Next month, US Vice-President Dick Cheney is expected to visit Beijing as part of a rare visit to the region. For the new administration of President Hu Jintao, Mr Cheney represents the right person at the right moment, given all the uncertainties clouding the international scene amid the US-led invasion of Iraq. It was Mr Cheney who hosted Mr Hu - then vice-president - on his first visit to Washington a year ago. Meeting formally in the White House and then lunching at the vice-presidential mansion, the pair reportedly got on well. It will be important that they find a way of picking up exactly where they left off, mutually working to broaden and deepen the relationship despite wider troubles. Certainly there will be no shortage of matters to discuss. For even from these earliest stages of the war, there is little doubt many old assumptions about the international order lie in tatters. And with each passing day of conflict, the issues seem only to grow in complexity. For China and many other countries around the region, the war presents the first opportunity to watch the feared 'Bush doctrine'' in action - the edict that claims an American right to strike against a future - rather than an immediate - possible threat. It is an historic shift in the approach of the world's most powerful military. Despite increasingly shrill protests in the US and around the world, all the bluster and rhetoric emanating from the Pentagon suggests America's defence chiefs are more than happy with the way it is working out in practical terms. On Saturday, Central Command chief General Tommy Franks all but declared victory, despite the fact his troops were still more than a day from Baghdad. 'The outcome is in no doubt,' he said. A CLEAN WAR? Central to such confidence - some might say hubris - is undoubtedly the widespread use of precision, targeted bombing. While many ordinary people expressed a basic humane horror at the raw power of the weapons unleashed on Baghdad over the weekend and displayed instantly on their television screens, many military analysts have viewed matters in a different light. Instead, of shock, they have expressed barely concealed delight at the ways the weapons have hit their targets with such precision that they have left other buildings nearby entirely untouched, not even fusing the electricity. Other more traditional bombing tactics - 'carpet' strikes by B-52s or the giant 15,000 pounders, both used in Afghanistan - are far less discriminate. Smaller explosive charges are now required, fewer civilian casualties can be expected. If the ranks of injured are referred to at all, it is to describe their numbers as 'light''. To the US military strategist, all this amounts to great publicity. A quick, 'clean' war can only widen the acceptance of the Bush doctrine, runs the thinking. Suddenly repeated use of pre-emptive strikes seems a lot more practical. There is little doubt that such thinking sets-off long-term strategic alarm bells for China and other smaller nations who have long preached the diplomacy of non-intervention. In that regard, Mr Hu could hardly hope for a more influential person to come through his doors. The Bush doctrine, afterall, owes as much to Mr Cheney as it does to his boss. A man whose outwardly reasonable persona often seems to mask his more hawkish instincts, those who know him well explain that his conservatism is difficult to underestimate on matters of national security. Mr Cheney's profile may have been swamped by the likes of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in recent months but that, it must be remembered, is just the way he likes it as he guides debate and decision-making in the White House. You don't get to be the most powerful vice-president in US history, afterall, by making a song and dance about it. His few public pronouncements during the build-up to war gave few doubts where he would be standing when the closed-door decisions were made to go to war. In the weeks after September 11, Mr Cheney was already warning of a rolling war on terrorism that could take 'years'' to prosecute. More privately, he left no one unsure on his thoughts about American power versus a weak United Nations. A WIDENING SPLIT In this arena, too, Mr Hu and Mr Cheney may well find plenty on the agenda when the latter arrives in Beijing. The closer US and British troops get to Baghdad, the wider seem the questions spinning off a post-Saddam Iraq. The US appears bent on creating a form of military occupation - headed by a civilian viceroy - that will at some relatively early stage hand day-to-day administrative affairs over to a fledgling Iraqi democracy. Britain, America's chief ally, however, is keen to ensure the UN has a significant role. Quite clearly British Prime Minister Tony Blair sees this as a path to restoring credibility in the minds of many of the European friends that he has recently soured. The complications only just begin at this point. Has the US already gone too far in preparing for post-reconstruction efforts without the UN, even awarding fat contracts primarily to US firms? How will it be presented as an Iraqi triumph rather than an American victory? How are Russia and France pulled on board to some sort of UN solution without it appearing to dignify a war that both were prepared to veto? Then there is the ugly question of the oil, a key factor in a great deal of the cynicism internationally towards the Bush case for war rather diplomacy. Will any post-Saddam regime naturally favour American contractors, given the 'liberation'' delivered by US forces? What is not in doubt is that it is all going to cost a great deal. Just to resurrect a slumping Iraqi oil industry to 1970s levels will require US$6 billion over two years. Factor in more than three times that amount to fix a stuttering electricity system. And even more to finally solve a malnourishment problem that now affects more than 25 per cent of Iraqi children. The US remains more than a little vague when it comes to how the funding is going to work, other than the idea of paying for it all with oil revenues - a concept which may fuel even more controversy. The responses from Mr Bush and his team have been far from clear, their minds clearly occupied with war rather than peace. During his election 2? years ago, he openly sneered at 'nation building''. On Saturday, however, he seemed to be softening his public up for even greater commitments to Iraq. His Defence Secretary, Mr Rumsfeld, however, has repeatedly stated that he wanted his military home as soon as possible. In the short term, then, international tensions may well worsen before solutions are found. The need for a cool and broad international diplomacy will be as great as ever. Mr Hu may well find plenty of room to build on China's diplomatic role when Mr Cheney comes knocking.