What would happen if the USN sinks a Chinese ship or fleet

Both a Chinese and American fleet are doing a show of force near a small disputed island.
The Americans send a small surveillance ship near the Chinese fleet, who ram it out of the water with a destroyer. The Americans retaliate by blowing up the destroyer.

What is likely to happen? What would happen if the Chinese admiral retaliates in force? What would the diplomatic solution be?

At that point both sides would back down most likely. I doubt the Chinese would be stupid enough to try and tangle with a major US fleet, especially with their one and only (retread Soviet era) carrier. It would be like similar incidents that happened back when the Navy would spar with the Soviets…both sides push things as far as they can, but if someone fucks up (which is what would actually have happened if the two ships had collided) then no one is going to push it further, unless you had a series of fuckups. In which case a lot of folks would get dead (scratch one retread Soviet carrier), and lots of political fallout on both sides. But the thing is, incidents like this aren’t part of a planned attack, so when they brew up what you will get is a period of heightened tension, followed by a cool down.

Unlike in the Soviet era, China and the US are tied pretty tightly together via trade, and neither side wants to fuck that up as it’s mutually beneficial. I believe China’s entire economy would collapse if trade stopped with the US (and presumably with Europe too if things blew up), and the US (and Europe) would take a major economic hit if that happened as well. It would be grim all around. So…not going to happen for just those reasons.

Not going to happen. The Americans are not going to retaliate by blowing up the destroyer. There will just be much mutual blaming and fingerpointing. The USA is not going to start a shooting war with China over some little boat no matter how much the American nationalist hawks use the much loved phrase “act of war”.

OK, maybe I should amend that to read “the USA would be incredibly stupid to start a shooting war with China over some little boat”. Given the stupidity shown by some American actions in the last decade I would not totally discount further blunders. You never know what might happen under president Palin.

These incidents happen relatively often.

America is spying the area because of the military facilities in Hainan, including the Yulin nuclear submarine base which is home to ballistic missile nuclear submarines.

The Soviets deliberately collided with the USS Yorktown and USS Caron in the Black Sea in 1988, there was only paint scraping though. Picture of the Soviet Krivak I class frigate Bezzavetnyy colliding with the Yorktown here. But yeah, ramming and sinking another ship is only going to happen as an accident where someone majorly fucked up. The US is not going to retaliate to an accident by sinking the Chinese vessel that collided.