Hong Kong – not Taiwan – fortells China's future

Regarding Fei-Ling Wang's Sept. 19 Opinion piece, "Taiwan: Catalyst for change in China": If anyone can act as a "catalyst for change in China," Hong Kong, under the so-called "one country, two systems" scheme, undoubtedly would be most qualified to help China make the transition. Unfortunately, while it was once a prosperous economy, Hong Kong's economic and institutional environments have deteriorated steadily since its return to Chinese rule. According to the World Economic Forum, Hong Kong's Growth Competitiveness Index ranking in global competitiveness has dropped seven places to 28th because its rankings on judicial independence, property rights, favoritism, and corruption have tangibly worsened and fallen below previous levels.

Take this as a preview that portends the fate of Taiwan if China is allowed to satisfy its territorial ambition and aggression over that free and democratic nation. China is expending vast amounts of resources in building up its military forces without any perceptible enemies and has over 800 missiles targeted at Taiwan. A "peaceful rise of Chinese power" – who are we kidding?
Chung L. Huang
Athens, Ga.

The writer is an economics professor at the University of Georgia.

No contest for questionable CIA ethics

With regard to the Sept. 20 article, "How far can CIA interrogators go?": The obvious answer is "No distance at all." Any ethicist will tell you that moral principles that are worth their salt must be universal and reversible. Hence we may ask (not facetiously at all): How much torture would George Bush agree is permissible if his wife were held captive, and her captors wanted to get the president to give them information?
Sidney Gendin
Ann Arbor, Mich.

'Swedish model' result of a harsh past

Your Sept. 20 editorial, "A new walk for the Swedish model," was correct in its assessment in most respects. However, the statement that "Sweden's history wasn't marked by feudalism ..." is only true for the last century. In the 19th century, Sweden's society was tightly woven into four classes – peasants, merchants, clergy, and royalty – and no movement between classes was allowed. For that reason, a massive number of Swedes emigrated to the US in the last half of the 19th century. Due to the loss of its workforce, Sweden changed to the current social model in the early 20th century, and stemmed the tide of experienced workers emigrating over the prior six decades. My ancestors, from the peasant class, all emigrated in the 1860s to escape the economic stranglehold of the Swedish government of the time.
Duane Kullberg

Make education optional

Thank you for your Sept. 26 editorial, "When the teacher brings the apple." I taught in public schools for 14 years, and there's one thing we forget. If schooling were not compulsory – if students had to earn a place in school as they do in some countries – teachers would not have to work so hard to get the children's attention and find so many costly ways to try to entertain them. I'm not suggesting that pencils, paper, or books are for entertainment, but most of what I have bought for my class and have seen other teachers buy, are not the necessities, but the extras. Students, or at least their parents, would be much more interested in learning if school were not compulsory. There would be more honest effort on the students' part.
Patti Gmeiner
Niagara, Wis.

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