Chinese React to Spy Plane Impasse

ByABC News
April 4, 2001, 3:00 PM

April 4 -- While diplomats in Beijing and Washington play a careful game of diplomacy over the fate of the downed U.S. spy plane on the Chinese island of Hainan, an equally delicate game is taking place in China itself.

China is carefully moderating domestic reaction to the spy plane impasse, especially after the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during the 1999 war in Kosovo.

The bombing, which Washington says was a tragic mistake caused by the use of outdated maps, killed three Chinese and inflamed public opinion against Washington. Crowds mobbed the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, throwing bricks at the building, breaking its windows and splattering it with paint.

Experts say the Chinese leadership doesn't want that sort of reaction now, especially since it has a bid for the Olympics on the line but it doesn't want to seem too soft, either.

Focusing on Their Loss

After several days of relatively low-key coverage of the incident in the Chinese media, the incident is now dominating the papers.

The major theme is the Chinese have been wronged, the United States is the aggressor, and the United States needs to apologize in order for the two nations to be able to move on.

Chinese media outlets have pointed out that the only casualty of the incident appears to be a Chinese pilot. China says the incident happened when the American plane rammed the Chinese jet.

U.S. officials say it's more likely the faster, more maneuverable fighter ran into the large, slower EP-3E.

An editorial today in the state-run China Daily accused Washington of "arrogance in managing bilateral relations."

"In Washington's eyes, their citizens' lives are more valuable than others'. Washington's indifference to people's lives from other countries is actually nothing new," wrote the editorial's author, Jin Zeqing.

Jin also took issue with U.S. characterizations of the incident as an accident, writing, "anyone with common sense can clearly see who should take responsibility for the collision."