One of the most entertaining disclosures to come out of the Wikileaks embassy cable dump has offered a peek at Chinese thought in Central Asia. The Chinese have a notoriously opaque presence in the region, managing, at times, to make even their autocratic host countries look relatively open.
In response, the U.S. Embassy writes to Washington, “Zhang temporarily lost the ability to speak Russian and began spluttering in Chinese to the silent aide diligently taking notes right behind him.”
The Chinese ambassador “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.”
Next, the Chinese had some advice for the Americans:
Zhang asked the [U.S.] 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 [Chinese] 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.
As Wikileaks releases additional cables, perhaps they’ll shed more light on China’s insights into Central Asia.