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Cablegate: Impact of Olympics On Views Toward China

VZCZCXRO9696
OO RUEHRG
DE RUEHSG #0932 2941547
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 201547Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3826
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3566
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0466
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 1077
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 4064
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 0031
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 0372
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 0792

UNCLAS SANTIAGO 000932

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SCUL PGOV PREL CH CI

SUBJECT: IMPACT OF OLYMPICS ON VIEWS TOWARD CHINA

REF: STATE 105512

1. (SBU) This cable transmits Santiago's responses to questions (reftel) about the impact that China's hosting of the Olympic Games has had on views on China.

A) How closely did the public follow the Beijing Olympic Games?
Chileans followed the tennis star Fernando Gonzalez extensively. Chile sent 27 athletes to the Games with Gonzales being the only medal winner. News media focused on large matches but, in general, interest was not high due to the few Chileans represented at the Games. Apart from sports, Chilean news media focused its attention on the pollution as it affected the athletes and the tourists.

B) How were China and the Games portrayed in local media?
Mostly as a sporting competition, or did coverage touch on changes in China, discussion of human rights, or China's position in the world, or none of the above? The Games were viewed as sporting competition and not directly associated with human rights abuses. There was reporting of failure to unblock internet sites related to Tibet and the Dalai Lama this reporting however made no reference to the Olympic Games. Protests regarding human rights were noted and were shown as not directly affecting Chile.

C) Was Beijing city of China seen as modern, wealthy, developed? Portrayed as an economic threat or opportunity?
Economic relations with China are robust. They have a Free Trade Agreement and China is the number one importer of Chilean exports. The Olympic Games being held in Beijing did not affect this relationship. One article worth noting stated that the Olympic Facilities were a success however the pollution in Beijing overshadowed their grandeur. Beijing city was not reported on at length or discussed outside of the aforementioned article. It was reported that Chilean athletes complained about the pollution in Beijing city. This was viewed as a shortcoming of the Chinese Government, despite efforts to limit traffic.
On a related note, the modernity of the Olympic facilities was contrasted with the poor training facilities in Chile. Reports underlined the need to fund National Training Facilities in Chile as a result of witnessing the facilities in China.

D) If there was an increased profile of Beijing during the Olympics, have businesses, civic groups, media, or government organizations changed their approach to dealing with China?
Chile and China have had a strong economic relationship for many years. Media coverage did not report any change in economic or political relations with China. Prior to the Games, it was reported that the Chilean Senate was not taking a stance on China and Human Rights issues in Tibet.

E) Have expectations of China's global role and position changed in the view of elites after the Games?
It appears that China is in relatively the same position as it was before the Games. China is still viewed as a prominent country, primarily for economic reasons and because of Chile's emphasis on trade with Asia. No new policies have arisen since the Olympics that have been reported with regard to China/Chile trade.
Much of the coverage related to China during the Olympics was linked to the U.S. and the competition between the two countries. The connection was viewed on two tiers one was Olympic Medals won, and the other was the differing political policies related to human rights. Reports discussed the importance of China and the U.S. relative to economic strength and international status.

SIMONS

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