs. the Net" (Jan. 8) you are pleased to announce that the number of Internet accounts is increasing rapidly in China, and "That's a losing scenario for [Beijing's] censors." Nevertheless, you may not be pleased to have to acknowledge that the most freewheeling, democratic means of communication may not necessarily produce the effect some wish it to have. For instance, when China's President Jiang Zemin visited Boston two months ago, protesters were embarrassingly far outnumbered by supporters who came to welcome Jiang (those supporters received information about Jiang's schedule, ironically through Internet or e-mail). When Jiang was in Boston, I was there on the street; relying on your paper's objective coverage would leave me a totally different impression. I observed that many journalists were like flies, chasing something but avoiding something else.
Better diplomacy in Southwest Asia
Applause for Richard Hottelet's concise and persuasive opinion article "Now, the New 'Great Game' for Control in Central Asia" (Jan 13). His picture of Southwest Asia and the American role there is indeed accurate. I would like to insist on the fact that the US government's snobism is outdated. It's time for the American public to be offered a more realistic picture of Iran instead of being fed false stereotypes. That in itself is a tactful act of diplomacy.
Russian not a 'robber baron'
Sometimes an article can have most of its facts straight and still be misleading. This, unfortunately, was the case with "Confessions of a Russian 'Robber Baron' " (Jan. 22).
The subject of David Francis's interview was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, chairman of Yukos Oil Corporation, now the largest oil company in Russia. Although Mr. Khodorkovsky runs a major corporation that's already recognized in the Western financial community as serious and promising, he's dismissed in the article as a "robber baron" and a "tycoon," typical American attitudes toward Russian businessmen. Given the Monitor's well-earned reputation for fairness, I was surprised and disappointed by how the story made him look like a guy who would be fortunate to run a gas station.
Khodorkovsky will be a major figure in Russian and world business for many years to come (he is only 34). Monitor readers should know a few more of the relevant facts: When he was still a chemistry graduate student in the late 1980s, Khodorkovsky founded his first company under a Gorbachev program that encouraged the Soviet Union's first efforts in capitalism. In 1991, he created Russia's first publicly held company since 1917. Since then, he has taken Yukos (to be called Yuksi after a recently announced merger is completed) and developed it to the point where it's now bigger than many well-known corporations like British Petroleum and Mobil.
Under Khodorkovsky's management, Yukos has drastically reduced the amount of back taxes it owes to the government, and has agreed on the schedule of payment for the rest.
Khodorkovsky recognizes the challenges Russian companies face in trying to compete with the West. For example, he has given high priority to efficiency, recently announcing his intention to reduce staff by about 10 percent this year, an attitude that is very rare in Russia. He aims to make Yukos as well run as any Western company.
Western financial analysts seem to agree that Yukos and Khodorkovsky are doing the right things. I hope the Monitor will continue its fine tradition and be objective with us and other Russian companies as we emerge to compete in global markets.
Vadim G. Razumovski
Yukos Oil Corporation
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