- - Thursday, July 31, 2014

The People's Liberation Army is denying that its massive air force and missile drills in eastern and central China have been responsible for thousands of commercial flight cancellations and delays since July 20.

The flight woes have wreaked havoc on Chinese and international travelers during the peak travel season, provoking outrage inside and outside of China.

The PLA will continue its airspace restrictions through Aug. 15.

Feeling the heat of mounting outrage, the People's Liberation Army Daily, the PLA’s official newspaper, issued a statement Tuesday denying that the drills are the primary cause of the flight delays. It also warned China’s Internet opinion leaders not to “ceaselessly mock and bad-mouth the government and the PLA” by echoing international criticism of the PLA on this matter.

The statement, which was carried quickly by the People's Daily Online, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, was vague about the “real” cause of the flight woes, blaming unpredictable summer weather: “In every summer, there are typhoons, thunderstorms and other foul weather conditions. There have been flight delays in the years when there were no military drills.”

An Air China Boeing 777 jetliner (center) taxis to a gate after ... more >

The People's Liberation Daily did acknowledge, however, that the PLA drills are one reason for the delays, not the “primary” reason.” It stated that anybody who disagrees with this explanation is harboring evil intentions against China.

Addressing popular outrage online, the PLA statement said “we believe the overwhelming majority of netizens [Chinese Internet users] are rational, understanding the close relationship between national security and individual life because there will be no happiness in your family without a strong national defense.”

COMRADE TO COMRADE

During Chinese Supreme Leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Cuba last week, Fidel Castro told him that he has had a lifelong regret: not having the chance to meet Mao Zedong, the communist dictator responsible for the deaths of at least 70 million Chinese during his 27-year rule.

Mr. Xi, who fancies himself as Mao’s true inheritor, sported a broad smile with appreciative nodding.

A Mao admirer, Mr. Castro abandoned Taiwan and switched Cuba’s diplomatic recognition to Beijing months after his 1959 Cuban revolution.

But Mr. Castro had to walk a tightrope because of his greater reliance on Moscow for military and economic aid. From the 1960s to the end of 1980s, China and the Soviet Union were dire enemies who competed over Marxist ideological purity.

As a result, Mr. Castro did not go to Beijing until after the collapse of the Soviet Union and a halt in aid from Moscow.

His took his first trip to Beijing in 1995, when Mr. Castro viewed the embalmed body of Mao in his massive mausoleum in the center of Tiananmen Square. The visit produced substantial deals between Cuba and Beijing leaders, who had grown determined to increase China’s influence in Latin America. Since then, Mr. Castro has received more heads of state from China than from any other country.

China has used Cuba and Mr. Castro as convenient venues to vent Beijing’s anti-U.S. sentiment. A noted moment rose in 2001, when a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet and was forced to crash-land at a Chinese military base on Hainan island.

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