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THE PRESIDENT N CHINA | REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

Clinton's Cutting Edge--but Can He Type?

July 02, 1998|MAGGIE FARLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SHANGHAI — President Clinton stopped by the 3C +T Internet Cafe--that is, coffee computers, communication and training--for a quick surf Wednesday.

"The president has a great vision for a high-tech future," said Lin Zairong, the general manager. "I think he can use the Internet, but I don't think he can type."

Clinton stood, arms folded, and watched students call up Web pages of the White House and China.

But they avoided sites that could embarrass the Chinese or the president. (On Wednesday, for example, American news sites featured stories about Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp.)

Access to several U.S. news Web sites, including those for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Washington Post, have been blocked here.

*

When Chinese President Jiang Zemin rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange during his U.S. visit in October, the index leaped to a record high.

So when the news hit Shanghai that Clinton would visit this city's new stock exchange building, the buzz was: Buy, buy, buy.

But on Wednesday, Clinton toured the exchange and did not bang the opening gong.

"President Clinton is totally useless," a stock exchange employee said. "The index dropped 2% today. And I missed my lunch."

*

The first family has paid special attention to religious issues on this trip: The Clintons attended Sunday services in one of China's few sanctioned churches, invited religious leaders to a presidential round table, and on Wednesday, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited a restored Jewish synagogue painstakingly resurrected by Shanghai's expatriate Jewish community with help from city officials.

Trouble is, China's government, wary of competition for people's loyalties, does not recognize Judaism, and that makes public celebration of Jewish holidays illegal.

Even appeals from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been for naught.

Both sides say they are looking to a higher authority for a solution.

So for now, the Ohel Rachel synagogue stands merely as a monument to a time of greater tolerance, when Shanghai was a sanctuary for thousands of Jews fleeing pogroms in Europe during World War II.

The Communist-era ban on houses of worship has created curious permutations: Churches and temples here have become bars and offices. Offices and homes double as underground churches.

In one of Shanghai's old Russian Orthodox churches, the bright blue onion domes now top a restaurant called The Grape. In a room next door, where worshipers once prayed, small investors now play the stock market--the money-changers have taken over the temple.

*

While Clinton wound up his mainland visit, Jiang headed to Hong Kong to celebrate the first anniversary of the territory's change from British to Chinese rule.

The American president's entourage also was originally scheduled to be in Hong Kong during the time of the celebrations.

But U.S. officials had to rejigger that stop so Clinton wouldn't overshadow Hong Kong's moment in the spotlight.

*

Jiang will be taking off for Beijing just before Clinton's three-plane entourage arrives in Hong Kong.

But there's no chance they'll bump into each other at the airport.

Jiang takes off from Hong Kong's new Chek Lap Kok airport, which officially opens for operation Monday.

Air Force One will land at the old facility.

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