The Buzz

Forget North Korea: China Has One Big Reason To Fear the B-2 Bomber

Across China, the general consensus was that the destruction of the embassy in Belgrade was intentional. Even the Chinese government did not believe that the embassy was bombed because of an out-of-date map. The attack, intentional or not, tapped into a deep vein of anti-foreigner sentiment in China dating back hundreds of years. Chinese people, having lived their entire lives with the knowledge of unequal treaties, demands, and other aspects of colonialism forced upon a weak China, viewed the attack as yet another humiliation imposed by foreign powers. Much of the anti-Western sentiment was heartfelt.

At the same time however, there was evidence that the Chinese Communist Party encouraged the anti-Western protests. Chinese authorities allegedly organized the protests through Communist Party cadres assigned to universities. Bottles, stones, bricks, paint and even Molotov cocktails were thrown at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. In Chengdu, the consul’s residence was set on fire. Given the tight control the Chinese Communist Party exerts over the country, it is difficult to imagine that the more violent protests were at least tacitly allowed to occur. Then again, it’s difficult to imagine that the vast U.S. military and intelligence apparatus could mistake an embassy with a traditional Chinese green tiled roof for a military logistical hub.

The rush to conspiracy on the part of China is in some ways understandable. There is no obvious reason why the Chinese embassy in Belgrade should be bombed, especially by an all-seeing and all-powerful American military. Simple stupidity simply can’t be the cause; terrible acts such as the bombing of the Chinese embassy must have equally terrible causes, such as a mysterious, racist, imperialist urge to once again humiliate the great Chinese people.

Yet to what end? There was no logical reason to intentionally bomb the embassy and provoke China, nor was there a great swelling of anti-Chinese feeling in America that would have provoked such an act. Ultimately, the conspiracy explanation lacks motive. Hanlon’s razor says it best: never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

This first appeared in 2016.