Did the Chinese regime’s J-20 Stealth Jet test flight in 2011 foreshadow the current political power struggle?
Well, former US Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, has confirmed that Chinese regime leader Hu Jintao did not know about that test flight in January 2011, which took place during a visit by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Huntsman was in New York on Wednesday, attending an event organized by the National Committee on United States-China Relations. Huntsman said Secretary Gates was not pleased about the J-20 test flight, and brought it up with Chinese leader Hu Jintao. Huntsman said Hu was taken by surprise.
[Jon Huntsman, Former US Ambassador to China]:
“When Hu Jintao turned to the Defense Minister, and said something to the effect of, is this true? Did it fly? And I looked at that and I thought, wow, this is a rare moment. And I think the Chinese side looked over at the US side and probably figured there were some Chinese speakers in the crowd. And the Liang Guanglie turned to General Ma who then turned to one or two others, and back the response came to President Hu Jintao: No Secretary Gates, you’re not to take offence at this, it was only a scientific research experiment.”
Liang Guanglie is the Chinese Defense Minister, and General Ma is Ma Xiaotian, the General of the People’s Liberation Army.
So from what Huntsman said, it would appear that Hu did not know about a major military exercise that took place under his watch while the U.S. Defense Secretary was in town.
Huntsman said this apparent broken chain of communication indicated something about the Chinese regime.
[Jon Huntsman, Former U.S. Ambassador to China]:
“The divide that clearly existed between civilian and military leadership, and how the principal had not been briefed, for whatever reason, which in our system would’ve been verily fatal.”
But was it really a case of the civilian head not knowing what the military head was doing? Aside from being the Communist Party leader, Hu Jintao is also the head of the military, as the Chairman of the Central Military Commission.
So – it could be that Hu did actually know about the stealth jet test flight but pretended not to, in order to placate Secretary Gates. Or, Hu was placed in a difficult position on purpose by his defense chief. But why?
If we fast forward from January 2011 to now, it may become more apparent. Liang Guanglie, the Defense Minister and General Ma Xiaotian have both been revealed to have ties to disgraced official Bo Xilai. In fact, Liang attended a military exercise that Bo had organized in November 2011, while Hu Jintao was out of the country. Hu saw this as a big encroachment on his military leadership.
If the test flight was in fact designed by Hu’s political enemies to create a diplomatic scene, then it shows that the seeds of the current power struggle between Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, against Bo Xilai and his allies may have been planted long ago.
It also suggests that Bo’s downfall was not simply triggered by the death of British man Neil Heywood – and that many other factors are driving this major political power play.