WikiLeaks Cables: the most amusing one so far

In a 2009 cable from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, US diplomat Tatiana Gfoeller reports on her meeting with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yannian. They discuss Manas Air Force Base, which the Americans hope to keep in Kyrgyzstan. Note how casual the Americans are about giving billions to Kyrgyzstan, while the Chinese are ‘horrified’ at the suggestion they’d do the same, seeming more worried about what their population at home would think than the Americans are about their own poor people, in whose name they give millions to the Kyrgyz.The shock of the Chinese Ambassador and candour of the conversation is quite amusing to read:


(Full text reproduced here rather than a link, as the WikiLeaks site has been dropped by its current host, Amazon).
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BISHKEK 000135
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/13/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL MARR KG
SUBJECT: CHINESE AMBASSADOR FLUSTERED BY KYRGYZ ALLEGATIONS
OF MONEY FOR CLOSING MANAS
REF: A. BISHKEK 96
¶B. BISHKEK 85
BISHKEK 00000135 001.2 OF 002
Classified By: Ambassador Tatiana C. Gfoeller, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
¶1. (C) Summary: During a meeting with the Ambassador
February 13, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yannian ridiculed the
idea, but did not deny categorically, that China would
provide Kyrgyzstan a $3 billion financial package in return
for closing Manas Air Base. Zhang said Kyrgyzstan was in
Russia’s sphere of influence, and China had only commercial
interests here. He also complained bitterly about Chinese
Guantanamo detainees being shipped to Germany instead of
China. Zhang was very interested in whether the U.S. would
negotiate to keep Manas, and he advised just giving the
Kyrgyz $150 million a year for the Base. “This is all about
money,” he said. End Summary.
LOSING THE ABILITY TO SPEAK RUSSIAN
¶2. (C) Ambassador met February 13 with Chinese Ambassador to
Kyrgyzstan Zhang Yannian. After opening pleasantries, the
Ambassador mentioned that Kyrgyz officials had told her that
China had offered a $3 billion financial package to close
Manas Air Base and asked for the Ambassador’s reaction to
such an allegation. Visibly flustered, Zhang temporarily
lost the ability to speak Russian and began spluttering in
Chinese to the silent aide diligently taking notes right
behind him. Once he had recovered the power of Russian
speech, he inveighed against such a calumny, claiming that
such an idea was impossible, China was a staunch opponent of
terrorism, and China’s attitude toward Kyrgyzstan’s decision
to close Manas was one of “respect and understanding.”
¶3. (C) Composing himself, Zhang inquired if maybe the Kyrgyz
had meant the trade turnover between the two countries, which
he claimed was about $3 billion a year. When disabused of
that notion, Zhang went on at length to explain that China
could not afford a $3 billion loan and aid package. “It
would take $3 from every Chinese person” to pay for it. “If
our people found out, there’d be a revolution,” he said. “We
have 200 million people unemployed” because of the downturn
in exports, he said, and millions of disabled and others who
need help from the government.
A SLAP IN THE FACE
¶4. (C) When the Ambassador asked whether he would
categorically deny what the Kyrgyz officials had told her
about a deal with China, Zhang snapped that “releasing 17
from Guantanamo is an unfriendly act toward us.” He then
went on at length about what a “slap in the face” it was to
China that the Uighur detainees were not going to be returned
to their homeland but instead shipped to Germany, where
reportedly they had already been granted refugee status.
While not stating a tit-for-tat reaction on Manas, he did
imply that the Guantanamo situation had made China look for
ways to hit back at the U.S. When the Ambassador inquired if
maybe the Chinese were favorably disposed toward closing
Manas because of their SCO membership, Zhang acknowledged
that the SCO had pronounced for closing Manas, but claimed
that “that was years ago and nothing has happened since.” He
denied that the SCO was pressuring the Kyrgyz to close Manas.
RUSSIA: A GIFT FROM GOD FOR THE KYRGYZ
¶5. (C) The Ambassador then asked what Zhang thought about the
$2 billion plus Russian deal with Kyrgyzstan. After some
hemming and hawing, Zhang said it was “probably true” that
BISHKEK 00000135 002.2 OF 002
the Russian assistance was tied to closing Manas. Asked if
he had any concerns about the Kyrgyz Republic falling ever
deeper into the Russian sphere of influence and whether China
had any interest in countering this, he answered that
Kyrgyzstan was already in that sphere, and China had no
interest in balancing that influence. “Kyrgyzstan is
Russia’s neighbor,” he intoned (somewhat expansively, since
Kyrgyzstan does not share a border with the Russian
Federation — though it does share a border with China).
“And when the Kyrgyz ask me about this, I always tell them
that a neighbor is a gift from God.” As for China’s
interests in the Kyrgyz Republic, he stated flatly: “We have
only commercial interests here. We want to increase
investment and trade. We have no interest in politics.” He
claimed that some Kyrgyz had argued for China to open a base
in Kyrgyzstan to counterbalance Russian and American
influence in the country, but China has no interest in a
base. “We want no military or political advantage.
Therefore, we wouldn’t pay $3 billion for Manas,” he argued.
PERSONAL ADVICE: PAY THEM $150 MILLION
¶6. (C) Zhang asked the Ambassador whether the U.S. would
negotiate to keep the Base open. The Ambassador answered
that the U.S. side was evaluating its options. Zhang then
offered his “personal advice,” “This is all about money,” he
said. He understood from the Kyrgyz that they needed $150
million. The Ambassador explained that the U.S. does provide
$150 million in assistance to Kyrgyzstan each year, including
numerous assistance programs. Zhang suggested that the U.S.
should scrap its assistance programs. “Just give them $150
million in cash” per year, and “you will have the Base
forever.” Very uncharacteristically, the silent young aide
then jumped in: “Or maybe you should give them $5 billion and
buy both us and the Russians out.” The aide then withered
under the Ambassador’s horrified stare.
¶7. (C) Commenting on the recent diplomatic corps lunch (Ref
B), Zhang noted that Russian Ambassador Vlasov had been in an
expansive mood and dominated portions of the meeting. “I
think that’s when he found out that they’d reached a deal”
with Bakiyev to close the Base, he opined. Zhang, who is
doyen of the diplomatic corps, said he would be leaving
Bishkek soon, but did not yet know his next assignment. “In
our service,” he said, “we don’t know our postings until the
last minute.”
Comment
——-
¶8. (C) Zhang was clearly flustered when confronted with the
claims of Kyrgyz officials that they were negotiating a
financial deal with China in return for closing the Base.
While he ridiculed the notion of such a deal, he did not deny
it outright. Perhaps because of his being discomposed, he
returned several times to the topic of a possible revolution
in China if the economic picture does not improve and work is
not found for the millions of unemployed there. In our
experience, talk of revolution at home is taboo for Chinese
diplomats. While candid at times, the meeting ended on a
very cordial note.
GFOELLER

barry
Barry Kavanagh writes fiction, and has made music, formerly with Dacianos and presently with the forthcoming "voodoo project".

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