The Washington Times Daily - - Nation -

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.

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