This is a translation of a paper that was published by the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF) Center for Air and Space Power Strategic Studies (CASPSS) and that was also published in a JASDF journal in July 2021. I have had the pleasure of routinely exchanging opinions and research material with Lt. Col. Aita and his colleagues at CASPSS, and when I read the draft of the following paper, I decided that it would be valuable to introduce it to an English-speaking audience. When a large formation of transport aircraft of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew near territory that is disputed between Malaysia and China in May 2021, the dominant speculation was that this activity was a political message to Malaysia. I believe that the value of Lt. Col. Aita’s paper lies in questioning that speculation, analyzing the PLAAF’s activity from a purely operational perspective while simultaneously analyzing the significance of the same beyond Sino-Malaysian relations. Although few are likely to remember the incident at hand now, Lt. Col. Aita’s paper reminds us not to be satisfied with the seemingly obvious explanation for events and to broaden our perspectives when analyzing events. I have attempted to reproduce the paper as closely to the original as possible. Any unnaturalness in the language and any inaccuracies or other problems in the translation should be attributed to me.
Click here for the full translated paper