Satellite photo
April 5, 2001 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Satellite photo shows no Chinese activity near the spy plane. Whom to trust in this crisis? The American media/govt. spin partnership that maintains that the Chinese are taking the plane apart? Or the photo? Is there any trustworthy source left?
posted by tamim (23 comments total)
Satellite overflight times are an open secret. I'd be rather surprised to see activity around the plane while a satellite was overhead.
posted by dws at 12:03 PM on April 5, 2001

Yeah, didn't you see "Patriot Games" with Harrison Ford? Everytime the Satellites came, the enemy knew to hide. The CIA had to take control of a Satellite and had it pass by at an unexpected time to catch them in the act.
posted by Cavatica at 12:06 PM on April 5, 2001

A satellite analyst said on MSNBC this afternoon that US has so many satellites covering Hainan Island, that there is a flight pass nearly every two hours or less. If the Chinese were really doing anything, the government would've released those photos via their media partners.

Anyhow, I am really curious to know how this "news event" is being carried in your local media outlets. This can give a real perspective about how others are looking at the same "half full/half empty glass."
posted by tamim at 12:22 PM on April 5, 2001

It's difficult to know who is telling the truth...who's to say that the western media is any less regimented than the Chinese?
posted by ecvgi at 12:35 PM on April 5, 2001

You don't need to take a plane apart. What you need to do in such instances is to round up and look at anything that could be used for electronic surveys. When in doubt as to what the truth is simply ask what your govt would do in a similar instance , that is, both countries would do and have deone and will continue to do exactly the same thing. The difference is in how to treat those in the grounded plane.

I have had some experience in the Chinese mind having in my youth played lots of Chinese ceckers. What we need to do is let them believe they are making the first moves and then say, yes, well, ok, we can go along with that.
All the Chinese have to do is cite the pilot for air traffic violation, failing to give signal when making a turn. Fine him about a hundred bucks, and let the crew go.

As happens in such cases, no need for a trial (unless the pilot wants to stay there and have his Not Guilty day in court).

Now the Chinese have "won," and showed the world that the ticket proves the pilot was wrong and that his govt has paid the price for his error.

Everyone happy and I can then consider buying Chinese-made products again. Till the next time.
posted by Postroad at 12:55 PM on April 5, 2001

I have had some experience in the Chinese mind having in my youth played lots of Chinese checkers

This may have been the funniest thing I've ever read on MetaFilter. :-)
posted by milnak at 1:04 PM on April 5, 2001

Satellite overflight times are an open secret.

"Secret" doesn't apply for this bird, which doesn't even belong to Uncle Sucker -- the commercial imaging satellite IKONOS belongs, if memory serves, to Space Imaging of Thornton Colorado, and was launched about an Athena-2 booster eighteen months ago.

Not to be pedantic or anything (too late!), but it's not so much a photo as it is an image. All photographs are images, but not all images are photographs.
posted by dcehr at 1:14 PM on April 5, 2001

Granted, I haven't been following this "crisis." Granted, I really like the idea of one meter resolution satellite photos on Yahoo! News. But, what does this show or prove? This is a SIGINT (signal interception, not unix...) plane, which means all the interesting stuff is on the INSIDE of the plane. Put a few techs on board let them have some fun. Most of the useful data has probably been destroyed by the crew, but just determining the types and quantities of equipment on such a plane can be very useful.
posted by gpowers at 1:38 PM on April 5, 2001

Why do we even need a Spy Plane to begin with when the satellite can take crystal clear pictures like this anyway?!?
posted by punkrockrat at 3:07 PM on April 5, 2001

Didn't you people see Die Hard II? Runways have hundreds of underground tunnels ;)
posted by bkdelong at 3:19 PM on April 5, 2001

punkrockrat: There are inherent difficulties in taking pictures of radio communications.
posted by Neb at 3:35 PM on April 5, 2001

Well, that same "American media spin/partnership" has been broadcasting the photo all day long, tamim, so what exactly are you implying they are trying to hide?

There were reports that it was being disassembled, but then, that could have come from people who saw the nose cone ripped off -- apparently a result of the collision. Since Tuesday we've been seeing long-range photographs of it on the runway taken from civilian areas outside the base, and they didn't show any canvas either. But of course by then there had been two days to comb the plane.

I think the media got the message today that this is not as big a crisis as they were trying to fan it into. All three cable networks changed the rubric they were using to describe it, e.g. FOX went from "Spy Plane Standoff" to just "Plane Standoff" and MSNBC went from "Diplomatic Dogfight" to "US-China Showdown". I forget what CNN used before "US/China Standoff" but it was more inflammatory. Clearly they were influenced by someone, perhaps the White House asking them to reconsider, perhaps e-mail campaigns (e.g. the military people going nuts over the word "spy" for a non-overflight mission).

China is a complex place, and it's not even entirely certain that the military commanders in Hainan can be considered directly subordinate to political leaders like Jiang Zemin. Tha'ts one reason this is taking so long to play out. But I think we've clearly passed over a tipping point and we're in some sort of denouement.
posted by dhartung at 4:50 PM on April 5, 2001

Dan: Given that all my "news source" bases are belong to the American Govt.+Media Spin Partnership (TM), I guess, I am just reacting to the public reaction which was generated by the coverage. I am just mad at myself, Joe Q. Public, for letting the Media Spin Partnership (TM) so deep into my head.

But, I would still like to hear about how this news is being covered in other places. I remember once sitting in a London coffee shop listening to a friend of my father explain how the Canadian media covered the Gulf War. He said, "watching TSN, you would be hard pressed to belive anyone other than the Brits or the Canadians were even fighting in Kuwait."
posted by tamim at 6:17 PM on April 5, 2001

BTW, TSN is a sports channel.
posted by tamim at 6:36 PM on April 5, 2001

Well, here's LeMonde's take on it, or the Guardian's [you have to go to the "world latest" page to even see a headline]. Both of those are US allies preoccupied, it would seem, with issues of their own.

Or you can always check out the quasi-official China news agency at [where you're greeted with a popup asking you to submit your opinion on the standoff]. They have a somewhat different view: "US Spy Plane Bumps Chinese Jet". (By the way, I suspect that particular comments page may be the source of all the US media reports of "Chinese internet users filling up chat rooms" with patriotic messages.)

If you want to go for an underreported story angle, Tamim, you could start with the reason for those surveillance flights in the first place. A couple of analysts today suggested that the real reason this is a problem is that China -- which is attempting to modernize its military, build up a Navy, and ultimately transform itself from a regional power with little more than defense capability into a hemispheric power with offensive reach in Asia and the Pacific -- has deployed new submarines, based on Russian technology but with their own improvements, whose movements we cannot yet detect. The EP-3 flights are used to ping the subs that are in port and try to track when and where they show up so we can keep some tabs on them.
posted by dhartung at 7:59 PM on April 5, 2001

I would still like to hear about how this news is being covered in other places

You could try the Taipei Times.
posted by cmacleod at 8:43 PM on April 5, 2001

More speculation from Stratfor on the psychology/Realpolitik behind the Chinese policy. Along with Europe's decision to go ahead without the US on global warming and the Korean situation, perhaps US hegemony like in the good old days is drawing to a close? See also bwg's link. <:oD>
posted by aflakete at 10:16 PM on April 5, 2001

Well, you'll just have to take my word on some of the things I've read in Chinese News Papers here in Toronto:

1) A source from Beijing revealed that it was the US plane that suddened turned around to face the chinese plane that caused the crash.

And...actually. Most of the information is the same as it is in the US, except that the articles are all facts (except for editorials and opinions of course). The newspapers report the events as it is being described by the Chinese government, scenarios are given (US plane has landed in Hanin, Chinese Pilot still missing, the US believes that Chinese Pilots are not trained enough to handle spontaneous situations, Beijing Officials have determined that it was the US plane that hit the Chinese plane due to physical evidence gathered from the aircraft, etc.), and the readers are left to form their own opinions.

It's interesting for me to be able to read both sides of the media. I can't tell which media is more honest, but I can certainly see that the chinese media are being much more objective in the way they're passing on the information.
posted by margaretlam at 10:47 PM on April 5, 2001

thanks margaret.
posted by tamim at 12:43 AM on April 6, 2001

Uh, cmacleod, you do realize Taipei is located in Taiwan, and as such is going to be an American client state toeing the US diplomatic line? That's about last on the list tamim wants, which is information and opinion that wouldn't appear in US media.

Most of the countries quasi-allied with China are vaguely within the onetime "rogue states" classification -- Iraq, Sudan, Vietnam, North Korea. The biggest non-aligned democratic power is India, but they hate China. This story barely hints at the multilateral view suggested by Stratfor.

In short, I think you may be imagining things under rugs that don't exist. This really is naked head-to-head diplomacy and there's not much else to it.
posted by dhartung at 7:59 AM on April 6, 2001

i am actually pretty cool with the us coverage now. most outlets have become more "balanced" now that the tension is not there anymore. msnbc even brought up that it is the downed chinese pilot's birthday today.

i was just curious about how its playing in local media elsewhere. almost everyone gets their feed from ap/reuters/afp. but - the local spins are always much more fun to read about.
posted by tamim at 1:48 PM on April 6, 2001

you do realize Taipei is located in Taiwan

Thanks, I didn't know that.
posted by cmacleod at 6:57 PM on April 6, 2001

Well (he said bitterly) if the fuckin Air Force hadn't stood down the 9th SRW, we could just task a Blackbird to go loiter, and they wouldn't *know* when to run and hide from the cameras.

Idiotic moronic #@*(&%Y N#%* (*#_... [commentary degenerates into depressed mumbling]
posted by baylink at 7:46 PM on April 6, 2001

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