On April 1, 2001 (21 years ago), a US aircraft collided with a Chinese fighter jet over the south sea, the US called it Hainan Island Incident. That day an EP-3 surveillance aircraft was on an overt reconnaissance mission in international airspace over the South China Sea. While it was on its way back, it was intercepted by 2 PLA J-811 fighter jets, and one of them “bumped into the wing of the EP-3E aircraft while it was turning.”, which is a gesture of provocation. The Chinese fighter jet crashed, not knowing the life and death of the pilot Wang, Wei. The US surveillance aircraft landed in Lingshui military airport with a damaged engine post collision.
After the incident, Washington and Beijing disputed over the cause of the collision. Through rounds and rounds of negotiation by both parties, it was finally agreed that the US would issue a statement. China released all crew members onboard on April 12. An EP-3E aircraft was disassembled and shipped back to the US by a chartered AN-124 from a Russian air cargo company.
To boost its anti-US propaganda, on April 1, the communist China (CCP) commemorated the pilot Wang Wei who died in the collision in high key. Over 20 years have passed, CCP is still using this incident to stir up hatred toward the US, but CCP never mentioned the fact that they took advantage of the incident and stole top secret military information from the collision.
Many years after the incident, former CIA employee Edward Snowden disclosed that the PLA stole large amounts of top-secret military information and important documents since the crew members were not able to destroy confidential information and equipment in time, which was a huge loss for the US army. Before the incident, the Chinese PLA had none of the technology of Air early warning and reconnaissance.