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WikiLeaks: Singapore’s Lee Rates China’s Leaders

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WikiLeaks: Singapore’s Lee Rates China’s Leaders

Postby momopi » Mon Dec 06, 2010 6:35 pm

http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2010 ... s-leaders/

WikiLeaks: Singapore’s Lee Rates China’s Leaders

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father and minister mentor, and the grand old man of Asian politics, is famously blunt with his views. All the more, it would seem, in supposedly private diplomatic conversations than in public.

In one of the most blistering lines in a trove of diplomatic correspondence that has already produced a wealth of undiplomatic zingers, Mr. Lee was quoted in a June 4, 2009 U.S. cable released by WikiLeaks as telling U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg that the North Koreans are “psychopathic types, with a ‘flabby old chap’ for a leader who prances around stadiums seeking adulation.â€￾

In the same meeting, which took place on May 30, 2009 in Singapore’s Presidential Palace, Mr. Lee also held forth on China and its leaders. It’s fair to say they came off rather better in the minister mentor’s estimation. Some excerpts:

On Xi Jinping:

The Deputy Secretary asked if in the future a leader like Xi Jinping would continue the policies on Taiwan followed by Hu Jintao. MM Lee responded affirmatively. Xi is a princeling who succeeded despite being rusticated. When the party needed his talents, Xi was brought in as Shanghai Party Secretary. Xi is seen as a Jiang Zemin protégé, but in another three and a half years Jiang’s influence will be gone. The focus now is on maintaining the system. There are no more strongmen like Deng Xiaoping. Jiang did not like Hu, but could not stop him, because Hu had the backing of the system and he did not make mistakes.

On Wang Qishan:

MM Lee said Vice Premier Wang Qishan, whom the MM saw in connection with celebrations in May of the 15th anniversary of Singapore-China Suzhou Industrial Park, is an exceptional talent, very assured and efficient. Wang handled SARS superbly when he was in Hainan. He excelled in coordinating the Beijing Olympics. Li Keqiang may not get the Premiership and the Party is looking for a way to keep Wang on past his 65th birthday until he is 70. MM Lee said he had met first Wang back in the 1990s but had forgotten their meeting. This time when they met, Wang told Lee he had reviewed the records of all Lee’s meeting with Chinese leaders going back to the days of Deng Xiaoping to see how Lee’s thinking had developed. Wang told Lee he respects him as a consistent man.

On China’s Rise

MM Lee said China is following an approach consistent with ideas in the Chinese television series “The Rise of Great Powers.â€￾ The mistake of Germany and Japan had been their effort to challenge the existing order. The Chinese are not stupid; they have avoided this mistake. China’s economy has surpassed other countries, with the exceptions of Japan and the United States. Even with those two countries, the gap is closing, with China growing at seven-nine percent annually, versus two-three percent in the United States and Japan. Overall GDP, not GDP per capita, is what matters in terms of power. China has four times the population of the United States. China is active in Latin America, Africa, and in the Gulf. Within hours, everything that is discussed in ASEAN meetings is known in Beijing, given China’s close ties with Laos, Cambodia, and Burma, he stated.

MM Lee said China will not reach the American level in terms of military capabilities any time soon, but is rapidly developing asymmetrical means to deter U.S. military power. China understands that its growth depends on imports, including energy, raw materials, and food. This is why China is working with South Africa on the China-Africa Development Fund. China also needs open sea lanes. Beijing is worried about its dependence on the Strait of Malacca and is moving to ease the dependence by means like a pipeline through Burma.

On Young Chinese

MM Lee said the best course for the United States on China is to build ties with China’s young people. China’s best and brightest want to study in the United States, with the UK as the next option, then Japan. While they are there, it is important that they be treated as equals, with the cultural support they may need as foreigners. Why not have International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs for China? Why not have Chinese cadets at West Point alongside Vietnamese cadets and Indian cadets? America’s advantage is that it can make use of the talent of the entire world, as in Silicon Valley. China still tends to try to keep the foreigners in Beijing and Shanghai. MM Lee noted that his own experience as a student in the UK had left him with an enduring fondness for the UK. When he spent two months at Harvard in 1968, an American professor had invited him home for Thanksgiving. This was not the sort of thing that happened in the UK, and Lee had realized he was dealing with a different civilization. In the future, China’s leaders will have PhDs and MBAs from American universities, he predicted.

On Taiwan:

MM Lee said former President Chen Shui-bian had left Taiwan in a weak economic position, which had enabled President Ma Ying-Jeou to come to power with his pledge to strengthen the economy through means including expanding the three links with China. In Beijing, former President Jiang Zemin was wedded to his eight-point approach, but President Hu Jintao was more flexible. Jiang wanted to show he was a great man by solving the Taiwan issue in his lifetime, but Hu is more patient and does not have any fixed timeline. In Chinese domestic politics, Hu had wanted Vice Premier Li Keqiang from the Communist Youth League to emerge as his successor, not Vice President Xi Jinping, but Hu did his calculations and accepted Xi when it became clear that Xi had the necessary backing from the rest of the leadership. Similarly, on Taiwan, Hu will be pragmatic. It does not matter to Hu if it takes 10 years or 20 or 30. The key is building links with Taiwan. As in the case of Hong Kong, if necessary the tap could be turned off, he said.

In this context, MM Lee said, Hu could live with Ma’s positions on the ‘92 consensus and on not addressing the reunification issue during his term in office. What mattered to Hu was that Taiwan not seek independence. If that happened, China has 1,000 missiles and is building its capacity to hold the U.S. fleet at a distance. The implicit question for Taiwan’s leaders is if that is what they want, MM Lee said.

MM Lee stated that the alternative is Mainland investment in Taiwan stocks and property. The Mainland has already assured Hong Kong that it will help out economically. The Mainland has not said this to Taiwan, but the Mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Director, Wang Yi, did urge Chinese companies to invest in Taiwan. In four years Taiwan’s economy will pick up and Ma will win re-election. The DPP lacks strong potential candidates. Su Zhen-chang is promising, but seems unlikely to be able to win. Meanwhile, even the traditionally DPP-supporting farmers in Taiwan’s South need China’s market for vegetables and other products. Taiwan’s continued participation in the World Health Assembly depends on Beijing. Beijing’s calculation seems to be to prevent Taiwan independence in the near term, then bring Taiwan “back to China,â€￾ even if it takes 40 or 50 years. MM Lee said he is looking forward to visiting Fujian Province, where preparations are underway for a new southern economic area linked with Taiwan.

– Jason Dean
momopi
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