THE PRESIDENTIAL " DROP-BY"
is reporting a White House finesse of a particularly grim foreign visitor:
"Communist China's defense minister Gen. Cao Gangchuan, most associated with nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation to terrorist countries, set for DC meeting with Condi Rice tomorrow; split over Oval Office greet by President Bush, Congress may get involved, say sources... Developing... "
Longtime observers will recall during the first Bush administration when Boris Yeltsin, then newly elected president of the Russian S.S.R. and rival to Soviet president and CPSU General-Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, visited the United States, his White house visit was handled in a similar manner by National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft ( Condi Rice's boss at the time). The reason was to avoid the perception of " favoring " Yeltsin and undermining Gorbachev's position by according Yeltsin honors more suitable for a head of state.
General Cao is, unlike Yeltsin, a sinister figure. If there's an Axis of Evil he's one of the guys spinning the wheel. However it's a mistake to attribute much personal responsibility to Cao - he represents a factional element of the Chinese leadership ( unlike the Soviets, the guerilla warfare origin of the Chinese revolution in 1949 left the PLA generals and the CP Party apparatchiks far more integrated in each other's domains than was the case in the USSR where the Red Army was third in the pecking order behind Party and KGB and institutionally segregated from the Party upper echelon). China may have sent him because he has the competence and authority to explore a serious deal on proliferation with the U.S. the way a Foreign ministry diplomat might not.
The delicate way General Cao is being handled may reflect not only Bush concern for domestic criticism but the potential effects the meeting could have on the power struggle between outgoing senior leader Jiang Zemin, and his successor Hu Jintao. Jiang, who is close to the PLA top leadership, still controls one of the three most powerful posts in China, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and he has resisted the mandatory, gradual retirement system for top officials instituted by Deng Xiaoping to preclude the continuation of the geriatric oligarchy of the early post-Mao years .