A long-unspoken fear of Washington’s China-hawks is the influence President Bush’s father (and his father’s advisors) seems to have over his policy on China. That concern became a lot more pronounced as China-watchers read the tea-leaves over the weekend.
First a little background.
China policy has long had a special place in the former President’s heart. And he and his close advisor and former NSC Director Brent Scowcroft travel to China frequently, seamlessly mixing business and policy hobnobbing.
The former President was there meeting with Jiang Zemin in early May with Scowcroft in tow. Then Scowcroft was again meeting with key government leaders in early July. He met with China’s Defense Minister Chi Haotian in Beijing on July 1st.
A few days later on July 5th the current President went to the family retreat at Kennebunkport, Maine to celebrate his 56th birthday with the Bush clan. There of course he spent a lot of quality time with pop. He left Maine on Monday the 8th.
Then later in the week, according to Hong Kong’s Sunday Morning Post and Reuters, the President had a meeting with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (it’s unclear how many others were in the meeting) and basically gave him clear marching orders to warm relations with China, now.
A Hong Kong paper quoted a high-level administration source thus: “The president made clear that he had been well briefed and had given the issue considerable thought… He left Pentagon hawks in no doubt that it was time to start moving forward, if possible … He is very keen for a relationship to start to develop and believes it is important for America’s security interest and the wider Sino-US relationship.”
There’s nothing wrong with this of course. The president is the president. He can take advice from whomever he pleases. But who exactly has the president’s ear on China policy? And why? How did he suddenly get so ‘well briefed’? And why the seemingly sudden change? And what ever happened to one president at a time?