May 13, 2012: A month ago Chinese warships training near the Japanese island province of Okinawa provided an interesting example of poor leadership and lack of discipline. It began when a Chinese helicopter flew towards a Japanese destroyer that was practicing landings and takeoffs with its own helicopter. The Japanese were monitoring Chinese radio and heard a Chinese commander order the Chinese helicopter pilot, several times, to go no closer to the Japanese destroyer. When these orders began coming the Chinese helicopter was 4,000 meters from the Japanese warship. The Chinese helicopter ignored the orders from his ship and came to within 90 meters of the Japanese ship, at an altitude of 30 meters (below the radio masts on the Japanese ship). The Chinese helicopter pilot then heeded his orders and withdrew. The next day another Chinese helicopter pilot also ignored orders and flew around a Japanese destroyer twice.
The Japanese government complained about these incidents to the Chinese government but the Chinese said it was all the fault of the Japanese. The Chinese did not explain how they arrived at that assessment, even though there was plenty of video of the two incidents. What the Chinese will not comment on at all is the frequent incidents of poor discipline on their warships. While the discipline situation is getting better, it's still something that would not be tolerated in Western navies. The Chinese problems with their crews have led to some serious accidents. In one case the entire crew of a submarine was asphyxiated when the diesel engines were not shut down as the sub dived. There have been numerous breakdowns while at sea and many subs that don't leave port much because of reliability problems. There are similar problems with surface ships but are not as noticeable as those that occur on submarines.