Put the crew on trial – execute their commander!’ This message posted on a popular Chinese Internet chat room was typical of much of the emotional outpouring following the collision between a US surveillance plane and a Chinese ﬁghter jet. Within hours the incident had become one more episode in a long list of complaints against the way in which Washington treats Beijing. It is criticised for support for Taiwanese and Tibetan independence, using human rights issues to lever trade concessions from China, accusing Chinese people of engaging in nuclear espionage, and oppressing China’s ‘friend’ North Korea.
The ﬁrst inklings on Chinese websites that something dramatic had occurred began to appear at around 6.15 pm Beijing time on 1 April. Debates over issues such as reassessing the Cultural Revolution and the achievements of the ongoing anti-corruption campaign were interrupted by messages asking for conﬁrmation that the incident had taken place.