A Ring in Hong Kong: Duel Between the Financier George Soros and the Strong Man of Malaysia

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir accuses the Euro-American speculator of wanting to sink the Asian economies. And he’s thinking about currency protectionism.

Corriere della Sera, Sept. 22, 1997

Note by D. King: Here is a good description – from Italy's most widely read and prestigious daily newspaper – of the LaRouche movement's success in using the "Symbolic Evil Jew" tactic to encourage anti-Semitism under the cover of attacks on controversial Jewish individuals such as George Soros. Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, adopted this and other propaganda themes from the LaRouchians in the 1990s. The influence on people around Mahathir was exerted not by LaRouche himself but by correspondents of his Executive Intelligence Review, who cultivated contacts with Malaysian government officials, stroking their egos through articles and interviews that gave them the media attention (or at least the appearance of such attention) they could not easily have obtained from mainstream Western newspapers and magazines. (EIR used the same tactic in the late 1970s and early 1980s to construct profiles of relatively obscure public figures in Latin America for the CIA.) It is clear from the below that Mahathir, although he shares LaRouche's nasty feelings towards Jews (as exemplified in numerous public statements during his years as prime minister; read here), adopted specific formulations of the LaRouche movement for reasons of political expediency (as former Mexican Kleptocrat-in-Chief José López Portillo had done in the early 1980s; read here). There is no evidence that Mahathir – a Muslim and a Malay nationalist – buys into the LaRouche movement's broader dream of a secular, Eurocentric, totalitarian-fascist world order. But for professional anti-Semites such as the LaRouchians to have gained even a limited degree of support for their sly and insidious form of hate propaganda from the government of an upper-tier developing country is potentially a cause for concern. As we know from the history of the first half of the 20th century, the road to hell is paved not just with good intentions but with considerations of political expediency and a cavalier attitude towards seemingly loopy fanatics.

FROM OUR HONG KONG CORRESPONDENT – The notes of the “Internationale” sound in front of the mega convention center where the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are holding their meeting. The music is not to announce the arrival of the Chinese Premier Li Peng who will speak tomorrow, but instead a small procession of extremists who are protesting against globalization and “that thief George Soros.”

Their signs mock the king of monetary speculators and echo the accusations leveled at him once again by Mohamad Mahathir, the Premier of Malaysia, which has been dragged into crisis along with the other “tigers of the Pacific.” The Malaysian crazy horse has upped the dose here, threatening to block all financial transactions of his country other than those to pay for trade in goods. In other words, he would raise the barrier of monetary protectionism – and financial liberalization would collapse like a house of cards.

“It is a threat which will not be carried out, another populistic evasion, used to gain support at home,” dismisses George Soros who, still, does not like being depicted as an enemy of the people. “I have never bought Malaysian currency, so I could not speculate in it. But I am sorry that I have been the object of every kind of false and vile accusation by Mahathir,” he answers. “He is using me as a scapegoat to cover up his failures. As for banning currency transactions, it is a recipe for disaster: Mahathir represents a threat for his own country.”

The duel between the two enemies played out in public just a day apart. The Malaysian Premier had spoken Friday evening at a seminar. The Euro-American financier answered him yesterday from another forum organized alongside the work of the IMF, and he took the opportunity to reiterate his philosophy of “temperate globalism” before an audience that had competed for seats.

Mahathir used in his argument the venom disseminated by a singular American hyperreactionary, Lyndon LaRouche, who never misses an opportunity to recycle his theory of the Jewish-Masonic conspiracy. This time he has accused Soros of having collaborated – although Jewish – with the Nazis who occupied Hungary, his native country. And the Malaysian press has embroidered on it.

But skirmishes between a speculator and a semi-dictator are hardly just local color. Malaysia’s threats have alarmed the United States too, especially due to the political message that they send to other countries: in Thailand, in Indonesia, in the Philippines, protectionist reactions would deal a heavy blow to globalization, which yesterday the American Treasury Secretary defended with drawn sword, going so far as to justify currency speculation as an inevitable consequence of the free market. To rescue a process of strategic importance for the U.S., Robert Rubin is asking the Monetary Fund to transform itself into the guardian of the movement of capital, modifying its rules to give itself new powers.

The Japanese have proposed setting up an “Asian Fund.” But Europeans and Americans are against it. From the crisis of the Tigers there could arise a geopolitical earthquake which would change the equilibrium of the Pacific, guarded for a century by the United States, which fears an erosion of its hegemony, all the more now that China has reinforced its ambitions.

(Translated by C.L. Morgan)

Read the original Italian version of this article here.