HU, OBAMA IN HARMONIOUS SUMMIT
For the first time in recent memory, the leaders of China and the United States expressed an almost identical public stance on North Korea. President Obama once again strongly urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to help rein in Pyongyang’s brinkmanship through the announced plan to conduct what it says will be a space launch of a satellite in mid-april that critics say is cover for a long-range missile test. The plan has produced unanimous international condemnation. Mr. Hu heartily endorsed condemning his communist ally’s nuclear gambit.
However, Mr. Hu is supporting the U.S. position amid political uncertainty faced by the communist leader at home, because of the recent ouster of a key contender for power, Bo Xilai and the subsequent political and military crises that are widely reported in Beijing.
Mr. Hu’s long-scheduled visit from March 26 to April 2, including stops in South Korea, India and Cambodia, produced an untimely absence from the country for the party secretary for seven days at a critical juncture in his political life. China’s Internet is awash in rumors and reports that speculate about a possible coup against him.
Chinese Internet users were transfixed by an alleged greeting in Seoul from Mr. Obama to Mr. Hu. “How are things at home lately?” the president is reported to have poignantly said upon greeting the Chinese leader. “Fine,” Mr. Hu reportedly replied curtly. The Chinese Internet then went viral in spinning the short exchange as an example of Mr. Obama’s humor and a sign of Mr. Hu’s fear of being toppled at home.
However far-fetched it may sound, such speculation is not completely off the mark. Visits to the Korean Peninsula were a prelude to the demise of two of Mr. Hu’s predecessors. In May 1978, General Secretary Hua Guofeng, Mao Zedong’s successor, was in Pyongyang when his political enemy Deng Xiaoping staged the deadly anti-hua propaganda campaign at home disguised as redefining criteria for Marxist truth, which laid the foundation for Hua’s ouster soon afterward.
In May 1989, amid a similar tense background of political intrigue at home, Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang visited Pyongyang only to be summarily purged upon his return to Beijing a few days later. Zhao died in agony in 2005 while still under house arrest.