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VIDEO: Senator Lugar asks: 'Who's in charge' of the Chinese military?

Hanging over Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit in Washington this week: Does he control the People's Liberation Army?

A new J-20 stealth fighter jet took a test flight during the recent visit of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Beijing, prompting Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) to probe the complex power dynamics between China's civilian government and the People's Liberation Army.

Hanging over Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit in Washington this week is the question of Mr. Hu’s degree of control of the Chinese military and foreign policy, says Senator Richard Lugar, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Speaking at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters on Tuesday, Senator Lugar noted that last week Mr. Hu told US Defense Secretary Gates that he was not informed in advance about the Chinese military’s test of a stealth aircraft during Gates’ visit to China.

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Was that statement true? “Perhaps so, perhaps not,” Lugar said. But, he added, the incident “simply leaves the question once again as to who is in charge.”

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There are two key power centers in China: the Communist Party and the military. The military seems the more reluctant of the two to deal with US policymakers. Lugar noted that Chinese officials have resisted the idea of regular visits between top Chinese military officials and their US counterparts. “The occasional high official has come but not with regularity. And the idea that we might talk strategy with the Chinese on military affairs likewise has been pushed aside as something that does not seem to be desirable,” Lugar said.

On Monday, Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor for President George H.W. Bush, was quoted in the New York Times as saying there is a “remarkable amount of chaos in the [Chinese] system” of government.

Responding to the quote, Senator Lugar said, “So this is not necessarily chaotic. This may be the Chinese system. But nevertheless it is one of concern to us, as talks begin with our president and the Chinese premier as to really how far the premier can go in talking about strategic military matters or even relations with neighboring states and the Chinese reaction or ways in which we could cooperate with it.”