Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) state visit to the US next week could run into more problems after 17 Taiwanese-American organizations said they would hold demonstrations in front of the White House as Hu meets US President Barack Obama to protest repression in Tibet and East Turkestan and “threats and intimidation” against Taiwan.
At the same time, just up Pennsylvania Avenue on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs will meet under its new chairwoman, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, for what promises to be extremely critical hearings on “China’s behavior and its impact on US interests.”
Added to that, the front pages of major US newspapers have been dominated by stories about the unexpected testing of China’s new J-20 stealth fighter this week amid speculation that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is acting independently of the civilian leadership.
All of this could add up to a very difficult and even embarrassing two-day visit to Washington for Hu.
While his itinerary is being kept under close wraps, it is understood that he will fly into Andrews Air Force Base near Washington on Tuesday and stay at Blair House, across the street from the White House.
He will attend a private dinner in the White House that night and the next day he will hold talks with Obama. Hu is next scheduled to attend a lunch at the State Department before returning to Blair House, where he will receive members of US Congress and the media before touring the new Chinese embassy complex. Another dinner will be held at the White House later that evening.
On Thursday, Hu will meet Chinese Americans before leaving for Chicago.
The Taiwanese-American group that plan to protest Hu’s visit sent a letter to Obama appealing for the White House to reaffirm the US’ support for “freedom, democracy and human rights in Taiwan.”
“We ask you to prod China to dismantle its 1,600 missiles targeted at Taiwan and renounce the threat or use of force against Taiwan. We also implore you to impress upon the Chinese delegation that it is essential to end Taiwan’s international political isolation,” the letter says.
Formosan Association for Public Affairs president Bob Yang (楊英育), the main organizer of the protests and initiator of the joint letter, said: “We want to emphasize that Taiwan was never part of the PRC [People’s Republic of China] and that the PRC has no basis whatsoever to claim sovereignty over Taiwan.”
Hu’s trip comes at a time when US-China relations are under great strain because of Beijing’s economic and military policies.
At a briefing on Wednesday, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen was asked by a Taiwanese journalist about China’s testing of the J-20 stealth fighter earlier this week when US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was visiting Beijing.
“China is investing in very high-end, high-tech capabilities. And the question that is always out there is to try to understand exactly why,” Mullen said.
“The Chinese are not 10 feet tall. What I have not been able to crack is the why on some of these capabilities they are developing. Many of these capabilities seem to be focused very specifically on the United States,” he said.
It now seems certain that Hu will face some difficult questions while he is in Washington about the expansion of the Chinese military.