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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BEIJING22 2009-01-06 08:08 2010-12-04 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
DE RUEHBJ #0022/01 0060841
O 060841Z JAN 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 07 BEIJING 000022 



EO 12958 DECL: 01/05/2034 

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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