In a recent air-combat exercise, the drill master pulled a trick on the "Red Team" representing the Chinese air force by having pilots of the enemy "Blue Team" shout orders in English.
The tactic surprised the Red Team, which lost its airborne warning-and-control system (AWACS) plane and thus its electronic-warfare capability, resulting in a humiliating loss in the war game.
The People's Liberation Army Daily, the newspaper mouthpiece of the world's largest military, last week reported on the early January air-combat drill in the Nanjing Regional Command in eastern China.
It was meant to serve as a warning to the military rank and file by demonstrating that China's enemy could be formidable and that the air force needs to prepare for any surprises.
The Red Team pilots heard a voice in an American accent announce that the enemy had fixed on a target.
"Target on a radial 180.60," a Blue Team pilot said. "Roger," came the response.
The confused Red Team lead pilot, panicked by the unexpected situation, screamed in Chinese: "Who are these people? How come it's in foreign language?"
But before the Red Team figured out what was going on, its AWACS aircraft was lost and, along with it, the Red Team's air command-and-control and warning support, leading to victory by the English-speaking Blue Team.
"We deliberately added an [English speaking] 'third force' to the game to simulate an air combat closer to the real one," said the division commander Jin Jianfeng, who was directing the drill.
The Red Team leader Zhang Zhiqing told the Daily that "the introduction of the 'third force' to the war game made the fight more like the real combat."
Chinese pipeline and Myanmar
On the verge of collapse after relentless bombing and pursuit by Myanmar government forces, the Kachin Independence Army finally agreed to sit down once again to discuss a cease-fire -- but this time the regional power, China, brokered the talks.
The negotiations opened Monday in the Chinese border city of Ruili in Yunnan Province.
"Both sides have expressed gratitude to the Chinese government for our assistance," said Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. "The Chinese side is willing to play a constructive role in furthering peace talks between the two sides."
The Kachins are the only major ethnic group that has refused to negotiate a settlement with the reformist Myanmar government.
Fighting broke out in June 2011 along the Myanmar-Chinese border. Although China officially did not take sides, large numbers of Kachin refugees and a significant portion of the defeated Kachin rebels fled to the Chinese territory for protection.
Frequent shelling and cross-border firefights followed, often with rockets exploding inside Chinese territory.
China finds itself in a tenuous position by allowing the Kachins to flee across the border. Some Chinese fear the Myanmar government might openly accuse China of harboring Kachin rebels and retaliate against China's investment in an oil-and-gas pipeline in Myanmar.
A new Chinese-built energy pipeline is scheduled to open by the end of May, connecting the Indian Ocean to China's energy-thirsty hinterland, via the vast Myanmar jungle.
China thus cannot afford to further antagonize the government of Myanmar President Thein Sein, who has been increasingly pro-West and pro-democratic.
The newly emerging Chinese hospitality towards the Myanmar government is a sign Beijing is adopting a more conciliatory stance to protect its vital pipeline project.
The pipeline's Myanmar terminal will be in the western port city of Kyaukryu, along the Indian Ocean coast. It will enter China at the border town of Ruili in Yunnan Province, where the current cease-fire talks were held. The terminal will be located at the south-central city of Chongqing.
According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the Myanmar section of the pipeline has already been finished.
The section inside China is being completed in a feverish rush to meet the May deadline.
The line is a tandem oil-pipe and gas-pipe route with an annual capacity of 22 million tons of crude oil and 12 billion cubic meters of gas from the Middle East and Africa to China.
• Miles Yu's column appears Fridays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.