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Cablegate: Beijing Olympics Impress Ethiopia

VZCZCXRO5252
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #2837 2881317
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141317Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2373
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0466
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEPADJ/CJTF HOA
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 002837

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ET CH
SUBJECT: BEIJING OLYMPICS IMPRESS ETHIOPIA

REF: STATE 105510

1. (U) Discussions with Ethiopian officials, political opposition
leaders, and professional colleagues suggest that China impressed
Ethiopia by hosting one of the most precisely orchestrated and
technically impressive Olympic Games in memory. While news of
pre-games demonstrations did reach the Ethiopian press, most urban
Ethiopians saw the games as a masterfully hosted athletic
competition. As Ethiopia entered the games from a position of
strong bilateral relations with China, if anything the games
confirmed to some Ethiopians the appropriateness of China as a
strong partner. While impressed with the level of China's
development which the games' coverage highlighted, some Ethiopian
opinion leaders have questioned at what cost such development has
come, and whether it is worth it.

2. (U) Throughout the two weeks of mid-August, television sets
around the country were tuned to the Olympics. As Ethiopia's
electronic media is dominated by the government -- which, itself,
has long complained of press bias highlighting Ethiopia's own human
rights record and questions of political space -- the games were
overwhelmingly covered as a sporting competition rather than as a
platform for broader public discussion on developments in China or
juxtaposing those to local conditions. The Ethiopian print and
electronic media, particularly Ethiopian Television (ETV),
throughout the games repeatedly highlighted China's great strides in
development. Many interlocutors viewed the coverage as a subtle
attempt by state-owned media to convince the public that a strong
and focused leadership is the only path to development.

3. (SBU) While the games impressed Ethiopian viewers for the
technology they put on display, fundamentally they did not alter
government, media, or business perceptions of China significantly.
One opposition law-maker expressed concern that there may be too
many Chinese workers in Ethiopia, but this is not a major point of
concern that the Embassy has heard from host country nationals.
Instead, Ethiopia has a robust relationship with China and Chinese
firms are active contributors to Ethiopia's infrastructural
development. Despite China's obvious presence, particularly in the
roads and construction sectors, Ethiopia has protected its objective
of developing domestic capacity by limiting the Chinese worker
presence and ensuring that Ethiopians make up a majority of project
workforces including among more skilled positions. As a result, the
Ethiopian public generally does not view China as an economic or
employment sector threat. Against this positive backdrop, the
Olympics only confirmed a positive view of China.

YAMAMOTO

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