- By Josh Rogin
Not much is known about Xi Jinping, the expected next president of China, but according to a newly public WikiLeaks cable, Xi has been complaining to America’s neighbors about "well fed foreigners" pointing fingers at China.
In a February 2009 trip to Mexico, the first stop in Xi’s six-country tour of Latin America, the current vice president of China blurted out his feelings about criticisms of Chinese diplomacy, according to a diplomatic cable classified by acting deputy chief of mission James Williard.
"There are some well fed foreigners who have nothing better to do than point fingers at our affairs," Xi blurted out at a lunch meeting, appropriately. "China does not, first, export revolution; second, export poverty and hunger; third, cause troubles for you."
Xi showed up with representatives of 20 Chinese companies in tow and made the case that China and Mexico have common cause to cooperate economically, as both are developing countries facing the consequences of a global financial crisis they didn’t cause. The embassy cable noted that Xi’s outburst seemed to reveal the Xi’s true feelings about America despite a more diplomatic message during the rest of his visit.
"It should be noted that his criticism of ‘well-fed foreigners’ sharply contrasted from the overarching cooperation theme of his visit and were delivered on the first leg of his trip in a country with strong ties to the United States," the cable said.
The cable reported that Mexico was trying to correct its huge trade deficit with China and that Mexican officials were wary of China’s tactic of expanding economic activity in developing countries.
"We don’t want to be China’s next Africa," a Mexican official told a U.S. Embassy economics officer, according to the cable, referring to the oft-cited criticism that China has pursued a strategy of seizing the continent’s huge natural resources while dumping cheap industrial and manufactured products into foreign markets. "We need to own our country’s development."
Two other recently released WikiLeaks cables also detailed China’s charm offensive in Latin America and skepticism on that continent of Chinese motives and practices.
"China’s strategy in Latin America is clear: it wants to ‘control the supply of commodities,’ said the Brazilian consul general in Shanghai," according to one cable sent to Washington from the U.S. Shanghai Consulate in April 2009.
"Colombia is wary of Chinese motives and what it sees as lax Chinese environmental and labor standards. However, Colombia needs new economic partners, particularly given the lack of progress on a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade agreement (FTA)," said another cable, conveying the views of Colombian diplomats as reported by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
The cables paint a picture of an aggressive Chinese effort to insert state-owned companies into America’s backyard while Latin American countries have few options but to go along in the face of American neglect.
Xi, who is expected to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2012, has been intimately involved in those efforts, the cables show.
So how did his trip to Mexico go? The cables report the results as mixed.
"Xi’s visit intensified the Mexico-China dialogue," the cable said. "However, Mexico’s trade deficit with China and concerns over China’s approach to investment continue to color Mexico’s perception of China as a true partner."
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a senior editor at The National Interest. Prior to Fletcher, he taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Drezner has received fellowships from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Harvard University. He has previously held positions with Civic Education Project, the RAND Corporation, and the Treasury Department.| Daniel W. Drezner |