When Mr Hu greets his host and US counterpart, Dick Cheney, during his mission to America, he will meet a leader who personifies the Republicans' desire for a relationship with Beijing on their own terms. Pragmatic but deeply conservative - particularly on national security issues - the US Vice-President has been a low-key, but active, advocate of a more measured engagement with Beijing since taking power nearly 18 months ago. Widely considered the most powerful vice-president in US history, Mr Cheney continues to play a key role in the daily running of the White House, directing business across Mr Bush's cabinet and sitting in on key foreign-policy discussions. 'Dick Cheney is vice-president in every sense of the word,' one Bush source said. 'In many ways, Mr Hu could not ask for a more influential host. He will find no difference between Mr Cheney's ideas and the wider goals of the Bush administration.' In short, the Bush team does not want to turn away from China, yet it does not want engagement at the expense of US security interests or relations with more traditional allies, such as Japan and South Korea. In private, it frequently refers to the need to 're-align' Sino-US ties after the 'excesses' of the era of Democratic president Bill Clinton, who at times described Beijing as a 'strategic partner'. 'We want to build a deeper relationship with China but we do not want to do anything to harm US interests for the sake of it,' the Bush source said. 'Mr Cheney has always been an exponent of that.' Even as it tries to push China towards greater reforms as a new member of the World Trade Organisation, the Bush White House has taken a stronger line on Taiwan, asserting its rights under its 'one China' policy to sell arms to the island and forge stronger links with its leaders. More generally, the Republicans' slowly evolving military reforms cast a more suspicious eye towards China's military build-up, while a more unilateralist stance internationally has also been a source of friction. Mr Hu can be expected to face a blunt message should the issue of Taiwan surface in his talks with Mr Cheney. 'If China does not like arms sales to Taiwan, then it should not threaten Taiwan with its missile build-up. The ball's in their court,' the Bush official said. Mr Cheney's views mirror his wide experience. As defence secretary under Mr Bush's father, he had long involvement with national security matters, and as chief executive of Texas oil services company Halliburton through the late 1990s, he is well aware of China's commercial potential. Halliburton was an early investor on the mainland. Mr Cheney has also served on the board of the US-China Business Council. His current office contains two long-time advocates of a more cautious approach to Beijing. Lewis Libby, his chief of staff and national security adviser, played a key backroom role in the formulation of the controversial Cox Congressional Report on Chinese military espionage in 1999. Mr Libby's deputy is Stephen Yates, a former Heritage Foundation scholar who is vocal about a more robust US defence of Taiwan's freedoms.