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Cablegate: Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan Discusses Olympics, City

DE RUEHBJ #5705/01 2420858
O 300858Z AUG 07




EO 12958 DECL: 08/30/2032


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


1. (C) As Beijing prepares to host the Olympic Games in August 2008, the city is taking a number of measures to lessen air pollution, Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan told the Ambassador over dinner on August 29, calling this month’s four-day experiment in which half the city’s cars were taken off the road “a success.” The city will complete two new subway lines and an airport monorail in time for the Games and will embark on an ambitious plan to dramatically expand the city’s subway system by 2015. Security and meeting exacting International Olympic Committee (IOC) specifications for venues are other challenges Beijing faces in getting ready for the Games. The Mayor was sanguine about the city’s real estate market, dismissing concerns over a bubble. Wang lamented that his job as mayor has been grueling, commenting that in his four-and-a-half-year tenure, he has not taken a single vacation. Wang denied rumors reported in the Western press that he is in store for a promotion at this fall’s 17th Party Congress, claiming that he plans to remain as Mayor through at least early 2009. End Summary.

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A Friendly Dinner

2. (C) Ambassador and Mrs. Randt hosted Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan and his wife for dinner on August 29 to thank the Mayor for his assistance in the city’s making road improvements and supplying permanent power to the New Embassy Compound. The Mayor discussed at length the challenges he faces in governing Beijing, particularly as it prepares to host the Summer 2008 Olympic Games, and dismissed rumors that he might be transferred out of Beijing this fall.

Mayor Wang’s Future: No Plans to Move

3. (C) Responding to gossip reported by Reuters in April that he might be appointed Guangdong Province Party Secretary and promoted to the Politburo at this fall’s 17th Party Congress, Mayor Wang said he “had not heard” any such rumor and planned to be Mayor through the August 2008 Olympic Games. In fact, Wang said, his intention is to “pass the Olympic torch” to Mayor Ken Livingstone of London, which will host the next summer Olympic Games after Beijing, in January 2009.

Olympics Challenges: Pollution, Transport, Security, Specs
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4. (C) Mayor Wang described a number of challenges Beijing faces in hosting the Olympic Games. First and foremost is dealing with air pollution. This month’s four-day experiment in which half of Beijing’s cars were kept off the roads based on odd and even license plate numbers was a success, Wang asserted. The experiment brought traffic volume down to 2002 levels, resulting in much smoother traffic patterns. Given that traffic in the city in 2002 was heavily congested, the experiment’s success demonstrates that the city has constructed a large number of new roads in the last five years. Moreover, although he was hesitant to say that Beijing enjoyed blue skies during the four-day period, taking cars off the road did in fact result in much improved air quality. (Note: Per reftel, while the test improved traffic congestion, published pollution data was less conclusive on the amount of reduced pollution attributable to the car-ban. Emissions experts doubted the usefulness of such a short-term test to produce accurate conclusions.) The city will also bring online five new, clean gas-fired power plants in time for the Games, Wang continued. By that point, Capital Iron and Steel Works, a significant polluter, will have gone to a “minimal” production schedule, the Mayor explained.

5. (C) Turning to Beijing’s public transportation system, Mayor Wang said the city has 140 kilometers of subway, but by May 2008 two new subway lines will be completed, including a line that runs north from city hall to the main Olympic Games site. The capital’s new airport monorail will also be finished in time for the Games. Looking beyond the Olympics, the Mayor described a long-term plan to expand the city’s subway lines to 5,000 kilometers by 2015, to include satellite parking lots near subway stations around the city perimeter designed to increase dramatically residents’ use of public transportation.

6. (C) Security is another challenge, Wang said, commenting
BEIJING 00005705 002 OF 002
that he greatly appreciates international cooperation on security for the Games. Meeting the “very strict” IOC specifications for Olympics venues was another significant issue. An example, the Mayor related, is the sand used for the beach volleyball site in the city’s Chaoyang district, which has to meet exacting requirements for purity and softness. In the end, Beijing had to bring in sand all the way from Hainan Island in order to meet IOC specifications. (Note: Independently we understand the amount necessary is 17,000 tons.)

Real Estate Demand Booming

7. (C) Mayor Wang was sanguine about the health of the city’s real estate market and dismissed concerns over a bubble, claiming that demand for real estate in China’s capital is growing. Although he expressed concern about the global impact of the subprime mortgage problem, he said he is not worried about the value of the city’s real estate, since very little is purchased for the purpose of speculation. For example, the city’s financial district is already completely booked up. Newcomer financial institutions like Deutsche Bank have had to locate their headquarters elsewhere, such as in the Chaoyang district in Deutsche Bank’s case, as there is no room remaining for them to build in the financial district. Every major successful company in China, both domestic and international, must have a headquarters in Beijing. For example, Bao Gang steel company of Shanghai, China’s largest, is building a new headquarters on Chang’an Avenue in the center of Beijing. The city has 140 million square meters of internal building space and is adding an additional 30 million square meters per year. Beijing has a “long way to go” to meet the high demand for real estate and office space, Mayor Wang confidently declared.

It’s Hard Being Mayor

8. (C) Though optimistic about his city’s future, Wang lamented that his job as mayor has been grueling. As the city’s leader, he has to understand and be able to respond to every issue the city faces, day and night. Consequently, he confided, in his four and one-half years as mayor, he has not taken a single vacation. Randt

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