Memos likely to further strain U.S.-China ties

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BEIJING | Chatter from U.S. diplomats in leaked documents paint Chinese officials as difficult and Beijing’s foreign policy as abrasive — characterizations that are likely to further harden the Chinese leadership’s distrust of Washington.

Revelations in the diplomatic memos published by WikiLeaks cover a range of topics Beijing would rather not see publicly discussed — from corruption in the ruling Communist Party to a senior leader’s alleged ordering of a hacking campaign against Google.

The personal preferences of the highly secretive leadership also appear. Vice President Xi Jinping is described as a fan of “Saving Private Ryan” and other Hollywood movies even though Beijing blocks most foreign film imports to promote Chinese culture.

While no major rupture in ties is likely, the leaking of the diplomatic memos over the past week further aggravates relations — soured by disputes over currency, North Korea and human rights — that both sides want to improve before President Hu Jintao makes a key visit to Washington next month.

“This is embarrassing for both sides and will provide fodder for critics and hard-liners,” said Malcolm Cook, East Asia program director at the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

China’s foreign policy hawks and U.S. skeptics in particular are likely to find plenty in the leaked documents supporting their contention that Washington and others in the West are seeking to thwart China’s rise through a campaign of bullying.

In one memo from last year, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd urged Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to work to integrate China into the international community “while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong.”

Washington and Beijing have decried the lack of trust in relations, even as they have feuded all year over issues from trade to arms sales to Taiwan, contacts with exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, and even Google’s decision to stop censoring its search results inside mainland China.

The distrust is such that China’s most senior foreign policy official, Dai Bingguo, told Mrs. Clinton last month that Beijing thinks Washington orchestrated the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Mr. Hu felt personally misled, Chinese analysts say, after he and President Obama pledged to fight protectionism at a Group of 20 summit last year only to have the U.S. impose tariffs on Chinese steel pipes. At the G-20 summit in South Korea last month, the Xinhua News Agency quoted Mr. Hu as telling Mr. Obama: “The two sides should trust each other.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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