The Chinese media, in which there is total political censorship, has for the most part portrayed this as an act of aggression by the US. Many Chinese do not realise that the collision took place in international airspace, and they still remember the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia. Combine this with increased Chinese nationalism of late, and you get a situation where the Chinese are very unlikely to:

  • Admit that it wasn't in fact an act of American aggression;
  • or cede to the Americans and let their public think this "act of aggression" has gone unpunished.

It seems fairly likely that the Chinese will have stripped this plane of anything that could be of use to them. The only comfort is that the crew are equipped with sledgehammers to destroy anything they can before landing, and are also instructed to take such measures as eating anything they can and destroying things in other ways. It does seem worrying that the Chinese didn't allow the US access to their airmen earlier - bombing the plane is still an option for the US, and as the Chinese know this they wouldn't want the airmen telling the US that equipment was still intact before the Chinese had collected it...