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Viewing cable 08BEIJING1454, HU JINTAO IN CHARGE OF TIBET POLICY; LEADERSHIP

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08BEIJING1454 2008-04-16 10:10 2010-12-04 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
Appears in these articles:
http://www.spiegel.de
VZCZCXRO9478
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #1454/01 1071034
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 161034Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6606
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BEIJING 001454

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/16/2033
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KOLY CH
SUBJECT: HU JINTAO IN CHARGE OF TIBET POLICY; LEADERSHIP
UNIFIED, BUOYED AND CONSTRAINED BY NATIONALIST SENTIMENT

REF: A. OSC cpp20080407530001
B. OSC cpp20080408507001
C. OSC fea20080407617427

Classified By: Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

Summary
-------

1. (C) President Hu Jintao remains firmly in charge of
China's policy on Tibet, with the leadership unified over
Beijing's current hard-line stance and buoyed by rising PRC
nationalist sentiment, xxxxx.
Given Hu's background and experience in Tibet, as well as
the "extremely sensitive" nature of the issue, no one would
"dare" challenge Hu or the Party line, contacts say. While
there may be differences in how various leaders publicly
articulate China's Tibet policy, there are no substantive
differences among the top leadership. Similarly, Embassy
sources do not believe that two recent articles in
Party-controlled southern newspapers signaled leadership
debate or a review of policy, instead arguing the pieces
perhaps reflect an adjustment in the Party's media strategy.
The Party has been buoyed by rising nationalist sentiment,
fueled in part by anger at the West over "biased" media
reporting on Tibet and Olympic-related protests, but this
nationalistic fervor also constrains future policy choices.
Regardless, any modification of Tibet policy is unlikely in
the short term, at least until after the Olympics, contacts
say. End Summary.

Hu Jintao Firmly in Charge, Leadership Unified
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (C) President Hu Jintao is firmly in charge of the PRC's
Tibet policy, with the leadership unified over Beijing's
current hard-line stance, several Embassy contacts told
PolOffs over the past week. Sources argued that given Hu
Jintao's own expertise and experience regarding Tibet (Hu was
provincial party secretary in Tibet in the late 1980s), as
well as the "extreme" importance and sensitivity of the Tibet
issue, it would be virtually "impossible" for any leader to
challenge Hu on Tibet. An issue as sensitive as Tibet policy
would be controlled by a small group of top leaders, limited
primarily to the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee
(PBSC), meaning it is difficult to know precisely the content
of leadership discussions on Tibet, longtime Embassy contact
xxxxx.
Nevertheless, "it is still quite clear," xxxxx argued, that Hu
Jintao is "completely" in charge of the Tibet issue, and no
other leader would "dare" confront Hu or the Party line over
such a critical issue. Doing so would be "political suicide"
and would make any leader vulnerable to charges of being
"soft," or even being a "traitor," risking eventual removal,
a la the ouster of former Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang
in 1987, xxxxx averred.

3. (C) There is "absolutely no division" within the
leadership on Tibet, xxxxx. For the
Chinese leadership, Tibet is even more sensitive than Taiwan.
Among the nine members of the PBSC who are controlling
China's Tibet policy, no one has the stature or experience to
challenge Hu, xxxxx said, noting that four are brand new
members of the PBSC, and no one on the PBSC other than Hu has
direct experience in Tibet. It was Hu Jintao, as then-Party
Secretary in Tibet, who oversaw the "quick and effective

Sipdis
suppression" of protests there in 1987 and 1989, which earned
him "great praise" from then-paramount leader Deng Xiaoping
and which was an important factor in his elevation to the
PBSC in 1992, xxxxx recalled. Thus, Hu has "great confidence"
when it comes to Tibet, putting him in a virtually
unassailable position. There may be room within the
leadership for expressing differences with Hu on issues such
as Taiwan, economic development or political reform, but not
on Tibet, xxxxx asserted.

Different Views Exist in Party, but No Disagreement at Top
--------------------------------------------- -------------

4. (C) A range of contacts have acknowledged that there are
differences of opinion within the Party and among elites
regarding Tibet, though none believed this reflected any
disagreement among the top leadership. For example,xxxxx acknowledged the presence of
more "moderate" voices on Tibet within the Party, but he
nevertheless stressed that it is Hu Jintao who is
"completely" in charge of China's Tibet policy. Moreover, it

Beijing 00001454 002 of 004


is clear that those such as Hu favoring a "hard line" are
calling the shots. (Note:xxxxx view
that Tibet policy is more sensitive for China's leadership
than even Taiwan, noting that despite its rhetoric, Beijing
has de facto accepted the involvement of the United States in
Taiwan, but China can never accept the "interference" of
foreign powers in Tibet.)xxxxx,
confessed that he "personally" favors a more "measured"
approach to Tibet, to include dialogue with the Dalai Lama,
given that "only the Dalai Lama" can unify the majority of
the Tibetan community both within China and abroad.

5. (C) Separately, xxxxx "many elites" are advocating
a reassessment of policy toward the Dalai Lama, questioning
the wisdom of demonizing and refusing to negotiate with him.
According to xxxxx however, apart from a "minority" of
"elites" and "intellectuals," the majority of the Party
rank-and-file, as well as "98 percent" of the public, support
the current policy. Any serious disagreement over Tibet
among the Party leadership is "simply unimaginable," xxxxx
stated, a view separately shared xxxxx.

Public Statements: Difference in Nuance, not Substance
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (C) While there may be differences in how various leaders
have publicly articulated China's Tibet policy, there are no
substantive differences among the top leadership, contacts
asserted. For example, xxxxx said he
does not believe there is disagreement between President Hu
Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao over Tibet, as some have
speculated based on Wen's purportedly more "moderate"
comments to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his statement
to the media in Laos on March 30 regarding the Dalai Lama.
xxxx asserted that, on Tibet, Hu and Wen are like a
"restaurant sugar packet," black on one side and white on the
other, but still part of the same whole. In other words, Hu
and Wen merely emphasize different aspects of the same
policy. xxxxx said xxxxx"sensed" Wen may be
"slightly more moderate" on Tibet than some other leaders,
but he thought that represents Wen's style and does not imply
a disagreement over official policy. xxxxx shared this view,
attributing the Prime Minister's March 30 remarks to "Wen
simply being Wen" and appearing more "moderate and
reasonable" on almost every issue, even though his comments
represented no serious departure from the official line.

Southern Media Pieces Reflect No Division over Policy
--------------------------------------------- --------

7. (C) xxxxx did not think that two
recent articles in Party-controlled southern newspapers
signaled leadership debate or divisions, instead offering
that the articles perhaps reflected an adjustment in the
Party's media strategy. Both articles appeared on April 3 in
Guangdong Provincial Party papers that have a reputation for
pushing the limits of Central Propaganda Department (CPD)
guidelines. The first, which appeared in a blog run by
Southern Metropolis (Nanfang Dushibao), was critical of the
Party's restrictions on reporting in Tibet, arguing that
allowing foreign reporters to cover the story directly would
provide a more accurate picture of events. The second,
published in Southern Weekend (Nanfang Zhoumou), argued that
most Tibetans are not separatists and do not support or
participate in the unrest or advocate violence, and that such
distinctions should be made when responding to the issue.
The article also called for talks with the Dalai Lama. (See
refs A-C.)

8. (C) xxxxx with whom
PolOffs met in the last week had not read or heard of either
article, which PolOffs interpreted as a sign that the pieces
are not terribly significant. xxxxx, explicitly made
this point, arguing that the article in the Southern
Metropolis did not represent anything other than the
"pro-Western slant" of the Southern Daily Media Group and
"liberal southern journalists." The piece would only be
significant if more "authoritative" media outlets had picked
it up. xxxxx, thought it represented a desire among some
elites for a review of Tibet policy but also noted that the
piece was criticized by many internally in the Party. xxxxx, saying that
the articles merely reflected the "traditionally liberal"
stances of both newspapers, which are noted for "pushing the
envelope" ("da cabianqiu," literally "playing edge ball").

Beijing 00001454 003 of 004


It is too early to tell whether these pieces have crossed a
red line, xxxxx said, noting that both papers have often
gotten into trouble with propaganda officials in the past.

9. (C) Surprisingly, even the xxxxx had
not read either article that appeared in his group's
newspapers. In response to PolOff's summary of the pieces,
he strongly doubted they carried any political significance.
Perhaps, he said, they represent an adjustment in the Party's
media strategy. The Southern Weekend editor-in-chief must
have had prior approval from Party authorities to publish the
piece, xxxxx surmised, otherwise the editor would have been
"dismissed immediately" for publishing such a sensitive
article on his own. With Hu Jintao himself in charge of the
media response to Tibet, xxxxx asked rhetorically, what
newspaper editor would dare challenge the official media
line, even implicitly? Therefore, the article's import, xxxxx
claimed, is that it demonstrates the "slight loosening" of
Party propaganda guidance on Tibet coverage beginning in late
March, which purportedly allows for the "more nuanced"
reporting advocated in the Southern Weekend article itself.

10. (C) Similarly, xxxxx was not aware of the articles. After
listening to PolOff's explanation of them, however, xxxxx
commented that the pieces likely represent the fact that
there is "room for diversity" under the Propaganda
Department's latest guidance. (Note: Despite this supposed
"room" for more nuanced reporting on Tibet, xxxxx
said Tibet is "far too sensitive" and his magazine has
therefore decided "not to touch" the story for now.xxxxx,
reportedly have been "ordered" to produce cover stories on
Tibet under "very strict" guidelines from the Propaganda
Department.)

Party Buoyed by Nationalist Sentiment...
----------------------------------------

11. (C) Almost all of xxxxx the Party has been
buoyed by rising nationalist sentiment, fueled in part by
anger at the West over "biased" media reporting on Tibet and
Olympic-related protests.xxxxx all emphasized to
PolOff that Chinese "anger" over the West's "bias" on Tibet
is real, widespread and will have long-term effects. xxxxx
them seemed themselves to be angry over Western
media reporting, refusing to recognize the irony that for
most Chinese, their only access to this "biased Western
reporting" is through the official PRC press agency Xinhua's
characterization of it. xxxxx emphasized that virtually
"everyone" he knows is angry and believes that Western
reporting, together with calls for boycotting the Olympic
opening ceremony, implies support for Tibetan independence
and makes the public feel that the West is trying to "keep
China down." xxxxx, meanwhile, said
nationalism is definitely surging, but he thought this
sentiment is largely concentrated in the 25-35-year-old age
group among both Hans and Tibetans.

12. (C) Whatever the causes of the surge in nationalism, the
result has been a dramatic increase in support for the
Party's policy on Tibet, contacts say. xxxxx said this outcome is partly a "natural"
reaction to the fact that Chinese have in recent years become
more nationalistic as a result of growing pride over China's
rapid development, with the Tibet furor merely providing the
most recent "spark" to inflame passions. xxxx separately acknowledged, however, that the Party's
propaganda line has also purposefully stoked nationalistic
feelings in order to rally the public in support of the
Center's Tibet policy, and so far, it has been very
successful in doing so. The recent Tibet crisis has
"completely unified" the people behind the Party and
Government, something that had been "unthinkable" throughout
most of the 1980s and 1990s,xxxxx asserted.

...But Also Constrained by Popular Passions
-------------------------------------------

13. (C) Although support for the Party over Tibet is
currently quite high, popular passions also serve to
constrain the leadership's options, xxxxx
warned. Nationalism remains one "pillar" of Party rule, but
central leaders do not want to let these feelings "spin out
of control," xxxxx said. Perhaps reflecting these concerns,
the Propaganda Department earlier this month reportedly
directed that attacks on the Western press in China's
official media be curtailed, according xxxxx

Beijing 00001454 004 of 004


xxxxx. That has not, however, stopped Chinese bloggers
from continuing their attacks via the Internet, xxxxx
observed.xxxxx also expressed concern about the
long-term implications of the surge in nationalism, noting
that "nothing is ever completely good." At any rate, there
is "virtually no way" the Center could initiate a change in
policy toward Tibet and the Dalai Lama, at least in the short
term, given the popular anger over such issues, xxxxx said.

Policy Change Unlikely in the Short Term
----------------------------------------

14. (C) Major policy adjustment on Tibet is highly unlikely
for the foreseeable future for a host of reasons other than
popular sentiment, at least until after the Olympics,
contacts say. Given Hu's own legacy in Tibet, where he
cracked down on similar demonstrations in 1987 and 1989, Hu
Jintao will likely be loath to adopt a "softer" line, lest
his own policies and past actions come under criticism,
xxxxx argued. Moreover, it will be
almost "impossible" for Chinese leaders to reorient policy if
they look like they are doing so under international
pressure, xxxxx assessed. Moreover,
xxxxx observed, domestic stability remains the
leadership's top priority above all else, meaning there will
"almost surely" be no relaxation of the current hard line on
Tibet or in places like Xinjiang. xxxxx said he sensed
Chinese leaders worry they could lose control of Tibet if
they do not maintain tight control there, which would have
both domestic consequences and could invite "unwanted
interference" from India.

15. (C) While staging a successful Olympics is also a
priority, xxxxx said he senses the leadership has
assessed that at a minimum, athletes will show up to the
Games. As a result, the Center is starting to adjust public
expectations about the Games by saying that, even if there is
a "boycott" of the opening ceremony, that is not important,
given that it is the IOC and respective National Olympic
Committees, not the Chinese Government, hat decide whether
to invite national leaders. (Note: xxxxx disagreed,
saying that, in his view, the success of the Games for
Chinese leaders hinges on whether President Bush attends the
opening ceremonies.) xxxxx said
that Hu Jintao's comments on April 12 to Australian PM Rudd
on the margins of the Bo'ao Forum, which were reported via
Xinhua and reflected China's hard-line stance on Tibet to
date, signaled that domestically there is "no room for
debate" on the Tibet issue. Only after Tibetan areas have
"settled down" and the Olympics have concluded, will there be
any chance for a possible review of Tibet policy, he asserted.
Randt