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Cablegate: China National Day in Hcmc Falls Flat

VZCZCXRO6138
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #1110 2750541
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020541Z OCT 06
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1528
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0010
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 1612

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001110

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV VM CH XC
SUBJECT: CHINA NATIONAL DAY IN HCMC FALLS FLAT

1. (SBU) Summary: China's National Day reception in HCMC was
drab and declasse in comparison with the previous two years.
Last year, local diplomats and businesspeople were struck by
China's "charm offensive" and its increasing influence in
Southeast Asia in particular. The Chinese hosts were confident,
outward-looking, and magnanimous and their event was technically
sophisticated and elegantly understated. This year, the hosts
appeared withdrawn, the multimedia execution was flawed, and the
"cultural" performances were Chinese kitsch. End Summary

2. (SBU) Principal Commercial Officer and ConOff, both Chinese
speakers, represented the U.S. Congen at the event hosted by
China's CG and Dean of the Consular Corps, Madame Gao Deke. The
majority of the 300 guests were elderly, badly-dressed
Vietnamese men, wearing labor hero or other Communist medals.
Most seemed to know each other and congregated in small groups
to talk, drink, eat, and smoke. They did not interact with
their Chinese hosts beyond exchanging greetings. There were
only five or six Westerners present, not counting hotel
management. The old Vietnamese cadres ignored the Westerners,
the Chinese, and the few younger persons in attendance. The
Chinese hosts engaged almost exclusively a small number of
Chinese, Hong Kong, and international businesspeople.

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3. (SBU) Madame Gao gave a 15-minute speech in Chinese with
Vietnamese consecutive interpretation. English translation was
projected on four screens visible from all points in the room.
Whereas last year's English translation was smooth, this year's
was imperfect and the person controlling projection of the text
evidently did not know English; the text was consistently behind
or ahead of the speech. The speech was almost drowned out by
the roar of conversation throughout the room. The inattention
of this year's audience also contrasted with respectful
attention paid to Madame Gao at last year's event. Madame Gao
began by acknowledging the accomplishments of the Chinese
people, "under the leadership of the Communist Party," which
have allowed China develop from a "poor country" into a
"relatively prosperous socialist country." The modesty of this
statement was a striking contrast to the confident,
internationalist tone of her remarks last year. With regard to
the Sino-Viet bilateral relationship, Madame Gao focused on
trade statistics and the several bilateral high-level state and
Party visits of the past year.

4. (SBU) The Vietnamese speaker was HCMC People's Committee Vice
Chairman Nguyen Thanh Tai who's speech was devoid of content
beyond the traditional fraternal socialist friendship between
Vietnam and China.

5. (SBU) Following the speeches and toasts, there was a series
of "cultural performances" with performers dressed in curious
outfits. Some young women wore an amalgam of colorful "ethnic"
blouses and variously-shaped hats, with mini-skirts and
high-heel knee boots. A couple of young men wore vaguely
Uighur-looking short vests with no shirts, and gym shoes. The
sound system seemed not be functioning properly and the music
and singing were badly distorted. As the performances went on,
the old Vietnamese cadres paid no attention and simply shouted
more loudly to each other.

6. (SBU) Comment: What was most notable about this event was
the lack of meaningful interaction among guests and between
hosts and guests. At last year's event, the Chinese hosts made
an effort to engage all the guests and to introduce the
Westerners to Chinese businesspeople and Vietnamese officials.
This year, they appeared to make no such effort. Also notable
was the absence of younger, successful-looking guests. Judging
from this event, the Chinese Consulate General in HCMC is not
reaching out to the next generation of Vietnamese leaders and
entrepreneurs, but is careful to sustain its relationship with
old Party cadres. The Chinese friends of these cadres appear
not to be as interested as they were last year in engaging
Westerners or in showing the elite of Ho Chi Minh City that
China is a future-looking power in Southeast Asia.

WINNICK

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