When Obama became president, he signalled that the importance of strategic ties with Chuina. However, there were some glitches....meeting with the Dalai Lama and selling arms to Taiwan, (predictable but which led to Obama's humiliation at Copenhagen climate-change conference and refusal to agree to senior military to military ties), but common sense has prevailed and thus the visit of Hu.
The People's Liberation Army has always been a force in China. Under Mao and up to Deng, senior party leaders had military credentials and the military had accepted their subordinate role, but the present leaders do not have such credentials, and thus the PLA has been given a bigger role and a larger budget and they have been flexing their muscles eg..the recent test of the new stealth fighter.
China may be an economic Leviathan but its military pales in comparison with that of the USA. The 2010 USA's military expenditures was $729 billion compared to China's $75 billion; 71(clearly superior) submarines to 65; 11 aircraft carriers to 0; and 9,400 nuclear warheads to 240. China has more active military personnels than the USA.....2.3 million to 1.6 million ( that is with 3.5 times the population of the USA) ( Time Magizine/ BBC).
Deng's plan of tacit alliance with the USA, has held so far, but a change of leadership will take place in 2012. The PLA's role,( given its ideological and strategic mind-set i.e.seeing the USA as a sworn enemy), will be vital. Does the Communist Party still control the military and can they be kept in check?
We are in for some "interesting times". Both sides have to tread carefully and nurture the "symbiotic" relationship.....matters of trade, currency and mutual respect (human rights, Tibet, Taiwan etc.), must niot be allowed to aggravate. Lines of communications must be opened and utilised fully.