'Threat Inflation': The Chinese Stealth Fighter

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:
Thumbnail image for J20Pic.jpg

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.