'Threat Inflation': The Chinese Stealth Fighter

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First, a procedural note: In a week or two, I'll be heading off for a while, to return to China and finish a China-related book. I am excited about a cadre of guest voices to introduce during the time I'm away. I'll say more about them, and why I think this will be fun, some time next week. Illustration of the kind of thing I'm looking forward to hearing: several years ago I wrote about Liam Casey, the Irish-born "Mr. China" entrepreneur in Shenzhen who is directly or indirectly responsible for a lot of the "made in China" goods you now own. Every time I met him I was fascinated by what he'd just seen or done, since what was in his factories or design shops today is what we'd see in our stores six months from now. He'll share chronicles of a week in his life, and he'll be joined by others in similarly interesting circumstances.

Several items to polish off before I go (along with, um, that quaint artifact called "a magazine article"). Here's one: the debut of the "stealthy" new Chinese fighter plane:
 
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I say that the right reaction to this plane's debut is "Oh calm down." Fortunately I don't have to take the time to type out all the reasons why, since others have done such a thorough job. Fred Kaplan has examined the tech achievements -- and limitations -- of the plane in Slate, here. David Axe, of The Diplomat, has a similarly detailed, lengthy, and skeptical exegesis here. In keeping with my new "let's be civil!" resolve not to link to reports that seem to me overheated and irresponsible, I will let you find for yourself some of the most alarmist accounts of what the new plane means.

The more interesting question is what the debut of the plane, regardless of its capacities, says about the present state of civil-military relations inside China. The place I'd start in examining that issue would be with two posts by Bill Bishop, here and here. And this from Gady Epstein of Forbes.

What's ahead for me: one more "how to be civil" dispatch; something about the State Visit of Hu Jintao next week, and the State of the Union Address, and a few other items. Then introducing the fresh faces and turning the stage over to them.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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