Flustered Chinese Ambassador Warned of 'Revolution'
Here's a WikiLeaks snippet you probably won't read about in China: Flustered by accusations that China had offered $3 billion to Kyrgyzstan to close an air base, China's ambassador to the United States warned of a possible "revolution" in China if economic conditions don't improve there.
It's questionable how serious Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui was in issuing this warning, and he appears to have raised the specter of revolution against China's government as an argumentative ploy. But a flustered Zhang raised it nonetheless in a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, according to a February 13, 2009 U.S. State Department cable that described the meeting.
"Perhaps because of his being discomposed, [Zhang] 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," the U.S. ambassador writes in the cable. "In our experience, talk of revolution at home is taboo for Chinese diplomats."
During the meeting, U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Tatiana C. Gfoeller asked Zhang about allegations that China had offered Kyrgyzstan $3 billion to close a U.S. air base near Kyrgyzstan's capital. In response, a flustered Zhang argued that China couldn't afford to make the alleged offer.
Kyrgyz officials had told Gfoeller that China had offered Kyrgyzstan $3 billion to close Manas air base, a U.S. Air Force installation in Kyrgyzstan used by the U.S. military to resupply troops in Afghanistan. The cable describes Zhang as essentially losing it in response, temporarily unable to speak Russian, and sputtering angrily to his Chinese aide.
"It would take $3 from every Chinese person" to pay for it, the cable quotes Zhang as saying. "If our people found out, there'd be a revolution."
The U.S. Air Force still operates at the base, officially known as the Transit Center at Manas.
Find below key sections of Gfoeller's classified cable (available here at WikiLeaks), which carries the subject line, "CHINESE AMBASSADOR FLUSTERED BY KYRGYZ ALLEGATIONS OF MONEY FOR CLOSING MANAS":
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. ...
¶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.