China fumes as balloon shot down

BEIJING: After a US fighter jet shot down a Chinese hot air balloon flying over the US, the reaction from Beijing — defensive, angry, but defending his options — illustrates the challenges the Chinese leader faces, Xi Jinpingas he tries to stabilize relationships while offering little, if any, basis.
Hours after the hot air balloon was hit by a Sidewinder missile and crashed into the waters off South Carolina, China’s Foreign Ministry announced its “strong grievances and objections” and asserted that The airship was a civilian research airship that was blown off course. fierce winds. The department said Washington, not Beijing, violated the rules.
“The Chinese side has clearly asked the United States to appropriately resolve this issue in a calm, professional and restrained manner,” the statement from China’s foreign ministry said on Sunday. “The US insistence on the use of armed force is clearly an overreaction.”
Chinese officials have prepared to host US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken for talks this week in Beijing aimed at resolving tensions over a range of issues: barriers and technology bans , Western opposition to China’s hardline policies in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and US support for Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing demands acceptance of reunification. Mr. Blinken withdrew from his trip to China citing anger over the balloon.
Beijing’s response to bipartisan outrage in the United States over high-altitude hot air balloons shows that Chinese leaders are perplexed that the talks scheduled in Beijing have been thwarted by what they describe as an innocent mistake. But China also hinted that it could somehow retaliate against the US military’s actions: the State Department noted that it “reserved the right to respond further”.
China’s Ministry of National Defense, which represents the military, also called the shooting down of the balloon an “overreaction”.
Adjusting China’s response will be difficult for Xi.
“China is in a position to be,” said Evan S. Medeiros, a professor of international politics at Georgetown University who served as President Barack Obama’s top adviser on Asia-Pacific affairs. Geopolitics is difficult. “They were caught red-handed with nowhere to go. And while they want to improve relations with many great powers, mainly the United States.”
China’s internet — often a resonator of nationalist sentiments — echoes calls for Beijing to stand up to the United States over the ballooning. And even if Xi and other Chinese Communist Party leaders can ignore public pressure, their own thorny pride may require some symbolic countermeasures. to save face.
But Mr. Xi is preoccupied with domestic tensions and may want to avoid another round of tit-for-tat confrontation with the Biden administration. China’s economy is starving after Xi abruptly abandoned strict “Covid-free” policies, and the government is also trying to defuse a long-term property crisis. Tightening US restrictions on sales of advanced technology to China, especially advanced semiconductors, could hurt Chinese companies and Mr. Xi’s innovation plans.
Since commencing his third five-year term as party leader in October, Mr. Xi has tried to defuse tensions with Western countries — including the United States, Australia and European powers — fear that they are uniting into a more solid alliance committed to containing China ‘s power .
Oriana Skylar Mastro, a fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, said of the downing of the balloon: “It would be a very poor strategic move by China to really make it big. “. . “The more they panted, the less believable their story that this was a civilian weather balloon was blown off course.”
Despite mentioning possible further actions, the Chinese government’s response to the downing of the balloon also implied that it did not want to prolong the dispute. The word choice in the State Department statement implies that Beijing can continue to defend its actions and deny that the balloon is a means of spying, while refraining from possible responses. escalate the dispute.
Notably, China’s statement accuses the US of violating international rules by shooting down the hot air balloon, but does not mention any violations of international law. China also said that it would “protect the legitimate rights and interests of enterprises related” to the balloon, which could help it present evidence that the government was not directly involved in the launch. hot air balloon.
Julian Ku, a law professor at Hofstra University who studies China’s role in international law, wrote in emailed responses to questions: “The wording “reflects that the State Department does not believes that releasing a hot air balloon is a clear violation of the law.”
“The department will say if something is against international law, so it’s important they didn’t say that here,” he said.
“Moreover, they need to think about their own interests in case the US starts sending balloons or drones into China,” Ku added. “If they push too hard here, that would undermine a future legal argument they may need to make.”
Some in China are calling for a tougher response. After Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the House, visited Taiwan last year, many on Chinese internet said they were angry that the Chinese air force did not – as one commentator did. famously said it was possible – try to chase her plane. . This time too, some voices on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media site, say their leaders should be tougher; possibly, one belligerent commenter said, by shooting down an American plane.
China’s leaders have immense power to guide, or suppress, nationalist animosities, and Xi in particular has cleared the way for spontaneous protests, so there is plenty of room for spontaneous protests. less likely that anger drives them into provocation. Blinken’s phone call to Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, about canceling his visit to Beijing showed both sides wanted to continue communicating, said Chu Fenga professor of international relations at Nanjing University in eastern China.
But the fracturing relationship between Beijing and Washington could become much more strained if Kevin McCarthy, the new speaker of the House of Representatives, visits Taiwan. McCarthy had previously said he might visit the island when he assumed his role, to show Washington’s support for Taiwan in the face of threats from China, but he has not announced any details. any solid plan.
“China will never tell me where I can and can’t go,” McCarthy told reporters last week. “But I don’t have any schedule right now.”
However, even if the hot air balloon crisis ended quickly, it shows how low confidence levels have fallen since the thaw that began when “ping-pong diplomacy” helped pave the way for relationships in the early 1970s, Professor Zhu said. Back then, American table tennis players visited China to play a series of games that helped defuse decades of animosity.
“More than 50 years ago, the thaw in our relationship began with table tennis diplomacy,” Professor Chu said, repeating a satire that had gone viral on the Chinese internet. “It was a small ball that started it, and now our relationship is in trouble because of a big ball or a balloon. I never expected this metaphor to happen.


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