Let me get this straight: as a US citizen, you would expect the US government to return a Chinese spy plane to the Chinese government?
That's a nice thing to say, as a US citizen, when you want the spy plane back (i.e. the real one). But if the situation were really reveresed, the US would flat out refuse to return the plane.
Think about it. A plane made specifically for spying enters our airspace (or hovers very near by) and is forced to land in our airspace. This plane represents a threat to our sovereignty--it is spying on us, keeping tabs on us, perhaps skirting our airspace and violating it without permission. Why the heck would we give that plane back without at least inspecting it first? The American people would demand it! Congress would demand it!
Whatever reasons given, the US would not give back a spy plane. And the average American would tell the Chinese to go screw themselves because they should have been more careful with their spy plane.
I say this as a US citizen.
So for the Chinese to say it to me makes me just shake my head and say, "crap." The Air Force will just need to be more careful. That's the downside of spying--when you get caught, you are pretty much screwed.
I suspect that after thorough investigation and interrogation, the crewman will be returned. The plane, will not be. If it is, it will be stripped of anything of security value which will be put in a replica that will stay in China to help them figure out every last bit of that plane.
We, as Americans, would do no less. Perhaps we would be all clever or something (like we did with the real Russian sub that Tom Clancy stole that story from), but we would not just hand over possibly the greatest piece of intel to fall into our laps. And neither will the Chinese.
Different views or not, they aren't stupid and they have a right to their sovereignty. As an American, I want our servicemen returned home. But I also realize this will be touchy and difficult. That's why we have diplomats.
It's a shame we can't pull down the "Civilizations" diplomacy menu at this time and give the Chinese a gift of gold ;-)
Veritas otium parit. --Terence