One of the most entertaining disclosures to come out of the Wikileaks embassy cable dump has offered a peek at Chinese thought in Central Asia. The Chinese have a notoriously opaque presence in the region, managing, at times, to make even their autocratic host countries look relatively open.
So here is an enlightening nugget from February 2009, just after then-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said he would close the American base at Manas. American Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller confronts her Chinese counterpart, Zhang Yannian, with the rumor that Beijing had offered Bishkek $3 billion to close the base.
In response, the U.S. Embassy writes to Washington, “Zhang temporarily lost the ability to speak Russian and began spluttering in Chinese to the silent aide diligently taking notes right behind him.”
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