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During the Cold War, China had one of the worst records in preventing its pilots from defecting to noncommunist states. Between 1960 and 1986, at least 17 air force pilots defected, most flying their jets to Taiwan and taking with them China’s prized airplanes. Each defection produced an internal security purge within the military. A recent memoir by China’s longtime air force chief Gen. Wu Faxian published in Hong Kong stated that keeping pilots from defecting was the top priority of the Chinese air force high command during much of the 1960s and 1970s. In today’s Chinese air force, political indoctrination and ideological correctness are still of abject importance.

Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at