'India, Japan Complained of China's Muscle-Flexing'

K J M Varma/Beijing
'India, Japan Complained of China's Muscle-Flexing'
China was "losing friends worldwide" because of its "aggressive" posture about which India's envoy to Beijing along with those from Japan, EU and some African States also voiced complaints to the US, according to a secret cable from the American embassy here released by WikiLeaks.

A new set of leaked cables published by London's Observer newspaper today showed that US Ambassador to Beijing, Jon Huntsman, in a secret dispatch on China's 'newly pugnacious' foreign policy, said Beijing is "losing friends worldwide".

The European diplomats were "most vocal" about China's aggressive posture in recent years, while Indian and Japanese envoys voiced similar "complaints," Huntsman's cable said.

"Numerous third-country diplomats have complained to us that dealing with China has become more difficult in the past year," the US envoy said in his February report, quoting among others Indian Ambassador to China, S Jaishankar.

In his cable entitled "Stomp around and carry a small stick: China's new 'global assertiveness' raises hackles, but has more form than substance", Huntsman accused Beijing of "muscle-flexing, triumphalism and assertiveness", but added that some observers saw it as a rhetoric designed to appeal to Chinese public opinion.

He said a British diplomat complained saying that Chinese officials' behaviour at the Copenhagen climate change summit in December last year was "shocking" and so rude and arrogant that the UK and French complained formally.

The Indian Ambassador to Beijing requested closer cooperation with the US because of "China's more aggressive approach," Huntsman's cable said, adding Japanese diplomats complained that Chinese officials were "aggressive and difficult" during climate summit preparations.

Another Japanese official described rising tensions in the East China Sea, saying that "the increased aggressiveness of Chinese 'coastguard' and naval units... Had provoked 'many dangerous encounters' with Japanese civilian and self-defence force ships".

Reacting to references to Jaishankar's remarks in Huntsman's cable, the Indian embassy here declined to comment.

The secret cable said that the main tensions appeared to be with China's neighbours or established western powers.

On the recent crisis between Japan and China following detention of the Chinese skipper of a fishing trawler, the leaked paper showed that Japan had not reported all incidents involving aggressive posturing by China before the incident.

The cable referred to another dispute between Norway and China over Oslo's allegation of human rights violations in China. The ties between the two countries worsened following the awarding of Nobel peace prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo recently.

A Norwegian diplomat said Oslo was unhappy with the trend of bilateral relations, citing the lack of progress in human rights discussions.

For its part, China reacted angrily to selection of Liu, currently imprisoned for 11 years for acting against state, for Nobel Peace Prize, saying the coveted award has been given to a "criminal."

In several cables, US diplomats noted China's growing influence in Latin America and Africa.

One cable said that the Kenyan ambassador stressed on the benefits of China's role in the continent.

Juliu Ole Sunkuli, the Kenyan envoy, "claimed that Africa was better off thanks to China's practical, bilateral approach to development assistance and was concerned that this would be changed by 'western' interference..."

Sunkuli said Africans were frustrated by western insistence on capacity building, which translated, in his eyes, into conferences and seminars. "They instead preferred China's focus on infrastructure and tangible projects."

But other cables suggested some African diplomats felt "a degree of suspicion and resentment" about China's role.

A Nigerian official suggested poorer countries were "coerced" into aid-for-resources deals, while a Moroccan diplomat commented: "China will never play the role of a global leader if it treats its trade partners so poorly."

Assessing US-China relations at the start of 2009, the then US ambassador to China, Clark Randt, saw growing similarities in relations with the rest of the world.

"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... Even so, China's growing position as a nation increasingly distinct from the less developed world may expand our common interests," he had said.

It was possible China "will come to be identified by the average citizen in less developed countries not as 'one of us' but as 'one of them'," he had said in his dispatch.

Access to WikiLeaks is banned in China as the whistle- blower website is blocked by China's internet firewalls.

For its part, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has dismissed the WikiLeaks as absurd and ridiculous, not worth commenting about.

Of the hundreds of the US secret cables leaked so far, some of the most striking ones related to China as they dealt with its uncomfortable relationship with its close ally North Korea, with a Chinese diplomat terming Pyongyang as a "spoilt child."

The leaked papers also spoke of China not opposed to unification of South and North Koreas and purported Chinese assessment that fall of Kim Jong Il regime would not endanger the security of China.
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