WITHIN three days of China's announcement, two B-52 bombers took off from their military base in Guam without escorts and weapons. They entered the zone and flew for more than an hour before leaving, all just to show their disregard for the new area and its new rules.
In this Round One, China lost; the United States won.
Many people have been wondering why China did not plan strategically on such a major issue before taking action, as they felt it is very unlikely for China not to have foreseen the US taking a step like this.
If China had anticipated this move - that it expected the "trespassing" of the US jets - then why did it endure such embarrassment and lose this round on purpose?
There is only one possibility to China's carefully laid strategic puzzle: Let the US and Japan "trespass" freely, and this is the exact effect China wants.
To understand this point, just change the point of view and look at the location of Japan's air defence identification zone.
This enormous "quasi-restricted area" poses real obstacles to Chinese air and naval forces advancing to the west Pacific Ocean.
Since 1969, after the US handed over jurisdiction of the identification zone to Japan, the latter has unilaterally expanded the boundaries towards the west twice, in 1972 and 2010.
It has almost become a "frontline blockade" for China. Can China still continue to acquiesce to this status quo?
The US and Japan have declared publicly that they will not accept China's new air defence zone and vow to use actual actions to barge into the zone. So China will probably reciprocate in future by passing through the air defence zones of Japan (as well as the US) at will.
The writer is the deputy director of Sinolizing Research Centre in Hong Kong. This is an edited excerpt of a piece which first appeared in Lianhe Zaobao last Friday. Translated by Lim Ruey Yan and Kua Yu-Lin.