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It took five decades, but Taiwan will finally officially open the door to trade with China on Jan. 1. Of course, smuggling across the 1.5 mile strait between Kinman Island and mainland China has gone on for years. But some see this as a small but symbolic diplomatic aperture (this page).

President Clinton and Israeli leaders are still waiting for an opening from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Will he buy into the latest proposals or stall until President-elect Bush takes office (page 1)?

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David Clark Scott World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB..

SMUGGLED GOODS: It's an open secret that most goods on Kinmen Island come from China, not Taiwan. When reporter Bill Ide interviewed Jason Lu, a Kinmen native, he saw for himself. Mr. Lu runs a construction company, and his office in Taipei was full of drawing easels, blueprints, a shelf full of traditional teapots and cups, and a large fat-bellied statue of a reclining Buddha. But as Lu picked one item after another off the shelf, he explained that each was bought recently in China's port of Xiamen. Bill had heard that the short distance between Kinmen and China made such illegal trade common. But that common? Apparently so. Putting a teapot down, Lu added, "Opening up the small three links, just puts out on the table what's been going on for years."

RUSSIAN TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: During a visit to the new tax police academy, the Monitor's Scott Peterson was amazed at the quality of life. Few other children in state-run institutions - or even many bureaucrats - live so well. Unlike the collapsing state schools elsewhere, dorm rooms are immaculate and warm; the cafeteria food is better than many for adults at state factories. Even Russia's top athletes, whose facilities are in disrepair, would be impressed. The future tax enforcers practice with spanking-new, top-of-the-line protective pads and gear.

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