Cablegate: Said the Tiger to the Dragon: Readout Of

Published: Fri 21 May 2004 03:16 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 000780
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/20/2014
Classified By: DCM Jane B. Fort for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) Visiting Ireland May 11-12, Chinese Premier Wen
Jiabao met Irish President Mary McAleese, Dail (Parliament)
Speaker Rory O'Hanlon, and Chairman of the Senate Rory Kiely
before extended, substantive discussions with the Taoiseach
(Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern. Wen then visited Iona
Technologies in Dublin, the Shannon Free Trade Zone, and the
University of Limerick. The Irish were left with the
impression that Wen and his entourage were modern, pragmatic
and eager-to-learn how the Chinese dragon could emulate the
economic wonders of the Irish "Celtic tiger." However, while
ready to take on board Irish economic and education ideas,
the Chinese were not ready to embrace the modern political
practices that were the sine qua non of Ireland's success.
End Summary.
2. (C) Poloff spoke May 18 with Cliona Manahan Leslie,
Director of the DFA's Asia and Oceana branch, who had just
several completed days of meetings in Ireland and in Brussels
covering China's visits. She described a businesslike and
open atmosphere for dialogue encouraged by the Chinese who
clearly came "to learn how Ireland succeeded." Manahan
Leslie, an experienced (and enthusiastic) China watcher, was
left with "real hope for the future" regarding Chinese
development and relations with the EU.
3. (U) Meetings on May 17 included one with President Mary
McAleese, which was cordial and pro forma. A meeting with
Dail Chair O'Hanlon resulted in the call for more development
of Irish-Chinese relations through enhanced exchanges with
the Chinese National Peoples' Congress and other agencies.
4. (C) The extended exchanges with the Taoiseach were
substantive and wide ranging, according to Manahan Leslie.
She recalled Wen saying he had come to Ireland "to learn how
Ireland's economy grew so fast." While open to a free
exchange of ideas, the Chinese were not ready to admit the
need for political liberalization, she added.
5. (C) China has problems with sustainable development and
they know it. Their economy "is growing too fast, there are
too few controls on construction, and gas consumption is too
high," Wen is reported to have said.
6. (C) The Chinese were told that the Irish economy took
off in the 1990's because economic support structures were in
place, such as liberalized banking rules, a good educational
system, and low taxes relative to the rest of the EU. These
in turn led to significant foreign direct investment from
both sides of the Atlantic.
7. (C) According to Manahan Leslie, Wen admitted that China
would "have to come more to Ireland (to learn) and to "do
more at home to improve conditions" for sustainable
investment. This includes getting young people out of the
country to travel and be educated abroad. (Note: Ireland
already hosts 40,000 to 50,000 Chinese, mainly students on
work-study visas in Dublin and other cities. There are also
many migrant workers and professionals, according to local
press reports. The Irish Chinese Information Center, which
advises newly arrived students, reports that students come to
Ireland to learn English because the education system here is
substantially cheaper than in the U.S. or U.K., other prime
destinations. End note.)
8. (C) And what about democracy and the rule of law? "The
Chinese didn't want to discuss those," Manahan Leslie
admitted, although the Irish did "cover all the expected
topics," such as human rights.
9. (C) The Irish, presumably at the behest of the Chinese,
abruptly canceled a scheduled press conference in the late
afternoon after the May 11 meetings. The public reason given
was that the meetings had run well over time so there was no
time for the press. Manahan Leslie added to Poloff that
Dublin was the Chinese's last stop and everyone was tired.
However, Poloff pointed out that if the Chinese were eager to
present a new face to the West to attract investment, a press
conference would have been a prime opportunity. Thus
pressed, Manahan Leslie admitted that the Chinese still "just
don't care about or respect the press." She added that
Chinese openness to modernization would have to "translate
into activity" on press fronts for China to maintain its
forward progress. She based her long-term hopes for China's
future on developments such as the planned EU-China
professional exchanges, including meetings of
10. (C) We caught up with Manahan Leslie shortly after Wen's
entourage left Europe. She was clearly enthusiastic over the
visit. Wen's tone and the bearing of the Chinese delegation
impressed her deeply. An outspoken China watcher for many
years, she found this Premier and his entourage more
professional and ready to face the future than previous ones.
Nevertheless, the Irish note that the Chinese dragon still
ignores the elephant in the room, that is, the need for
political reform, including press freedom, that is an
essential part of the formula for sustainable development.
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