A video of a Chinese fighter-bomber pilot preparing to “pull the trigger” and sacrifice himself as he chases an unidentified warship in the South China Sea is causing a stir on the internet.
On April 26, state broadcaster CCTV published a documentary in which People’s Liberation Army pilots of the “Flying Leopard” (Xi’an JH-7) fighter planes chase a foreign warship that had sailed close to what was referred to in the video as “Chinese territorial waters.”
“I could see the foreign vessel’s movement on my radar, and we were ready to pull the trigger,” said pilot Gao Zengsong. The foreign vessel soon left the area, and the mission was a success. https://t.co/69ovXH8cXh
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) April 28, 2022
The actual date and time of the incident, as well as the information about the warship involved, were not mentioned in the video.
According to the footage, Gao Zengsong, captain of a PLA Air Force unit, and his colleagues took off after getting commands to intercept the foreign vessel near Chinese territorial waters.
“At the time, I could see from my airborne radar [the foreign ship] was moving. We were ready to pull the trigger,” Gao says in the video. The video also shows Gao announcing his status to the warship: “I am the air force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. You have entered the control area of the Chinese air force. Please leave immediately. Otherwise, you will be responsible for the consequences.”
The foreign ship, on the other hand, did not depart right away but continued to cruise at a steady speed. The PLA Air Force interpreted the foreign ship’s actions as a provocation.
“We have the responsibility to respond to all provocative phenomena by adversaries, to defend the sovereignty of our country. Even sacrificing myself, defending [the nation] with my life is worth it,” he said.
Like any other well-choreographed propaganda video from China, the documentary also amplifies the Chinese Air Force pilots’ devotion to the country.
Gao Zengsong stated that if the foreign ship does not change course by PLA’s response, he has the responsibility and obligation to respond to any provocations to maintain national sovereignty.
Gao left a message for his comrades in the face of the mounting emergency. “Remember to send that letter from my locker to my child if I don’t come back,” Gao was quoted as saying by CCTV.
According to the report, the exchange of fire was avoided because the foreign ship later exited the territorial waters. The CCTV video has been viral on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, with approximately 50 million views.
High Tides In The Region
The incident comes after recent research by the South China Sea Probing Strategic Situation Initiative, a Beijing-based think tank, revealed that US Navy aircraft carrier strike groups had increased their transits in the South China Sea since last year. It also adopted more complex and unexpected drill patterns and approaches.
Recently, the People’s Liberation Army of China sent fighter jets to shadow the US Navy destroyer, USS Sampson, when it sailed the Taiwan Strait this week, a voyage labeled as “humiliating” for the PLA by a Chinese think-tank.
The US 7th Fleet announced in a statement that it’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) transited the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday “by international law.”
The transit “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement said, adding that the US military “flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”
The spokesperson, Snr. Col. Shi Yi said the US Navy “hyped it [the Taiwan Strait transit] up publicly” and in response, “the PLA Eastern Theatre Command sent troops to track and monitor the US warship’s passage, and remained alert in the whole course.”
China considers Taiwan to be a province of China and has frequently stated that the democratic island of 23 million people will be unified with the mainland if required by force. Meanwhile, the US deems the waterway between the island and China’s mainland to be international waters and has been patrolling it as part of its Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy.
As the US and its allies will deploy ships to patrol the region in the coming years, the likelihood of conflicts with China will rise dramatically.