« August 2011 | Main | October 2011 »

Leaving China for a couple weeks. But first, a threat

I'm headed to the States for a break today, and as I scrolled through Twitter one last time before starting the get-the-kid-and-luggage-ready hustle, I saw a link to this column in Global Times: "Time to teach those around South China Sea a lesson."

The author, an analyst at something called the China Energy Fund Committee, appears to be calling for a skirmish or war in the South China Sea. Nothing too big, mind you. Perhaps an action along the lines of the 2008 fight between Russia and Georgia -- a reminder for all concerned of the dominance of the big neighbor.

To be sure, this is not a communication of official Chinese government policy. The Energy Fund Committee describes itself as a Hong Kong-based "nonprofit, non-governmental think tank devoted to public diplomacy."

Nonetheless, the words that appeared in an state publication, albeit a tabloid with a reputation for shrill nationalism, are startling.

"China, concentrating on interior development and harmony, has been ultimately merciful in preventing such issue turning into a global affair so that regional peace and prosperity can be secured.

But it is probably the right time for us to reason, think ahead and strike first before things gradually run out of hands."

and then this:

"We shouldn’t waste the opportunity to launch some tiny-scale battles that could deter provocateurs from going further.

By the way, I think it’s necessary to figure out who is really afraid of being involved in military activities. There are more than 1,000 oil and gas wells plus four airports and numerous other facilities in the area but none of them is built by China."

And just in case there was some ambiguity left about which nations the author was referring to:

"But out there could just be an ideal place to punish them. Such punishment should be restricted only to the Philippines and Vietnam, who have been acting extremely aggressive these days.

The Afghanistan and Iraq Wars have already set some bad examples for us in terms of the scale of potential battles, but the minnows will get a reality check by the art of our move."

It's one voice of many in China, but one that's worth considering carefully. (The piece can be found by clicking here.)

 

 

 

Trade tensions, China and Solyndra

In the aftermath of a bankruptcy filing by Solyndra, a California solar-panel manufacturer that received $535 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Energy Department, Bloomberg ran an interesting piece over the weekend that looked at ongoing trade tensions with China.

According to Bloomberg: "The collapse of Solyndra LLC has renewed demands from U.S. lawmakers and union leaders that the Obama administration pursue unfair-trade complaints against China for out-sized subsidies to its clean-energy companies."

A few paragraphs down, this quote jumped out at me --

“We should not sit back and say we are afraid to start a trade war,” Thomas Conway, international vice president for the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers said in an interview. “We are in a trade war, and we are losing.”  

Curious to learn more about how things are going at Solyndra, I clicked to its website. This is what it had to say: "Solyndra suspends operations to evaluate reorganization options."

"Despite strong growth in the first half of 2011 and traction in North America with a number of orders for very large commercial rooftops," the website noted,  "Solyndra could not achieve full-scale operations rapidly enough to compete in the near term with the resources of larger foreign manufacturers."

The company and its bankruptcy have apparently kicked off a political storm in the United States. For more information, The Washington Post ran a recent item (Five myths about the Solyndra collapse) exploring the subject, which can be found by clicking here.

"China's declaration of peaceful development is not an attempt to deceive foreigners"

China Daily has run a lengthy commentary on the country's recent White Paper on China's Peaceful Development, which was released last week. Written by State Councilor Dai Bingguo, the essay -- from which the above quote was copied -- can be found here: bit.ly/r67G2d

 

Surprise! The U.S. Embassy is relaying your remarks

While reporting the reaction in China to the publication of WikiLeaks' cache of unredacted State Department cables, several people I spoke with remembered meeting with U.S. Embassy officials, but said they had no idea their conversations were being relayed to Washington in formal documents. They were even more shocked, of course, to learn that those files are now publicly available to anyone with an Internet connection.

Answering the phone at her office in a state news agency, one journalist's reply was typical:  “It was an off-the-record session."

She said those words like this -- OFF.THE.RECORD. 

And no, she was not interested in seeing a copy of the cable that carried her name with a (Protect) designation behind it. 

I wondered: The next time an embassy staffer invites people to an informal dinner here, will some hesitate to attend?

(My story on the cables and China can be found by clicking here.)

 

 

 

The Chinese are invading Idaho! (Ok, not really. But things are getting interesting in the U.S.)

Reuters has a story looking at the upcoming U.S. presidential elections and the extent to which fears about China may play a part in the campaign:

"Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's threat to get tough with China about its trade practices increases the odds that China-bashing will permeate a presidential contest to woo U.S. voters seeking a culprit for the nation's economic malaise."

All of which reminds me of Idaho.

My McClatchy colleague Rocky Barker, a reporter at the Idaho Statesman, visited China last June to follow Idaho Gov. Butch Otter on a trade mission.  In a preview of the trip, Barker wrote the following:

" 'The Chinese are looking for a beachhead in the United States,' said Idaho Commerce Secretary Don Dietrich. Idaho is ready to give them one."

The delegation from Idaho came and went, and all seemed well. That December, Barker wrote, "A Chinese national company is interested in developing a 10,000- to 30,000-acre technology zone for industry, retail centers and homes south of the Boise Airport."

Gov. Otter had gone to China looking for investment, and it seemed that investment was coming. Again, all seemed well.

Enter: The John Birch Society. A magazine published by the group ran a column this May that defined the company involved in the development proposal thusly: "a commercial-political-military-intelligence instrument of the communist regime in Beijing."

Referring to the quote by Dietrich, the columnist wrote that, "As Idaho’s chief promoter of commerce, Dietrich surely could not have intended to convey a willingness to provide a hostile foreign power with an invitation for a military invasion."

The issue gained momentum on the conservative blogosphere. The headline that followed in the Idaho Statesman said it all: "Bloggers fear a Chinese takeover of Idaho. State officials say the investments will be a boon and pose no danger."

Again, from Barker: "Don Dietrich doesn’t overreact when he gets emails calling him a traitor or a dupe opening the way for an invasion of Idaho by Chinese Communists. 'Given what they’re reading, they are rightfully concerned,'said Dietrich, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce. 'But what they are reading is in some cases nonsense.' "

I think it's a good guess that we'll see more of this as the election season draws closer in the States. 

 

China's white paper

So, I just finished reading China's white paper on peaceful development. Published Tuesday by the Information Office of the State Council, it runs 24 pages when pasted into a Word document.  You can experience it in full by clicking here.

A preview:

"We will strengthen the building of socialist democracy, advance the political structural reform actively and steadily, develop socialist democracy and turn China into a socialist country under the rule of law and ensure that the people control their own destiny. We will continue to conduct democratic election, decision-making, governance and supervision in accordance with the law, uphold people's right to have access to information, to participate in governance, to express their views and to supervise the government, and we will expand orderly public participation in the political process. We will continue to treat all ethnic groups as equals and practice the system of regional autonomy of ethnic minorities, protect people's freedom of religious belief according to law, and fully respect and uphold basic human rights and other lawful rights and interests of citizens."

And then, there is is (underline is my add):

"China is firm in upholding its core interests which include the following: state sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity and national reunification, China's political system established by the Constitution and overall social stability, and the basic safeguards for ensuring sustainable economic and social development."

 

 

Hu Jintao in 2001. How power works in China.

A frequent complaint by China watchers is that those outside the country don't understand the extent to which the nation is ruled by coalition and consensus within the halls of power. (Not to be confused with outside the halls of power, where spontaneous, public consensus building is not encouraged. To say the least.)

It seems to me that this section of a 2001 cable from the U.S. embassy in Beijing is a good example. It's taking a look at Hu Jintao and the topography of his networks not long before he became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and the nation's president. (We'll leave discussion of a subsequent section, IS HU A CLOSET REFORMER? , for another day.)

 

A MASTER NETWORKER...

--------------------- 

7.  (C) HU HAS SUCCEEDED IN ESTABLISHING A SERIES OF

RELATIONSHIP NETWORKS WHICH HAVE MADE HIM A PLAYER IN

HIS OWN RIGHT WITHIN THE PARTY'S TOP HIERARCHY.  THESE

NETWORKS INCLUDE:

 

-- THE QINGHUA CLIQUE.  HU STUDIED AT QINGHUA, CHINA'S

PREMIER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY, BETWEEN 1959

AND 1964.  QINGHUA HAS LONG TAKEN PRIDE IN DEVELOPING

STUDENTS WHO ARE BOTH TECHNICALLY EXPERT AND

IDEOLOGICALLY "RED" BY SELECTING PARTICULARLY PROMISING

STUDENTS TO BECOME UNDERGRADUATE "POLITICAL ADVISORS."

HU WAS SUCH AN ADVISOR AND, UPON GRADUATING, STAYED ON

FOR THREE MORE YEARS AS A POLITICAL INSTRUCTOR.  WELL-

INFORMED CHINESE SOURCES CONFIRMED THAT, IN THESE

POSITIONS, HU CAME TO KNOW MOST OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES AT

QINGHUA WELL, INCLUDING CURRENT MINISTER OF JUSTICE

ZHANG FUSEN, CCP UNITED FRONT WORK DEPARTMENT DEPUTY LIU

YANDONG, MINISTER OF PUBLIC SECURITY JIA CHUNWANG, AND

SHAANXI PROVINCIAL PARTY SECRETARY TIAN CHENGPING.

 

-- THE GANSU FACTION.  IN 1968, HU ESCAPED THE WORST OF

THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION BY VOLUNTEERING TO "GO DOWN" TO

GANSU PROVINCE, WHERE HE SERVED ON CONSTRUCTION TEAMS.

HU WAS PROMOTED RAPIDLY THROUGH THE RANKS UNTIL HE CAME

TO THE ATTENTION OF PARTY SECRETARY SONG PING.  HU ALSO

MET OTHER MEMBERS OF SONG PING'S "GANSU FACTION,"

INCLUDING CURRENT VICE PREMIER (AND PREMIER ZHU RONGJI'S

PROBABLE SUCCESSOR) WEN JIABAO AND MINISTER OF

SUPERVISION ZHANG XUEZHONG.  SONG PING WAS INSTRUMENTAL

IN HU'S INTRODUCTION TO HU YAOBANG AND HIS 1992

PROMOTION TO THE POLITBURO'S STANDING COMMITTEE.

 

-- THE COMMUNIST YOUTH LEAGUE (CYL).  THE CYL IS LIKE A

MINIATURE COMMUNIST PARTY WITH A NATIONAL STRUCTURE THAT

MIMICS THE CCP'S OWN ORGANIZATION.  IT HAS BEEN A

SPRINGBOARD TO PROMOTION FOR LEADERS, SUCH AS HU

YAOBANG, WHO SUBSEQUENTLY ROSE TO SENIOR POSITIONS.

HU'S CONTACTS FROM HIS YEARS AS CYL PRINCIPAL DEPUTY

(1982-1984) AND FIRST SECRETARY (1984-1985) INCLUDED:

HENAN GOVERNOR (AND ONE OF HU'S CLOSEST PERSONAL

FRIENDS) LI KEQIANG, FUJIAN PROVINCIAL PARTY SECRETARY

(AND ANOTHER CLOSE FRIEND) SONG DEFU, MINISTER OF PUBLIC

SECURITY JIA CHUNWANG, STATE COUNCIL NATIONALITIES

AFFAIRS' COMMISSION CHAIRMAN LI DEZHU, AND XINJIANG

PARTY SECRETARY WANG LEQUAN.  HU YAOBANG, WHO WAS

GENERAL SECRETARY WHILE HU WAS AT THE CYL, SUBSEQUENTLY

INTRODUCED HU TO QIAO SHI.  QIAO, IN TURN, LIKE SONG

PING, WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN GIVING HU'S CAREER A NUMBER OF

BOOSTS.

 

8.  (C) SUCH NETWORKS ARE NOT UNUSUAL IN RELATIONSHIP-

ORIENTED CHINA AND, INDEED, MOST PARTY MEMBERS NEED

THESE NETWORKS FOR POLITICAL SURVIVAL AND ADVANCEMENT.

WHAT IS UNUSUAL, HOWEVER, IS THE BREADTH AND VARIETY OF

HU'S BACKING.  HIS MULTIPLE NETWORKS, IN TURN, HAVE

ALLOWED HIM TO CAPITALIZE ON HIS STATUS AS THE HEIR

APPOINTED BY DENG AND HIS SKILLS AS A CONSENSUS-BUILDER,

AND TO AVOID LINKING HIS FATE TOO CLOSELY TO ANY ONE

FACTION WITHIN THE THIRD GENERATION.  HU'S GENERAL

ABILITY TO AVOID DISABLING ENTANGLEMENTS HAS, ACCORDING

TO AT LEAST ONE WELL-INFORMED SOURCE, ENHANCED THE VICE

PRESIDENT'S REPUTATION AS A CONSENSUS-BUILDER AND

STRENGTHENED HIS SUPPORT AMONG DIVERSE FACTIONS WITHIN

THE PARTY.  IT WAS THIS STRENGTH, ACCORDING TO THIS

SOURCE, THAT ALLOWED HU TO BLUNT JIANG'S EFFORTS DURING

THE 2000 CENTRAL COMMITTEE PLENUM TO WIN ZENG QINGHONG'S

PROMOTION TO THE POLITBURO.

 

9.  (C) NONETHELESS, HU'S RECORD IN GAINING THE SUPPORT

OF IMPORTANT FACTIONS IS NOT PERFECT.  A PARTY

PRINCELING GROUP HEADED BY HE GUANGWEI REPORTEDLY

ENGINEERED HU'S SUMMARY DEPARTURE FROM THE CYL IN 1985

AND HIS APPOINTMENT AS PARTY SECRETARY OF POVERTY-

STRICKEN GUIZHOU PROVINCE.  CONTACTS ATTRIBUTED THIS

INCIDENT BOTH TO JEALOUSY OF HU AND TO THE FACTIONAL

INFIGHTING THAT EVENTUALLY LED TO HU YAOBANG'S DEMISE.

WHILE NONE OF THESE INDIVIDUALS HAVE SINCE RISEN ABOVE

THE VICE-MINISTER LEVEL, IT IS UNCLEAR TO WHAT DEGREE

THE AFTERMATH OF THIS INCIDENT COULD AFFECT HU'S FUTURE

RELATIONS WITH OTHER PARTY PRINCELINGS. 

 

(Although unredacted versions of the WikiLeaks cables have been now been made publicly available, I'm not sure what I think about posting them. But they ARE on the web, so if you want to see this one in its full form, you can click here.)

 

Premier Wen's travels

I found this cable really interesting -- it's from 2003, and details a conversation with a Chinese official about the details of Wen Jiabao's travel habits.

There is much debate among China watchers about the extent to which Wen is a force for political reform in the government. And, as some Weibo accounts will attest, conversation by activists/critics in China about whether Wen is as much a man of the people as is advertised. This account of Wen in his first year as premier, relayed by a cable from the U.S. embassy in Beijing, suggests that he does not stand on ceremony or seek the sort of .... benefits available to those in public office in China. (Of course, this is all according to a Chinese official.) 

For anyone who's travelled in provincial China, where the distance between local officials and the locals can be striking, this sentence in particular telegraphs a strong message: "Wen's personal requirements were very simple.  He preferred to eat modestly and alone in his hotel room rather than take part in fancy banquets, which provincial officials would have gladly hosted." 

And I liked this scene:

"To illustrate Wen's distaste for the common practice among Chinese officials of woodenly reading their work reports, (the official) recounted an incident from Wen's travel to several central provinces last winter, while he was still a Vice Premier.  During this trip ... Wen listened to a local mayor drone on and on about his city's successful handling of emergencies ... Wen became so frustrated with the mayor's monotone presentation that the following exchange took place: "Mr. Mayor, can you deliver your report without referring to your text," Wen asked.  "Mr. Vice Premier, I refer to my manuscript because it contains a lot of statistics," the mayor replied.  "Mr. Mayor, you have been an official in this city for several years now.  Surely you must have a command of the statistics that reflect how life is for the city's residents," Wen chastised.  "I'll make you a deal," Wen continued. "If you put away your text, then I'll put away mine when it is my turn to speak." 

(Although unredacted versions of the WikiLeaks cables have been now been posted publicly, I'm not sure what I think about posting them. But they ARE on the web, so if you want to see this one in its full form, you can click here.)

China and its propaganda -- A glimpse

This cable, from the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, is a great read. It's from 2007,  but one suspects the world of Chinese state propaganda hasn't changed much since then. If you're in a hurry, take a look at the "Propagandizing Foreigners" section at the bottom.   

ENCOUNTER WITH SOUTHWEST CHINA PROPAGANDA OFFICIAL

Identifier:

07CHENGDU285

Origin:

Consulate Chengdu

Created:

2007-12-07 09:44:00

 

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CHENGDU 000285

 

E.O. 12958: DECL:  12/7/2017

TAGS: PGOV, CH, SOCI

SUBJECT: ENCOUNTER WITH SOUTHWEST CHINA PROPAGANDA OFFICIAL

 

CHENGDU 00000285  001.2 OF 003

 

 

CLASSIFIED BY: James A. Boughner, Consul General, U.S. Consulate

General, Chengdu, China.

REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.  (C) Summary:  Openly disparaging of the Communist Party's

standard propaganda manual, a young Kunming City propaganda

department official in southwest China told us of his hopes to

work his way up to a comfortable job in a state enterprise.

Among other "pearls of wisdom," the widely available propaganda

manual highlights the importance of careful management of the

internet to prevent foreign "ideological infiltration and notes

that "feeding propaganda" to foreigners should be approached

differently than internal agitprop.  End summary.

 

 

 

2.  (C) A Kunming, Yunnan Province Communist Party Committee

Propaganda Department official introduced himself to Congenoff,

whom he had noticed reading the 2003 Red Flag Press book

"Practical Manual for Party Propaganda Work" during one of our

recent trips to the city.  The worker volunteered the book was

too abstract and divorced from the practicalities of everyday

propaganda work.  He remarked that his ideological studies had

made him skilled in analyzing arguments to see the "naked

interests that lay underneath their ideological clothing."

 

 

 

3.  (C) The official, in his late twenties, said he had received

a degree in computer science and then worked for Hitachi in

Japan for three years.  Back in Kunming, he found the local job

market tough but eventually latched onto a position with the

Kunming City Party Committee Propaganda Department.  His

eventual goal was to get a job at a state-run company.  His

ideal job, he said, would be to work for the tobacco monopoly, a

very large and profitable state enterprise.

 

 

 

--------------------------------------------- --------------

--------

 

Highlights of 2003 "Practical Manual for Party Propaganda Work"

 

--------------------------------------------- --------------

-------

 

 

 

4.  (SBU) This 2003 Red Flag Publishing House, purchased at the

Kunming Xinhua Bookstore is also widely available online.  Hu

Jintao in his foreword to the book wrote "If the masses are not

guided by a scientific theory as the push forward social change,

they cannot succeed... As times change our thinking and

understanding too must move forward~ the theoretical basis of

the Party, must based on what we have inherited from the past

constantly absorb new experiences and new thinking."  In the

first section of the "Propaganda Manual" Hu Jintao and others

expound on the "Three Represents" of former Party Secretary

Jiang Zemin.

 

 

 

5.  (SBU) As the propaganda worker warned, the book, and

especially the first section, is very dull reading.  The next

sections on the theory, purposes and methods of Party propaganda

work are more enlightening.

 

 

 

----------------------------

 

Goals of Party Propaganda

 

---------------------------

 

 

 

6.  (U) The goal of Party propaganda is to mold generation after

generation of new socialist people. (p. 80)

 

-- Insist on positiveness in propaganda.  News reporting should

hold to the positiveness principle by handling properly the

balance praise and exposing problems.  In any case, reader

should be left with feelings of encouragement, trust, courage

and hope.  (p. 82 - 82)

 

--   Party propaganda must serve the purposes of the Party

center and give guidance to the people (p. 82)

 

--  Propaganda should saturate society.  The object of a

propaganda message needs to get the message continually and from

many different sources including books, movies, periodicals and

 

CHENGDU 00000285  002.2 OF 003

 

 

the Internet.  The experience of the Party shows that messages

from many sources re-enforce one another.   Different people and

groups need to get the message in a way that is suitable for

them.  (pp. 88 - 89)

 

-- The Internet has an ever greater impact on people's thinking.

People outside mainland China are always plotting ways to

infiltrate China ideologically.  We need to strengthen our

management of news websites and other websites.

 

-- Make clear to everyone that development is the number one

task for China and the Party.   Development is the key to

solving all the problems facing China today.   Ideological

awareness and strength is an important dimension of China's

overall national strength.   (p. 98)

 

 

 

-------------------------------

 

Methods of Party Propaganda

 

-------------------------------

 

 

 

7.  (U) Preparing the masses for a change in the Party line is

an art form.  The change must be subtle and gradual so as not to

upset people, always keeping in mind the capacity of the masses

to accept change.   With changes in the line, propaganda

intensifies so that it penetrates everywhere.  (pp. 107 - 108)

 

 

 

---------------------------

 

Propagandizing Foreigners

 

---------------------------

 

 

 

8.  (U) Feeding propaganda to foreigners is done differently

from domestic propaganda work.  The first task is learning about

your propaganda target, keeping in mind that the targets of

foreign propaganda are different from the targets of domestic

propaganda.  The approach will also vary according to the

country or area of the person.

 

-- Take a subtler and gentler approach. Present facts and let

them draw their own conclusions.  Explain what the foreigner

doesn't understand, even over simplifying if necessary.   Avoid

using propaganda slogans or saying things that might cause

disagreement.

 

-- Make use of visitors to China to spread the propaganda

message overseas.  Be sure to give the foreigners only what they

can accept.  Take care that what they see and their experiences

in China will, when they return home, help to build an image of

China in the minds of the people of the world.  (p. 118)

 

-- Other methods include arranging interviews for the friendly

foreign press, submitting articles to Xinhua and other Chinese

publications aimed at foreign audiences and attention to the

positiveness of TV programming on the closed circuit TV system

of hotels frequented by foreigners. (pp. 118 - 119)

 

-- Make sister city agreements with foreign cities.

 

-- Plan tourist group itineraries so visitors will get a

positive impression of China.

 

---Arrange for tour group guides and interpreters to subscribe

to foreign language Chinese magazines destined for foreign

audiences.

 

 

 

--------

 

Religion

 

--------

 

 

 

9.  (U) While respecting the principle of religious freedom,

strengthen education of the masses, and of young people in

particular, in dialectical materialism.  As Lenin said, religion

 

CHENGDU 00000285  003.2 OF 003

 

 

and foolishness are the deepest roots of religion.  Thus the

roots of religion will last for a long time to come.  We have no

alternative but to implement a policy of religious freedom and

not of compulsion.  Through education in socialist culture and

civilization, we will weaken the roots of religion.  The role of

Party propaganda is to uphold the rights of both believers and

non-believers and not allow religion to be used to harm the

country.

 

--  In  recent years, there has been some propaganda that does

not comply with the Party's religion policy that has offended

believers.  We should not use words that offend believers.  If

in doubt about whether propaganda is too sensitive, contact the

United Front Department [Tongzhanbu] for advice.

 

-- Religion is a particularly sensitive topic in international

affairs.  We should be especially careful to correctly present

the Party's policy on religion to foreigners.

 

-- Religious publications should be closely controlled.  Foreign

publications are not allowed.  Literature and art works should

treat religions matters properly. (pp. 124 - 125)

 

 

 

-------------

 

Nationalities

 

------------

 

 

 

10.  (U) The top priority is to uphold the principle of unity of

all China's nationalities.

 

--- It is essential not to equate the reasonable demands for

autonomy under the Party's minorities policy with splittism.

 

-- Throughout the entire country, propaganda should stress that

the unity of the Han nationality and of the national minorities.

 

--- While minority people should be encouraged to learn Chinese,

minority languages should be respected and promoted.  (p. 125 -

126)

 

 

 

11.  (U) The concluding section on the art of making speeches

discusses not only Mao Zedong but also Ronald Reagan and

Lincoln's Second Inaugural. (pp. 237, 242).

BOUGHNER

 

China -- the next 30 years?

What will the next 30 years of China look like? The U.S. embassy in Beijing took a crack at that question in a 2009 cable signed by then-Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr .

(I've been scrolling through the WikiLeaks China documents today. Many of them, including this one, have been released already, but with the publication of the full set of unredacted docs last week, I'm scrolling through them again. I'll have to restrain myself from posting ad nauseam. They're fascinating.)

Here it is:

LOOKING AT THE NEXT 30 YEARS OF THE U.S.-CHINA RELATIONSHIP

Identifier:

09BEIJING22

Origin:

Embassy Beijing

Created:

2009-01-06 08:41:00

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/05/2034

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, ECON, EFIN, MARR, MASS, CH

SUBJECT: LOOKING AT THE NEXT 30 YEARS OF THE U.S.-CHINA

RELATIONSHIP

 

Classified By: Ambassador Clark T. Randt.  Reasons 1.4 (b/d)

 

1. (C) January 1, 2009, marked the 30th Anniversary of the

establishment of diplomatic relations between the United

States and the People's Republic of China.  This anniversary

followed the PRC commemoration of roughly 30 years of China's

"reform and opening" policy under Deng Xiaoping, which led to

China's staggering economic growth.

 

2. (C) Thirty years ago, China was just emerging from the

nightmare of the Cultural Revolution and 30 years of

fratricidal misrule.  China's economy was crippled by years

of disastrous policies like the Great Leap Forward.  The

population was coming to terms with the world's most

draconian population controls enacted in 1976 after decades

of Maoist state-subsidies encouraging large families.

Chinese foreign relations tended to be more influenced by

ideological yardsticks than economic links since China had

very few commercial links with the outside world.  In 1979,

Chinese urbanites on average made the equivalent of five

dollars per month.

 

3. (C) Just as no one in 1979 would have predicted that China

would become the United States' most important relationship

in thirty years, no one today can predict with certainty

where our relations with Beijing will be thirty years hence.

However, given the current significance of the bilateral

relationship and the risk of missing opportunities to jointly

address ongoing and predictable future challenges, below we

look at trends currently affecting China with an eye to how

those trends might affect relations.  Several issues leap

out, including China' insatiable resource needs, our growing

economic interdependence, China's rapid military

modernization, a surge in Chinese nationalism, China's

demographic challenges, and the PRC's increasing influence

and confidence on the world stage.

 

4. (C) China has been plagued over the millennia by

unforeseen events that devastated formerly prosperous

regimes.  Mongol invasion, the Black Death, uncountable

peasant uprisings, warlords, tax revolts, communist

dictatorship, colonialism, famine, earthquakes and other

plagues were largely unforeseen by the China watchers of the

past.  This report focuses generally on more optimistic

projections.  Given China's history, however, the United

States should also gird itself for the possibility that China

will fall short of today's mostly sanguine forecasts.

 

Resource Consumption

--------------------

 

5. (C) Popular and scholarly works in recent years highlight

China's growing demand for natural resources and the possible

impact that China's pursuit of resources will have on its

foreign policy.   Since economic reforms began in the late

1970s, industrial and exchange rate policies have fueled

investment in resource-intensive heavy industries in China's

coastal region, which currently account for approximately 55

percent of the country's total energy consumption today.  A

construction boom over the past decade has also stimulated

growth in heavy industries.  China is now a leading steel

producer and currently accounts for 50 percent of the world's

annual cement production.  Reflecting China's emphasis on

resource-intensive industries, China's energy utilization

rate grew faster than its GDP between 2002 and 2006.  In

1990, China consumed 27 quadrillion British Thermal Units

(BTUs) of energy, accounting for 7.8 percent of global

consumption.  In 2006, it consumed 68.6 quadrillion BTUs or

15.6 percent of the global total.  According to U.S.

Department of Energy statistics, by 2030 China will account

for 145.5 quadrillion BTUs or 20.7 percent of global energy

consumption.

 

6. (C) China's oil demand has grown substantially over the

last 30 years.  In 1980, China consumed 1.7 million barrels

of oil per day, almost all of which was produced

domestically.  In 2006, China consumed 7.4 million barrels

per day, second only to the United States.  According to the

International Energy Agency (IEA), China's oil consumption

will reach 16.5 million barrels per day in 2030.  More than

two thirds of the increased demand will come from the

 

BEIJING 00000022  002 OF 007

 

 

transport sector as vehicle ownership rates rise.  China

became a net importer of oil in 1993, and it now relies on

imports to meet a growing portion of its fossil fuel needs.

The IEA forecasts that China's oil import dependence will

rise from 50 percent this year to 80 percent by 2030, as

domestic oil production peaks early in the next decade.  To

strengthen the country's future energy security, the Chinese

Government has adopted a "go out" policy that encourages

national oil companies (NOCs) to acquire equity stakes in

foreign oil and gas production.  Today, state-owned Chinese

oil giants CNPC/PetroChina, CNOOC, and Sinopec can be found

in Sudan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Angola, and the

Caspian Basin.

 

7. (C) China has also increased its reliance on imported

minerals, and many analysts have attributed the global

commodities boom of recent years in part to China's growing

demand.  Between 1980 and 2006, China became the world's

largest consumer of iron, copper and aluminum.  Chinese

conglomerates are ubiquitous in sub-Saharan Africa exploiting

mineral wealth there, and Chinese multinationals have

significant investments in Australian mineral and uranium

production.

 

8. (C) China's reliance on coal has come at an appalling

environmental cost.  This year, China surpassed the United

States in carbon emissions, and it will soon become the

world's biggest energy consumer.  Between now and 2030, the

IEA estimates, China will need to add 1,312 gigawatts of

power generating capacity, more than the total current

installed capacity in the United States.  Coal-fired power

generation, a major source of air pollution, accounts for

approximately 78 percent of China's total electricity supply,

and it will likely remain the predominant fuel in electricity

generation for at least the next 20 years.  Analysts predict

that domestic coal production will peak in the next 15 to 25

years.   China already became a net importer of coal in 2007,

and coal imports are expected to grow in the coming decades

to meet growing demand in China's coastal provinces.

 

9. (C) The Chinese Government recognizes the need to reduce

dependence on coal, and it is pursuing policies to diversify

its energy mix.  China is already the largest producer of

renewable energy in the world, with major investments in

large-scale hydro and wind power projects.  Nuclear and

natural gas power will also account for a greater proportion

of energy production, but under current projections, efforts

to diversify China's energy mix will not have a large enough

impact to curb greenhouse gas emissions growth.

 

10. (C) China's energy intensive growth has also had tragic

consequences for public health.  By most measurements, at

least half of the world's most polluted major cities are in

China.  Rural residents, in particular farmers, have been

affected by water pollution and dwindling water supplies,

which are frequently redirected for industrial use.

Respiratory disease, water-borne illness and tainted food

scares are facts of modern life in the country.  According to

a recent WHO study, diseases caused by indoor and outdoor air

pollution kill 656,000 Chinese citizens every year.  Another

95,600 deaths are attributed annually to polluted drinking

water.

 

11. (C) China's increasing reliance on imported natural

resources has foreign policy ramifications and provides

opportunities for the United States.  A China that is

increasingly dependent on Middle Eastern oil might be more

likely to support policies that do not destabilize the Middle

East.  Take Iran, for instance.  We have long been frustrated

that China has resisted (with Russia) tough sanctions aimed

at curbing Iran's nuclear program.  In the future, a China

increasingly dependent on foreign energy supplies may

recalculate the risk a nuclear Iran would pose to the greater

Persian Gulf region's capacity to export oil.

 

12. (C) Another opportunity presented by China's increasing

resource consumption is in the joint development of

technological responses to reduce carbon emissions and to

diminish the public health impact of industrial growth.

Scientific publications around the world conclude that the

projected rate of global energy and natural resource

 

BEIJING 00000022  003 OF 007

 

 

consumption is unsustainable.  Experts warn that we must find

alternative forms of energy in order to avert calamities

posed by global climate change.  International efforts to

develop and significantly utilize renewable energy, clean up

our shared global environment, and conserve our remaining raw

materials will not be effective without meaningful Chinese

participation.  As the world's preeminent technological power

and as a leader in multilateral energy and scientific

organizations, the United States is in a unique position to

work with China to overcome these challenges.

 

Economic Interdependence and Chinese Demographics

--------------------------------------------- ----

 

13. (C) In the next fifteen years, while China's overall

population is predicted to stabilize, its urban population

will likely grow to almost 1 billion, an increase (of 300

million people) equal to the entire current population of the

United States.  China plans to build 20,000 to 50,000 new

skyscrapers over the next two decades -- as many as ten New

York cities.  More than 170 Chinese cities will need mass

transit systems by 2025, more than twice the number now

present in all of Europe.  China is now surpassing Germany as

the world's third largest economy and is projected to

overtake Japan within the next five years.  By the end of the

next thirty years, China's economy could rival the United

States in overall scale (although its per capita income will

likely only be one quarter of the United States').

 

14. (C) Behind these outward symbols of success will be an

increasingly complicated economic picture.  Since 1979, by

reversing the misguided economic policies of the Mao era,

liberalizing labor markets and prices, opening to foreign

investment, and taking advantage of the West's

consumer-driven policies, China has maintained fast growth.

However, the set of circumstances that allowed such

impressive growth rates will no longer exist in the future.

 

15. (C) Many speculate that China has reached the limit to

easy productivity gains by rationalizing the state-planned

economy.  The Economist Intelligence Unit expects China's

annual growth to slow from around 10 percent in the last 30

years to 4.5 percent by 2020.  After 2015 when the labor

force peaks as a share of the population, labor costs will

rise faster.  This will increasingly make other countries

like India and Vietnam more attractive for labor-intensive

investment.  In addition, workers will have to support a

growing number of retirees.  Early retirement ages combined

with the urban one-child limits creates the so-called "4-2-1"

social dilemma:  each worker will have to support four

grandparents, two parents and one child.  Savings rates will

start falling as the elderly draw down their retirement

funds.

 

16. (C) China will have to manage an economy increasingly

dependent on domestic consumption and service industries for

growth.  Already, urbanites are buying 1,000 new cars per

day, making China the world's largest Internet and luxury

goods market, and traveling abroad in growing numbers.  By

2025, China will have the world's largest middle class, and

China will likely have completed the transition from the

majority rural population of today to a majority urban

population.  These consumers of tomorrow will likely flock to

products from around the world as their North American,

European and Japanese counterparts do today, providing new

opportunities for American business.  If incomes continue to

grow, it is likely that the Chinese middle class will react

like educated urbanites in other countries by exerting

pressure on the Government to improve its dismal performance

on environmental protection, food and product safety.  We are

already seeing increased public activism over such issues

today.

 

17. (C) China will face a challenge in the next thirty years

encouraging this urban consumption while dealing with the

social equality issues inherent in a rural population where

over 200 million people still live on less than a dollar a

day.  China will also have to find a way to improve the lot

of between 150 and 230 million migrant workers who today must

leave their children and aging parents behind in their home

villages to travel to the industrial centers of the

 

BEIJING 00000022  004 OF 007

 

 

relatively developed coastal regions to work in factories or

on construction projects.

 

18. (C) With China's phenomenal growth has come increased

economic interdependence.  This will likely increase,

although some of the less-balanced elements of China's

economic interactions should be mitigated.  Rising

consumption rates should work to lower China's trade surplus

as well as its overabundance of foreign exchange reserves.

More assets controlled by corporations and individuals, as

opposed to the government, will diversify outward investment,

reducing political control by Beijing, but also the utility

of political suasion for U.S. policymakers interested in

effecting the flow of capital to international hotspots.

 

Chinese Nationalism and Confidence on the International Stage

--------------------------------------------- ----------------

 

19. (C) As one of two main pillars of post-Mao Chinese

Communist Party rule (the other being sustained economic

growth), Chinese nationalism is growing and should be

monitored closely.  As witnessed during the 2008 Beijing

Olympics, Chinese are increasingly proud of the tremendous

strides their country has made in recent years.  More and

more young people see China as having "arrived" and might

possess the confidence and willingness to assume the

responsibilities of a major power.  However, as was evident

during protests over the 1999 mistaken bombing of the Chinese

Embassy in Belgrade, the 2004 protests over Japanese

textbooks, and more recently the anti-France diatribes that

followed the roughing-up of a disabled Olympic torch bearer

in Paris by Free Tibet supporters, this nationalism can also

lead to jingoism.  Chinese leaders of a system with few

outlets to express political sentiments are faced with trying

to give vent to the occasional uprising of nationalistic

anger without letting it get out of hand or allowing it to

focus on the failings of the central leadership.

 

 

20. (C) With notable exceptions like Zhou Enlai, Chinese

foreign policy practitioners thirty years ago had little

practical experience dealing with the West.  Since then,

Chinese diplomats and subject matter experts are increasingly

well-educated, well-traveled and well-respected.  Chinese

diplomats at international fora such as the UN and the WTO

have become adept at using procedural rules to attain

diplomatic or commercial ends.  This trend will likely

continue in the coming decades, increasing the likelihood of

American decision makers finding more able adversaries when

we disagree on issues, but also more able partners where we

can agree to jointly tackle a problem of mutual concern such

as nonproliferation, alternative energy or pandemic

influenza.

 

21. (C) While still reluctant to claim China is a global

leader, Chinese officials are gradually gaining confidence as

a regional power.  By the end of the next 30 years, China

should no longer be able to portray itself as the

representative of lesser developed countries.  This does not

mean that it will necessarily identify with the more

developed, mainly Western countries; it well might choose to

pursue some uniquely Chinese path.  In the coming 30 years, a

U.S. President might be involved in negotiations with a

Chinese leader seeking to reshape global financial

institutions like the IMF or the WTO or establish rival

institutions for non-Western countries in order to mitigate

domestic Chinese concerns.  Even so, China's growing position

as a nation increasingly distinct from the less-developed

world may expand our common interests and make it easier for

the United States to convince China to act like a responsible

global stakeholder.

 

22. (C) Foreign assistance coordination is another area of

opportunity.  China is rapidly ramping up its global economic

presence, not only via resource extraction ventures and cheap

exports, but increasingly via direct investment and

assistance.  This investment and assistance are welcome in

most less-developed countries, whether in Africa or Southeast

Asia, and particularly in countries where China's

longstanding policy of "no strings attached no political

interference" appeals to democratically-challenged dictators

 

BEIJING 00000022  005 OF 007

 

 

and kleptocrats.  However, China is already facing blowback

as a result of its more cavalier approach to issues that more

scrupulous donors have wrestled with for decades.  Scant

attention paid to worker safety, job opportunities for local

people, environmental protection, and political legitimacy

has had negative consequences for China on multiple

occasions, from a tarnished international image and being

used as a political whipping boy by opposition groups in

democratic countries to unpaid loans, expropriated

investments, and even the deaths of Chinese expatriates.  As

a result, China is beginning to understand the merits of

international assistance standards not for altruistic

reasons, but for achieving China's own bottom-line

imperatives of a more secure international position and

better-protected economic interests in third countries.  This

realization, coupled with China's growing economic clout on

the world stage, make it quite possible that, in the next 30

years, China will come to be identified by the average

citizen in less developed countries not as "one of us" but as

"one of them."

 

23. (C) In all likelihood, a new-found (if still somewhat

grudging) PRC interest in internationally accepted donor

principles such as transparency, good governance,

environmental and labor protections, and corporate social

responsibility will have matured in 30 years' time, making

China a reliable partner for the United States, other donor

countries, and international organizations in alleviating

poverty, developing infrastructure, improving education and

fighting infectious disease.  And as one of the world's

premier economic powers, China can be expected to have all

but discarded its over-worn and outdated "non-interference"

rhetoric in the face of massive Chinese investment assets and

other economic interests abroad.

 

24. (C) As evidenced by Chinese policies toward pariah states

like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and Iran, China is still willing

to put its need for markets and raw materials above the need

to promote internationally accepted norms of behavior.

However, the possible secession of southern Sudan (where much

of the country's oil is found) from the repressive

Khartoum-based Bashir regime, the erratic treatment of

foreign economic interests in Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe, the

dangers to regional safety and stability posed by Burma's

dysfunctional military junta, and the threat to China's

energy security that a nuclear-armed Iran would represent

have given Beijing cause to re-calibrate its previously

uncritical stance toward these international outlaws.  If

China's integration into global economic and security

structures continues apace, we would expect its tolerance for

these sorts of disruptive players to decrease

proportionately.

 

25. (C) China's work in the Six-Party Talks and the Shanghai

Cooperative Organization may provide guidance as to how to

accelerate this trend.  China plays a leading and often

responsible and constructive role in both of these

multilateral groups.  Future U.S. policy-makers might

usefully consider additional international mechanisms that

include both U.S. and Chinese membership such as the proposed

Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism that may grow out

of the Six-Party Talks.  The Chinese themselves have

suggested a Six-Party Talks-like grouping to address the Iran

nuclear issue, perhaps a P5-plus-1-plus-Iran.  In the future,

we may wish to consider the United States joining the East

Asia Summit (EAS).

 

26. (C) Likewise, as the Chinese economy takes up a larger

portion of the global economy, it inevitably will become

increasingly affected by the decisions of international

economic and financial institutions.  Similarly, China's

economic decisions will have global implications, and its

cooperation will become essential to solving global-scale

problems.  Drawing China constructively into regional and

global economic and environmental dialogues and institutions

will be essential.  More and more experts see the utility of

establishing an Asia-Pacific G-8, to include China, Japan,

and the United States plus India, Australia, Indonesia, South

Korea and Russia; others say the time is ripe to include

China as a member of a G-9.  Giving China a greater voice is

seen as a way to encourage China to assume a larger burden in

 

BEIJING 00000022  006 OF 007

 

 

supporting the international economic and financial system.

 

Role of the Military

--------------------

 

27. (C) The disparate possibilities exist that in the coming

decades the PLA will evolve into a major competitor, maintain

only a regional presence or become a partner capable of

joining us and others to address peacekeeping,

peace-enforcing, humanitarian relief and disaster mitigation

roles around the world.  China may be content to remain only

a regional power, but Deng Xiaoping's maxim urging China to

hide its capabilities while biding its time should caution us

against predicting that the PLA's long-term objectives are

modest.  In the years to come, our defense experts will need

to closely monitor China's contingency plans and we will need

to use every diplomatic and strategic tool we have to prevent

intimidating moves toward Taiwan.  In the coming years,

Chinese defense capabilities will continue to improve.  The

PLA thirty years from today will likely have sophisticated

anti-satellite weapons, state-of-the-art aircraft, aircraft

carriers and an ability to project force into strategic sea

lanes.

 

28. (C) Thirty years ago the PLA was a bloated political

organization with antiquated equipment and tactics.  Today,

the PLA is leaner and is becoming a modern force.  Chinese

military and paramilitary units have participated in

UN-sponsored peacekeeping missions in East Timor, Kosovo,

Haiti and Africa.  In December 2008, for the first time, the

PLA Navy deployed beyond the immediate waters surrounding the

country to participate in anything beyond a goodwill tour to

combat piracy off the Horn of Africa.  It is likely that

China will continue to support UN-sponsored PKOs, and if the

piracy expedition is successful, China might follow up with

expeditions to future piracy hotspots such as the Strait of

Malacca or elsewhere.

 

29. (C) Over the past thirty years, Chinese officials have

come to begrudgingly acknowledge the benefits to East Asia

resulting from the U.S. military presence in the Pacific,

especially the extent that a U.S. presence in the Pacific is

an alternative to a more robust Japanese military presence.

A peaceful resolution of the threat posed by North Korea

might cause China to call for an end to the U.S. base

presence on the Korean Peninsula.  Perceived threats to

China's security posed by Japan's participation in missile

defense or by future high-tech U.S. military technologies

might cause tomorrow's Chinese leaders to change their

assessment and to exert economic pressures on U.S. allies

like Thailand or the Philippines to choose between Beijing

and Washington.

 

30. (C) Whatever the state of our future relations with

China, we will need to understand more about the Chinese

military.  Multilateral training and exercises are

constructive ways to promote understanding and develop joint

capabilities that could be used in real-life situations.  In

the coming years, the Chinese may be called upon to

participate in regional peacekeeping and humanitarian relief

exercises.  Some of these could be handled under UN auspices,

but others could be bilateral or multilateral.  For instance,

Cobra Gold, which is held every year in Thailand, is

America's foremost military exercise in Asia.  It has a

peacekeeping component and since the December 2004 tsunami in

Indian Ocean has included a humanitarian relief element.

With proper buy-in by the Pentagon and PACOM, we could create

a program to engage the PLA more directly both with our

military and with friendly militaries in the region.  Modest

efforts at expanding search and rescue capabilities on the

high seas, developing common forensic techniques for use in

mass casualty events, conducting exercises with PLA units

tasked with responding to civil nuclear emergencies, or

table-top exercises for U.S. and Chinese junior officers

could be steps that promote trust with little risk.  At the

same time, more frequent, regularly scheduled high-level

reciprocal visits between Chinese and U.S. security officials

might eventually lead to a constructive strategic security

policy dialogue on nonproliferation, counterterrorism and

other issues.

 

 

BEIJING 00000022  007 OF 007

 

 

Taiwan and Human Rights

------------------------

 

31. (C) Taiwan was the most vexing issue holding up the

establishment of relations 30 years ago and remains the

toughest issue for U.S.-China relations despite significant

improvement in cross-Strait relations since the election of

Taiwan President Ma.  It will remain a delicate topic for the

foreseeable future.  We should continue to support Taiwan and

Mainland efforts to reduce tension by increasing Taiwan's

"international space" and reducing the Mainland's military

build-up across from Taiwan.

 

32. (C) Thirty years ago, the Chinese state interfered in

virtually every aspect of its citizens' lives.  An

individual's work unit provided housing, education, medical

care and a burial plot.  Reeducation sessions and thought

reform were common, churches and temples were closed, and

average citizens had little access to the outside world.

Today, Chinese have far greater ability to travel, read

foreign media and worship.  Nonetheless, the overall human

rights situation falls well short of international norms.

Today, China's growing cadre of well-educated urbanites

generally avoids politics and seems more interested in

fashion and consumerism than in ideology; after all,

outside-the-box political thinking, much less activism,

remains dangerous.  However, any number of factors in the

future ranging from rising unemployment among recent college

graduates, or growing discontent over the income divide

separating rich urbanites from poor peasants, to discontent

among the mass of migrant workers could lead to unrest and

increased political activism.  The Chinese Government still

responds with brutal force to any social, religious,

political or ideological movement it perceives as a potential

threat.  Chinese political leaders' occasional nods toward

the need for political reform and increased democracy suggest

a realization that the current one-party authoritarianism has

its weak points, but do not promise sufficient relaxation of

party control to create a more dynamically stable polity in

the long term.

 

33. (C) While the U.S. model of democracy is not the only

example of a tolerant open society, we should continue to

push for the expansion of individual freedoms, respect for

the rule of law and the establishment of a truly free and

independent judiciary and press as being necessities for a

thriving, modern society and, as such, in China's own

interests.  Someday, China will realize political reform.

When that day comes, we will want to be remembered by Chinese

for having helped China to advance.

Randt

 


ABOUT THIS BLOG

Tom

"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

Send Tom a story suggestion.

Read Tom's stories at news.mcclatchy.com.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @TomLasseter

Follow Tom on Google Plus

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

THIS MONTH

    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
              1 2
    3 4 5 6 7 8 9
    10 11 12 13 14 15 16
    17 18 19 20 21 22 23
    24 25 26 27 28 29 30
    31            

Photo Albums