US President George W. Bush's whirlwind visit to Beijing next week is expected to include at least one meeting with China's leader-in-waiting, Hu Jintao. It would be the first encounter between the leader of the world's sole superpower and the man expected to succeed Jiang Zemin as president of the world's most populous nation. US sources said Mr Bush and Mr Hu were expected to be officially introduced during the first round of Sino-US talks in Beijing next Thursday. Despite the tightness of Mr Bush's schedule - he will spend just 30 hours in China - the sources said there might be a second meeting with Mr Hu when Mr Bush travelled to Tsinghua University the next day to deliver a speech, which will be broadcast live on the mainland. Mr Hu, who is expected to become president in March next year after being confirmed by a meeting of the National People's Congress, is an alumnus of Tsinghua and the two may travel there together. Preliminary schedules obtained by the South China Morning Post showed that both the Chinese and American sides had agreed to a packed schedule which also gives Mr Bush considerable time in the company of Mr Jiang in both Thursday's formal talks and at informal events. Mr Bush will meet most of the mainland's top leaders, including Premier Zhu Rongji. They will have a breakfast meeting next Friday in the Diaoyutai Guest House. Thursday's talks will include discussions on the US-led war on terrorism and possible return visits to the US by Mr Jiang or Mr Hu, who has been invited by US Vice-President Dick Cheney. However, US administration officials said the Bush visit and China's co-operation in the war against terrorism did not mean that fundamental differences between the two sides had been forgotten. 'There is no question the 'new war' has pushed us closer together,' one Bush administration official said. 'We are talking more and that is good. Both sides want the co-operation to develop . . . but nobody is going to forget the differences. 'The administration has always made clear that traditional ties with countries such as Japan and South Korea will no longer be ignored and we are pleased that this mission reflects that.' Yesterday, Zeng Peiyan, Director of the State Development Planning Commission, predicted that 'Sino-US economic co-operation will grow healthily and have bright prospects' as long as both sides could 'set aside influence from non-economic factors'. But Mr Zeng did not specify what 'non-economic factors' could come into play. Last week, National People's Congress Chairman Li Peng indirectly criticised the US when he said China objected to foreign interference in other countries' affairs using human rights as a pretext. The bellicose rhetoric was amplified in a commentary in the latest issue of Global Times published by the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily. It attacked Mr Bush's plans to expand military spending and warned him that, however advanced his weapons, they could not protect him from a repeat of the September 11 attacks. 'After September 11, world opinion was optimistic that the US would change its unilateralism, because it paid its long-overdue fees to the United Nations and said it wanted to co-operate with other countries,' it said. 'But we have seen that, after September 11, it persisted in its old ways.' The commentary said that there was no military reason for Mr Bush's planned US$48 billion (HK$374 billion) increase in annual defence spending. 'What terrorism and what kind of threat exists in the world that require such spending? What so-called 'rogue states' exist that can threaten the US?' the commentary asked. Mr Bush leaves on Saturday for Japan where he will spend three nights before two nights in South Korea, then on to Beijing.