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“These are Our Rocks”

[ 60 ] January 11, 2013 |

Let me be the first to point out that there is no way in which this could end up badly:

After repeatedly flying surveillance aircraft into disputed airspace with Japan, and Tokyo scrambling F-15s in response, China’s now sending fighters of its own on “routine flights” into the East China Sea.

China Daily:

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday that Chinese military planes were on”routine flights” in relevant airspace over the East China Sea. Spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks at a press briefing in response to media reports that Japan sent fighter jets to head off a number of Chinese military planes spotted in Japan’s “air defense identification zone” over the East China Sea on Thursday.

“China firmly opposes Japan’s moves to gratuitously escalate the situation and create tensions,” Hong said.

The area north of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyus in China, is reportedly home to billions in oil and gas deposits claimed both by Japan and China.

The Chinese jets could be flying from air base Shuimen, built east of the islands in Fujian Province. Satellite imagery of the base first came to light in 2009, but experts believe it reached completion late last year.

The Taipei Times reported in May 2012 that satellite images showed J-10 combat aircraftSu-30 fighters, and various unmanned drones arriving at the base.

Accidental wars are extremely rare, but accidental “guy gets shot down in posturing-related mishap” are less rare. That said, who doesn’t like some hot F-15 on Su-30 action?

See also.


Comments (60)

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  1. ajay says:

    F-15 vs Su-30 sounds like an even match, but god help the PLAAF if the Japanese get hold of some of these terrifying aircraft:

    So far, they’ve got an unblemished kill record against PLAAF fighters.

    • Major Kong says:

      Some USAF F-15s did a joint exercise with the Indian Air Force a few years ago and found the Indian SU-30s to be very formidable opponents.

      I think the technical term is “Got their asses handed to them”.

      Not sure how the PLAAF stacks up against India, but a well flown SU-30 is apparently a very nasty machine.

    • Auguste says:

      PLAN, not PLAAF*.

      *I don’t actually know anything about this topic, I just like wikipedantry**.

      ** New coinage, must credit Auguste.

  2. Todd says:

    Billions in Oil and Gas deposits?

    Something tells me that China and Japan are not really the Pacific powers to be most feared here.

    (Begins to watch for “growing consensus” about terrorist activities in and around the Senkaku Islands)

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    That said, who doesn’t like some hot F-15 on Su-30 action?

    Especially when the F-15 pilots aren’t Americans.

  4. Cody says:

    What’s this? I see a perfect use of some stimulus spending that Republicans would approve of…

  5. Alan Tomlinson says:

    Whenever the Chinese government uses the word “gratuitous” in one of its press releases, I’m reminded of Inigo Montoya’s question: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    In terms of training, maintenance, and equipment, I would bet on the Japanese over the Chinese in a dogfight.

    This could be such a colossal clusterfuck; or as diplomats put it, “whoopsiedaisy.”


    Alan Tomlinson

    • Vance Maverick says:

      I don’t think they’re using the word with any meaning at all — it’s like a substitute curseword, the way my mom used to say, “Oh, spit!” In fact I think I’ll try this the next time someone cuts me off in traffic: “That was really…gratuitous.”

      Unrelatedly: the piccolo part in the Egmont overture is truly gratuitous.

    • Spud says:

      I don’t think so.

      The reason the Chinese are pressing this with Japan is because they know Japan won’t really do anything militarily. Its the same reason the Norks antagonize the Japanese. They know the Japanese won’t strike first and can’t engage in much in the sabre rattling department. Japan is pretty reticent to use military force for such explicitly political purposes.

      China is going to puff itself out, make some loud pronouncements and threats and Japan is just going to pay them some form of protection money in the end.

  6. Brandon C. says:

    This is actually really scary. It sounds like a ticking time bomb and not just posturing now.

  7. RhZ says:

    The overall Chinese position vis a vis the South China Sea is completely untenable, and this is just the flashpoint of the moment. 9 months ago it was the Scarborough Shoals which China has fuck-all claim to, (the Diaoyus are a much better bet for them under international law) and tomorrow there could be a flareup with Vietnam over some other collection of rocks. This shit will not go away, unfortunately.

    If you ask me, this is the hardcore Leftists trying to wrest control back by creating social disturbances and cranking up the social discontent that is always just below the surface. Its no coincidence that the Mao posters came out during the last round of protests. This could also be the PLA setting the tone so that Xi doesn’t get any fancy ideas about where the power really lies. But I suppose I repeat myself.

    It serves to focus discontent on the Mainland by using a foreign strawman to direct anger, but it will lead to a more deep-seeded discontent when the Chinese government is (inevitably) seen as being impotent.

    War is certainly not on the menu, but never say never. Always a chance of something happening, whether by chance or by some ambitious general (admiral? Ha I jest) seeking to gain political benefit by creating a crisis.

    The US has got its work cut out for it to defuse this.

    • Alan Tomlinson says:

      So many words, so little content.

      Alan Tomlinson

        • Alan Tomlinson says:

          “Hardcore Leftists” is quite vague. “Its[sic] no coincidence that the Mao posters . . . ” what is the author saying, I don’t know. “War is not on the menu . . . ” says nothing.

          The whole comment is filled with thoughts that sound clever but lack any substantiation. The writer sounds as if he or she may know something, but doesn’t reveal it.

          Where’s the beef?


          Alan Tomlinson

          • ajay says:

            It’s fairly clear, Alan. The suggestion is that the Chinese are being aggressive because of internal politics: specifically, that hardline elements in the PLA are deliberately ramping up tensions as part of a power play against Xi, both by ramping up nationalist feeling (and strengthening their position) and by creating a situation where Xi has to look weak by taking action to calm things down again.
            These hardline elements don’t intend to start a war – but there’s a risk that a war could start by accident.

            • RhZ says:

              The whole comment is filled with thoughts that sound clever but lack any substantiation.

              Clearly, I am ready for the big time!

              • RhZ says:

                ajay, sorry I may not have been clear. I don’t consider the overall aggressiveness as a signal of internal strife as much as really lousy economic circumstances. Inflation has been brutal over the past 5 years and they seem to have no solutions, housing is through the roof, and the economy is going through a slow down of some sort.

                …hardline elements in the PLA are deliberately ramping up tensions as part of a power play against Xi, both by ramping up nationalist feeling (and strengthening their position) and by creating a situation where Xi has to look weak by taking action to calm things down.

                There is some of that but didn’t mean to imply that they want to kneecap Xi or anything, that would be unwise it seems. But there are certainly internal struggles that are going on now, and to some extent one group could create conditions that Xi would have a lot of trouble to unwind, and therefore may choose to do nothing rather than deal with.

                It still remains to be seen what Xi is really up too.

                • Dave says:

                  So, actually, none of that WAS clear the first time around…

                • RhZ says:

                  You just don’t have a deep enough perspective, Dave. If you had a broad understanding of the power structure, the comment would all make perfect sense.

                  I hope the intended humor comes through there.

                • ajay says:

                  Huh. OK, now I don’t understand what you meant at all. My apologies to Alan. Obviously this is like quantum theory: if you think you understand it, you just weren’t paying attention.

    • “The US has got its work cut out for it to defuse this.”

      Possible, but I doubt it. Kremlinology is fun, but internal Chinese politics at the highest levels is all but opaque, especially at this great remove. Sure, this could be nationalists or the PLA feeling their oats, or it could be part of a grand plan to expand their influence in the western Pacific, or it could just be an incoming or outgoing Standing Committee dude with a wild hair up his ass that the rest of them don’t see as all that important. Who knows?

      I’m no expert, but my basic understanding is that throughout the Cold War, the West (governments, militaries, and civilians), never really understood what the hell was going on at the top level of the Soviet Union. It was all guess work and nobody knew what was going on. This seems analogous.

    • justaguy says:

      Xi took over as head of the Military Commission, so I doubt that some hardline PLA leaders could get away with something like this without his approval. Sure, there are areas where factions can assert themselves against the central leadership in China, as in any state, but you’ll have to do a little more to convince me that this is one of them.

      And hardcore leftists? Who would that even refer to these days? Bo Xilai?

      • RhZ says:

        Yes, Bo’s faction are the so-called hardcore leftists. The ones that carried out the political purge in Chongqing from 2009-2011 or so. Bo still has lots of popularity within the party, and that is why it has been so hard to finally get him convicted and executed (I assume he will be executed, but that’s just conjecture, as this all is).

        I agree with you to the extent that I don’t see a huge gap between Xi and the military. However, keep in mind that not only has Xi not yet taken over the military commission, he hasn’t even taken over the country yet. The handover is in March and the commission will be after that. So your premise here is incorrect.

        So, none of this is by order of Xi at all. And there are certainly indications the lame duck faction is trying to assert itself while it still can, rather than Xi directing things from the on-deck circle. Maybe all the reprisals that are coming out right now are part of that, too, but I doubt it.

  8. Major Kong says:

    I mean really, what could possibly go wrong?

    How many people have been killed over the centuries because their government was afraid of “looking weak”?

    • Rhino says:

      Essentially everyone who died in the two Iraq wars.

      Well I suppose the second one was to keep little Georgie from looking weak to his daddy.

      • CaitieCat says:

        Me, I’ve always envisioned George W as wiping away hot tears of shame, and shouting “I’ll show you! I’ll show ALL OF YOU! MY DADDY’S NOT A WIMP!”, before stomping away and coming back with a few divisions of troops. The whole WMD bullshit was just a cover for some “no he isn’t yours is and so’s yer mom” payback.

  9. Alan Tomlinson says:

    The last two sentences from the China Daily article: “Relations between Japan and China have soured since the Japanese government said it would “purchase” part of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in 2012. China insists that the islands are part of its inherent territory.”

    I’d be interested in seeing a map that shows all of China’s “inherent territory.”


    Alan Tomlinson

  10. thelogos says:

    Anyone want to start taking bets as to if this or Mali will get the hawks here loving life again?

  11. Chester Allman says:

    On the positive side, that was an excellent Bloom County reference.

  12. Icarus Wright says:

    I’ll hold off on forming an opinion until confirming whether Godzilla is for or against Japan. I know he (?) and the Land of the Rising Son got off to a murky start, what with the stomping of Tokyo, but I got the impression they’d reconciled.

    • Spud says:

      Feelings are a bit mixed.

      You have to remember Godzilla also saved Japan from several monsters from outer space such as MechaGodzilla, King Ghidorah, Orga and Gigan and stopped invasions by the Xilians twice and the Kilaaks.

      If not for him, Japan would have been overrun by freaky dressed extraterrestrials who wear sunglasses all the time.

      My bet is he will probably either sit it out or accidentally chose the islands as his hibernation spot and get attacked by both countries.

    • Ian says:

      Godzilla is traditionally a symbol of the United States, isn’t he? At first he’s the city-flattening nuclear terror, after that he’s the thuggish but somewhat amiable monster who keeps worse threats at bay.

      So, Japan would almost certainly have Godzilla on its side if it was attacked by China and/or Mechagodzilla.

      • Njorl says:

        Godzilla reverted to the heavy again in Godzilla vs King Kong (1962), and Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964).

        These obviously represent America in conflict with its better nature (King Kong), and then, after the start of the Vietnam war, in conflict with its own worldwide alliance partners (Mothra).

        Or maybe it’s just a monsters bashing each other up.

    • Murc says:

      But where does Rodan stand on things? Or Mothra?

      Or Gamera, the friend to all children?

      • Njorl says:

        Gamara? Gamara has nothing to do with foreign policy you fool. He’s a big jet-powered turtle. Where did you get your degree?

        Rodan represents the state of affairs at the time with respect to conventional air power doctrine, just as Ghidorah represents the nuclear triad.

  13. Bitter Scribe says:

    Oh, well, at least the Chinese are picking on someone approximately their own size*, as opposed to Taiwan.

    *In terms of economy and military capability, not population, of course.

    • DrDick says:

      Still has to be one of the stupidest excuses for picking an international fight.

      • Alan Tomlinson says:

        As opposed to:

        a. invading because of a perceived slight to one’s father(Iraq)

        b. being unhappy about a family member being killed(WWI)

        c. being unhappy about someone else’s depiction of God(many)

        . . .


        Alan Tomlinson

  14. Erik Loomis says:

    When I was in South Korea, they put some rock on the back of all their soda cans. Japan also claimed the rock. It was hard for me to see why anyone would care.

  15. Some Guy says:

    I strong recommend My Little Pony: FIM S2E13 15:00 – 16:40 for a stunningly accurate depiction of international geopolitics.

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