When Montecore, one of two white tigers in the Las Vegas act of Siegfried and Roy, turned and almost killed Roy on stage, the reaction was that the tame and complacent beast had gone berserk.
Comedian Chris Rock was nearer the mark:
"That tiger ain't go crazy; that tiger went tiger."
Seems our Asian tiger is going tiger as well.
Sharply escalating its clash with Japan over ownership of the Senkaku Islands, Beijing has established an air defense identification zone over the islands and a huge stretch of the East China Sea. Before entering its ADIZ, says Beijing, all planes must now notify China.
The United States responded by flying two B-52s through the zone. Japan and South Korea sent fighter jets through, also without permission. China then sent a squadron of fighters over the islands.
Now, in a move that has startled Tokyo, the United States has advised U.S. airliners entering China's new ADIZ to alert China. Japan considers this tacit U.S. recognition of China's territorial claim.
While America is not a party to the dispute over who owns the islands, under our security treaty, we are obligated to come to Japan's defense if islands administered by Tokyo are attacked.
And since Richard Nixon returned Okinawa in 1972, Tokyo has administered the uninhabited Senkakus, which were first claimed by the Japanese Empire in the late 19th century.
China's contends that all territories acquired by the Japanese Empire were forfeit and should have been vacated with the Japanese surrender in 1945. Before Japan's seizure of the islands, says Beijing, they had been Chinese territory.
Yet, now, with naval vessels of both nations plying the waters around the islands and fighter jets overflying these rocks, it is hard see either the China of Xi Jinping or the Japan of Shinzo Abe backing down before a clash occurs.
And should that happen, we are in it.
Clearly, China precipitated and pushed this crisis. Since the new century began, it has been asserting long-dormant and extravagant claims of national sovereignty.
China has laid claim to all the Paracel and Spratly islands and virtually the entire South China Sea, parts of which, and the resources beneath, are claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei.
In 2001, a Chinese fighter crashed a U.S. surveillance plane 80 miles off Hainan island, forcing it down, whereupon China held the crew captive and stripped the plane of its intelligence equipment, until it got an apology from the Bush administration.