Tensions between China and the United States keep ratcheting up as China's navy issued eight warning messages to a U.S. military surveillance plane that passed over a group of man-made islands in the South China Sea.
The islands are the center of an international territorial dispute between China and its Asian neighbors and are deemed to be in violation of international law. China is constructing military bases on the islands, in a clear hostile move towards it neighbors.
"This is the Chinese navy, this is the Chinese navy, please go away quickly," said a voice in English, to the P8-A Poseidon spy plane on Wednesday.
The Navy's most advanced spy aircraft passed as low as 15,000 feet over the disputed Spratly Islands, which are fully 600 miles from the shores of mainland China.
The islands are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Spy footage showed extensive military buildup at the sites, including an early warning radar system, military barracks, lookout tower and runway.
When the U.S. plane refused to leave the area, a Chinese official sent another radio transmission "This is the Chinese navy. You! Go!"
The surveillance flight is in line with recent comments by U.S. defense officials, who said they are considering sending military ships and planes to the South China Sea to enforce freedom of navigation, the key issue for the international community in the area.
The U.S. military has an large presence in East Asia and has repeatedly flown surveillance flights close to the artificial islands yet the Wednesday mission is one of the boldest challenges yet to China's control in the area.
The Chinese development of the islands has led many East Asian governments to strengthen their military ties with Washington, in response to China's attempt to expand its influence in the region.
Why China is pursuing such a military approach to its neighbors is puzzling, as increased globalization has led to more trade and economic ties than in the past. While countries previously fought each other and maintained closed economies, these days trade is tightly interconnected and wars are universally viewed as bad for business.
One possible reason for the military buildup is a frustrated Chinese population, oppressed by greedy communist overlords. The Chinese community party maintains tight control over freedom and communication while enriching itself from China's new economic prosperity.
Beijing is deeply fearful of a revolution and so is likely planning for a diversionary war should tensions at home escalate too far. Such a war, against a lesser army like The Philippines, would be easily won yet rally the country's population around Chinese nationalism while distracting from the oppression at home. Communist rulers could then continue to plunder the economy and enrich themselves personally.