If the Machinists union at Boeing rejects the company's contract offer and begins a strike tomorrow, the company could find itself in the...

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If the Machinists union at Boeing rejects the company’s contract offer and begins a strike tomorrow, the company could find itself in the middle of a delicate diplomatic dance.

To wit: What to do with President Hu?

Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to arrive in Seattle on Monday to begin his first official visit to the U.S.

On Tuesday, the Chinese leader is tentatively scheduled to tour Boeing’s Everett plant at 10 a.m.

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Alan Mulally, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, would be Hu’s guide. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell, all Democrats, are expected to tag along.

But if angry Machinists are manning picket lines at the factory gates, will the visit proceed as planned?

“We have a plan B,” said Linda Lee, a Boeing spokeswoman.

What is that plan? “We’ll just have to wait and see,” said another Boeing executive.

Lee noted that “everything that is taking place has to be approved by the [Chinese] consulate general’s office” in San Francisco. A public-affairs representative at the consulate did not return a call seeking comment.

Boeing originally planned to invite all first-shift workers in the Everett plant to an event inside the factory to hear speeches by Hu, Mulally and others.

But the time allotted for the visit to Boeing has shortened throughout the week, Lee said, so Hu may have time only for the tour.

“Every day we meet and they keep changing the goal posts,” she said.

Leaders of the Machinists union said they learned of Hu’s visit to Boeing months ago. Negotiators hoped the schedule of the visit so close to today’s Machinists vote might help the union at the bargaining table.

“We thought that meant they were going to be nice,” said Machinists spokeswoman Connie Kelliher with a laugh.David Bowermaster: 206-464-2724 or dbowermaster@seattletimes.com