Hu Knew What and When

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Picking up a point from Austin’s comments, the issue of whether the top Chinese leadership knew about the test of the anti-satellite missile before it was fired. President Bush’s National Security Adviser Stephen Handley suggested in a comment to the New York Times earlier this week that they might not have. That has drawn widespread skepticism from many China watchers, a skepticism with which I concur, though there have been other, lesser incidents that indicate dissonance between the military and the Foreign Ministry. It’s entirely possible that the Foreign Ministry didn’t know and wasn’t told what to say for several days after the news of the test broke. That’s happened before in many other countries, after all. Any number of White House spokesmen have had to backpedal on flat denials. But the idea Hu and other senior leaders didn’t know would suggest the military is acting on its own on something that surely everyone knew would have widespread repercussions, which is pretty farfetched. If Hu and company have proven anything this year it is a) they have a increasingly sophisticated understanding of foreign policy and b) that Hu is increasingly moving to consolidate his grip on power ahead of a crucial party congress later this year. Lastly, China says it warned the U.S. before the test, so it’s pretty unlikely they didn’t warn their own President and Commander in Chief.