During August the Chinese have again in the fourth such incident this year aggressively intercepted a US intelligence gathering plane. The intercept itself is not the issue as the US planes were in international airspace and China has the right to intercept such flights as long as it observes safety protocols. However, the Chinese fighters have instead flown aggressively around the slower moving US planes in a manner that could be construed as intimidating and potentially dangerous, as the incident in 2001 turned out to be when there was a collision between a US Navy EP-3 and PLAAF J-8 that resulted in the latter crashing into the sea and the former making an emergency landing. America’s official explanation is that these PLA pilots are rogue, but this does not make sense. China, the communist party and the PLA are all part of a highly centralised and controlled system , and as such we can be 99% sure that these intercepts are authorised at the highest levels. The Americans are not blind, but they have chosen their official explanation in the hope that these incidents will not derail other elements of diplomatic engagement with China, and as such they hope to build a stronger relationship rather than spark a major incident. However, to the aggressive elements of the Chinese leadership this American response will without doubt be perceived as weakness. As we have discussed in numerous articles nations such as China in the expansionary phase of empire will see such weakness and be encouraged to manifest more aggression in the future. Furthermore, these intercepts are part of a larger pattern of Chinese aggression manifest in maritime territorial disputes and in the cyberspace.
Such steps are the start of the road to wars in a path of long term escalation, unless robustly met by America from a position of strength.