China Is Right

The US government has flipped its lid on this China spy plane mess. So have many commentators who are refusing to come to terms with some very obvious facts. Once you blow away the fog, you can see that if anyone should be protesting right now, it is American citizens against their own government.

Number one: the collision between the US spy plane and the Chinese jet occurred along China’s border. Think about that and you can understand why China is so unhappy.

Now, the US claims it was in "international airspace," but backs up this claim with a rule arrived at unilaterally by the US government and accepted by no one else. The US makes up rules to justify its behavior, rules that US does not accept if applied against US territory.

The space where the collision occurred is normally used to facilitate commerce, not hostile military activities. But in US foreign policy, there is a presumption that the whole world is a playground for the US government to do what it wants.

Number two: the US plane was a spy plane. Say it three times: it was a spy plane. It was not a commercial airliner. Hence it is preposterous for the US to say that a spy plane landing in Chinese territory is somehow sovereign property. The international law on this subject applies to civil aviation.

The US spy plane was seeking to intercept communications and rip off information for US military advantage, probably at the behest of China’s unfriendly neighbors. This makes it an aggressor against China, just as the US considers any attempt to spy on us to be an aggression and evidence of hostility.

Number three: the US spy plane landed at a Chinese military airport. The US crew never asked permission to do so. Imagine what the US would do if a Chinese spy plane were zipping around outside Virginia, became entangled with US jets, and then landed at a US base. The US would not say: "Sorry, guys, about interrupting your spy mission. Thanks for visiting our military base and come back soon."

Number four: the Chinese pilot is dead. The US crew is not. Also still dead are the three Chinese journalists who died when the US bombed the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia in 1999. No US soldiers died in that incident either. The carnage is beginning to mount, and, no surprise, that at some point the Chinese decide they’re not going to take it anymore. How long can one country be subjected to murderous attacks from the US before it begins to complain? But if they do complain, this is decried in the US as "nationalism."

Number five: there is no mystery about how the US treats such cases. In 1976, a Soviet MIG carrying a defector landed in Japan. The Soviets demanded the plane back. The US complied after taking the entire thing apart. It was sent back to Moscow in packing crates.

On another occasion in the 1970s, the US secretly tried to raise a Soviet submarine from the ocean. We use any means possible to obtain military equipment from potentially hostile nations. So turnabout is fair play.

Number Six: the US spy plane was not an innocent victim. No one can say for sure how the collision occurred, but it seems obvious that the US version of events — a spy plane minding its own business gets bumped by a Chinese jet — isn’t true. This was a case of the kind of cat-and-mouse that cars play on highways all the time.

If it turns out that the US is wholly to blame, it wouldn’t be the first time. A couple of years ago, American fighter pilots cut ski cables in Italy, killing 20 civilians with their recklessness. And just recently, show-offs and goof-offs cruising the world in a submarine sunk a Japanese school boat, killing nine, four of whom were 17-year-old kids.

Number Seven: the US has fulminated for years about supposed spying by China against the US. Remember the Cox Report? For all of its bluster, it never went so far as to accuse China of flying spy planes around our borders. But it turns out that the US regards such activity as routine and justifiable, if directed against other countries.

The message is obvious: the US can do whatever it wants with its military, but believes itself exempt from the very laws it wants to apply to others. This attitude engenders hatred around the world.

Though no one in the US cares to remember, the Chinese have not forgotten the US role in the so-called Opium Wars. In this 19th-century drug war, military force was used to addict the Chinese to drugs so as to create customers for opium. Nor have they forgotten the Boxer Rebellion, when US troops — in pursuit of continuing economic control — burned and looted the ancient imperial compound. Nor, to take more recent examples, have they forgotten the US threatening them twice in the 1950s with nuclear annihilation for responding to huge Taiwanese troop movements to the islands of Quemoy and Matsu near the mainland.

To say there are double standards at work here is a wild understatement. Despite all the mistreatment, Beijing doesn’t want war. It wants the US to behave like a responsible trading partner, not the world hegemon it has become. But there is only so much humiliation and bloodshed that a nation can be subjected to before its citizens demand reprisal.

Washington probably doesn’t want war either. What it wants is a license to spy on and otherwise invade the world, killing and maiming whenever the time seems right, and never having to be held responsible. Washington wants what every bully wants: the freedom to beat people up and never pay the price.

American citizens should join their friends across the ocean and protest US imperial adventures. Our heritage is one of peace. Our founders tried to create a system that would prevent the establishment of a world military empire. It is our moral duty to criticize such an establishment when it threatens to upset peaceful commercial ties, which in the Chinese case are extensive and magnificent.

At minimum, we must demand that US commentators cut out the absurd Cold War language of belligerency, lies, and reprisal. China has never done anything to us. We must demand that our own government stop the spying, bombing, and killing. No American citizen benefits from the US empire. But we each have much to gain from having it dismantled.

There is only one evil empire alive in the world today, and it is not China.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. He also edits a daily news site,

Lew Rockwell Archives