China: April 9, 2001

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The EP-3 hostage crises is revealing rifts within the Chinese government. The politicians want to settle the issue, but the military is throwing its weight around. Chinese chat rooms show people are becoming concerned about the political backlash in America. Although China blocks many US internet news sites, most Chinese users can get plenty of news from the West. Over the weekend, the news arrived in China that US members of Congress were calling the EP-3 crew hostages and that opinion surveys in America showed a growing majority of people wanting to cut trade with China. Currently, China exports some $75 billion in goods to the US, and buys much less. Any legislation to penalize China trade would quickly be felt in China. So Chinese public opinion is beginning to shift. It's also becoming known in China that the damage on the EP-3 was mainly underneath the aircraft, indicating that it was likely that the Chinese fighter ran into the American EP-3, and not the other way around. The American pilot could not see the Chinese jet beneath the EP-3, and it is a favorite tactic of fighters intercepting recon aircraft to get underneath and zip in front of the larger, slower, airplane. This would freak out the EP-3 pilot, and give the intercepting jets a psychological edge. It has also come out that the second Chinese jet may have then forced the American EP-3 to land on Hainan, in part by firing warning shots. The fighter pilot also was reported to have asked permission to shoot down the EP-3. The Chinese military does not want to lose face by admitting that their pilot caused the collision, or that they illegally forced the American aircraft out of international air space and onto a Chinese airfield. The Chinese generals are not on good terms with the government. Although the Chinese defense budget has been increased over the last few years, the PLA (People's Liberation Army) has been forced to give up its lucrative factories and administrative posts (generals were previously put in charge of provinces or other administrative jobs.) The generals will probably lose, and they will be seething, looking for revenge from someone. The government will probably offer them an even larger budget. 

 

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