The New York Times reported that the test took place just hours before the visit and that Gates asked President Hu Jintao about the timing. Hu said the test had nothing to do with Gates. The Times article infers there may be some disconnect between the Chinese government and the test, implying that perhaps Hu had not authorized the test.
Mr. Gates said he directly asked Mr. Hu why it was conducted during a three-day trip that is meant to smooth over rocky relations between the United States military and China’s increasingly assertive armed forces.
Mr. Hu replied, Mr. Gates said, that it “had absolutely nothing to do with my visit.” Asked if Mr. Gates truly believed that, Mr. Gates said yes, but acknowledged he had questions about whether the Chinese military was acting independently of the political leadership. “I’ve had concerns about this over time,” Mr. Gates said.
A senior American defense official traveling with Mr. Gates said the secretary and his aides were surprised that Mr. Hu appeared to be unaware of the test flight when Mr. Gates raised it with him.
Still, it’s not an arms race.
The Chinese military acting independently of its political leadership would be cause for a degree of alarm in the 7th Fleet, although testing a fighter jet is hardly a reason to set General Quarters. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on.