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  • A Chinese jet crashed into a US spy plane

  • Causing a major diplomatic incident

  • And 20 years later

  • The CCP is celebrating its propaganda victory

  • Welcome to China Uncensored.

  • I'm Chris Chappell

  • Last week was the 20th anniversary of the Hainan Island incident.

  • On April 1, 2001, a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US reconnaissance plane above the South

  • China Sea.

  • The Chinese jet crashed, but the US plane managed to land...on Hainan Island, in China

  • The collision caused a major diplomatic incident between the US and China.

  • It was also the first big foreign policy test for the George W. Bush administration.

  • That is, after someone finally convinced President Bush that the collision actually happened

  • and was not in fact an elaborate April Fool's Day joke set up by Dick Cheney.

  • He's such a kidder.

  • We've never talked about the Hainan Island incident on this show.

  • It happened way before China Uncensoredeven before Youtube

  • But US-China relations are still feeling the repercussions of that incident even 20 years

  • later.

  • So let's take a look back at what happened.

  • April 2001.

  • It was a different time.

  • China Uncensored didn't exist yet.

  • But if we did, we probably would have had a Geocities website.

  • Which you could have found by Asking Jeeves on your Netscape Navigator.

  • And YouTube wasn't around, so China Uncensored would probably just be Flash animations where

  • I talked about the dangers of the Chinese Communist Party while answering emails.

  • It would have been very popular.

  • On April 1, 2001, a US Navy EP-3 maritime patrol aircraft was on a routine surveillance

  • flight over the South China Sea...

  • when it was intercepted by two Chinese J-8 fighter jets.

  • That was not unusual, either.

  • But the Chinese jets had a habit of getting dangerously close to US planes.

  • And they had been getting more aggressive.

  • To the point that the US had already made official protests to China about the issue.

  • One of the Chinese pilots, Wang Wei, was especially known for pulling dangerous stunts

  • After the Chinese jets appeared, the US plane turned and started heading back to base.

  • At this point they were about 70 miles off of the coast of Hainan Island, over international

  • waters in the South China Sea.

  • But then, things turned deadly.

  • I'll tell you how after the break.

  • Welcome back.

  • Chinese pilot Wang Wei was flying dangerously close to the US reconnaissance plane over

  • the South China Sea.

  • Here's what happened according to a PBS Frontline interview with the American pilot,

  • Lieutenant Shane Osborn.

  • The footage is from an earlier incident.

  • Osborn said the Chinese pilot came up next to the plane once, and then a second time.

  • The second time, he was only about 10 feet away.

  • He could see his face.

  • It made the American crew nervous.

  • The third time, the Chinese jet came up from underneath, and its nose collided with the

  • nose of the American plane.

  • Both planes began to fall.

  • The US plane dove 8,000 ft while upside down, but Osborn, the pilot, managed to get it under

  • control.

  • He was forced to make an emergency landing on the airstrip of a military base in Hainan,

  • an island that's part of China.

  • After hitting the US plane, Wang Wei's jet broke up in the air and he parachuted into

  • the sea.

  • Despite a search and rescue mission by the PLA, his body was never found.

  • Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party had this US reconnaissance plane grounded on its

  • airstrip.

  • They also had its 24 crewmembers, which they spent days interrogating

  • Plus, the Party's propaganda apparatus was getting into gear.

  • The main goal was to blame the Americans for the crash.

  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the US plane purposely turned toward the Chinese plane,

  • bumping it and causing it to crash

  • That might have been based on the account of Wang Wei's wingman, Zhao Yu, who said

  • that he saw the head and left wing of the US plane bump into Wang's plane.

  • Although Zhao didn't say that the US plane turned toward the Chinese jet

  • The Foreign Ministry also said that the US should bear full responsibility for the incident,

  • and also pay compensation for the Chinese damage.

  • The idea that the US needed to take full responsibility was repeated, including by then Chinese leader

  • and chief toad Jiang Zemin.

  • Jiang also said the Chinese government hadsufficient evidencethat it was America's

  • fault

  • And Jiang also accused the US of violating Chinese airspace.

  • It's not clear what evidence that the Chinese Communist Party had, because they never released

  • any

  • Meanwhile, the US government initially didn't assign any blame

  • But as the Chinese Communist Party continued with its propaganda offensive, including suggesting

  • that the US would need to apologize before China would release the American crew members,

  • the US government began to change tactics.

  • The Department of Defense released a video showing the pilot Wang Wei getting dangerously

  • close to another US plane in January 2001. 

  • That's the footage you saw earlier.

  • The US also released a photo showing Wang Wei flying close to a US plane and holding

  • up his email address.

  • You can't quite make it out in the photo, but I'm guessing it was an AOL.com address.

  • But basically, the US was showing Wang Wei was a reckless pilot who had a history of

  • showboating and harassing US planes.

  • That's something the Chinese Communist Party didn't want to get out, since they were

  • making Wang into a martyr, including awarding him the title of Guardian of the Territorial

  • Airspace and Waters.

  • After days of tense negotiations, the US ambassador to China issued what became known as the Letter

  • of Two Sorries.

  • The letter expressed sincere regret over China's missing pilot and said that the

  • US was sorry for their loss.

  • It also said the US wasvery sorry the entering of China's airspace and landing

  • did not have verbal clearance.”

  • Keep in mind, this US reconnaissance planeor what Chinese propaganda would like you to

  • remember as thespy plane”—was flying over international waters when it was hit.

  • It only entered Chinese airspace to make the emergency landing.

  • But Chinese regime took this as the US apologizing for the incident

  • The US maintained that the letter expressed the Bush administration's regret and sorrow,

  • but it was absolutely not an apology

  • Diplomacy: The art of purposeful ambiguity so that both sides can say they won.

  • But what happened to the American crew?

  • And what happened to the plane with sensitive technology on board?

  • I'll tell you after the break.

  • Welcome back.

  • The US sent China a letter of regret about the collision.

  • And afterwards, China released the 24 American crewmembers.

  • They flew back to the US 10 days after their emergency landing.

  • And the US reconnaissance plane was eventually dismantled and returned to the US three months

  • later

  • The US also paid China more than 30,000 dollars to cover the costs of housing the American

  • plane crew.

  • Which the Chinese regime claimed was compensation for the crash

  • After the Americans were safely home, the Bush administration was more direct about

  • blaming the Chinese pilot for the collision.

  • But the damage was already done.

  • The Chinese Communist Party's narrative, that it was America's fault, was here to

  • stay.

  • In the aftermath of the incident, it was clear that the Chinese Communist Party was able

  • to learn quite a bit of classified intel from the US plane

  • Although the EP-3's crew tried to destroy as much classified information as they could,

  • including by smashing computers, they weren't able to do so completely.

  • It's even possible that the Communist Party was able to reverse engineer the plane's

  • operating system.

  • Mastering it would give China a road map for decrypting the Navy's classified intelligence

  • and operational data.”

  • In 2008, an unrelated incident showed this data breach might have happened.

  • So the Obama administration spent hundreds of millions of dollars replacing all of the

  • similar operating systems in the Navy

  • The Chinese regime also learned secret information involving what the US knew about the PLA.

  • For example, that the US had been able to locate and collect signal transmissions associated

  • with Chinese submarines.

  • And now, 20 years later, the Chinese Communist Party is still using the Hainan Island incident

  • as propaganda.

  • In fact, they're practically celebrating it

  • As they launch drills in the South China Sea.

  • Here's a photo of the pilot Wang Wei's memorial.

  • Someone placed a basket of flowers with a photo of Chinese Communist Party official

  • Yang Jiechi lecturing US officials during the Alaska meeting a few weeks ago

  • The message is clearly that China is a lot stronger than it was 20 years ago, and now

  • it's a match for the US

  • And the Chinese Communist Party is of course sticking with their propaganda narrative that

  • it was the US plane's fault

  • The US reconnaissance plane made a sudden wide turn, crashing into the Chinese plane.” 

  • That's from a state-run media video that uses the Hainan Island incident to brag about

  • how advanced China's military is now.

  • But as advanced as the PLA is, it doesn't mean they've stopped flying dangerously

  • aroundUS planes.

  • Which means that there could still be another Hainan Island incident today.

  • As if there aren't already enough flash points in the South China Sea.

  • And now it's time for me to answer a question from one of you, a fan who supports China

  • Uncensored on the crowdfunding website Patreon.

  • Banana Pancakes asks: So how far will this nationalistic fervour

  • continue in China?

  • Will people go start burning down factories?

  • At this point they might as well so that factory owners can claim their insurance coverage.

  • That's in reference to our episode about China boycotting foreign brands like H&M and

  • Nike because they refuse to use Xinjiang cotton, a.k.a. cotton that is likely made from slave

  • labor.

  • Well Banana Pancakes, the truth is that the nationalistic fervor will continue as long

  • as it's useful for the Chinese Communist Party

  • They've gotten really good at being able to gin up the outrage when they need it, but

  • also keep it from going too far and out of control, thanks to the magic of Internet censorship.

  • And a mass surveillance state.

  • And a huge propaganda apparatus.

  • You get the picture

  • Burning down factories would be going too far.

  • Because then it would make China look bad

  • Just like the anti-Japanese protests back in 2012, that turned into people burning Japanese

  • cars and causing over a hundred million dollars in damage.

  • Plus, there's always the possibility that if you let people protest too much about one

  • thing, they could start protesting about other things, or even worse, protesting against

  • the Chinese Communist Party.

  • So they're not going to let that happen.

  • Thanks for your question, Banana Pancakes

  • Be like Banana Pancakes.

  • Go to patreon.com/ChinaUncensored and support the show for as little as a dollar an episode.

  • And I could answer your question, too.

  • And thank you for watching this episode of China Uncensored.

  • Once again, I'm Chris Chappell.

  • I'll see you on our Geocities page.

A Chinese jet crashed into a US spy plane

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Spy Plane Crash: How U.S. & China Almost Went to War

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    zijun su posted on 2021/06/28
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