China has ignored the poke. That doesn't mean it has lost its case. Far from it. The US may defy the Chinese air zone but China's own neighbours- and their airlines- are unlikely to do so. An article in the FT indicates how the Chinese hope to slowly alter the status quo:
For a start, the US cannot keep flying bombers over the region and say they are part of “long-planned exercises” (as they claimed this week’s flyovers were).
Doing so would quickly lose impact as a statement of principle and evolve into needless provocation, especially in the eyes of the Chinese public, who draw most of their opinions on such matters from tightly controlled state media.
...From now on they will start asking other countries to force their airlines to identify themselves to Chinese authorities when passing through the disputed airspace, thereby implicitly acknowledging that the territory belongs to China.The pressure will be much greater on individual airlines hoping to capitalise on the tens of millions of new Chinese tourists flooding out of the country every year.
When they cave they can always justify their compliance on safety grounds.
An article in Asia Times blasts the US action as "criminally reckless and phenomenally stupid". It proceeds to explain why:
In contrast to the aging and completely overstretched US armed forces, the Chinese armed forces are catching up and catching up really fast. Yes, in the 1980s the Chinese military did look at lot like the Soviet military of the late 1950s, but the economic boom of China has deeply changed this, and today the Chinese armed forces are gradually acquiring more and more 21st century characteristics; soon, they will easily surpass the capabilities of South Korea and Japan.
Next, and before the folks in the White House fully understand it, the US will be facing a large and technologically equal or even superior Chinese military. China is also being very smart in forging an informal but truly strategic alliance with Russia, which, unlike the US, does every effort possible to show respect and support for its large neighbor.
Should it ever come to a shooting match between the US and China, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Russia will offer its fullest support for China short of actually attacking US targets.
One thing is for sure. For China to have ratcheted up the stakes in the region knowing that it would provoke a strong US reaction points to a certain self-assurance in the Chinese leadership. But the Chinese are dealing here not only with the world's leading power but also with a nationalistic leader in Japan in Abe. Many analysts that the chances of a fracas arising from a small error of judgement are pretty high.
Just when we thought that the US- Iran rapprochement had made the world a little safer.....