C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BISHKEK 000135
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."
¶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.
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