U.S.-China relations just got more fragile

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indefinitely postponed a visit to Beijing due to a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the United States.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | beautiful pictures

BEIJING – Analysts say US-China relations look increasingly fragile after a Chinese balloon was now dropped forcing US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to indefinitely postpone his trip. to Beijing.

While the alleged spy ball poses little real threat, analysts point out that the high level of public attention limits the extent to which leaders can act in the pursuit of steady gesture. Presidents of the two countries meeting face to face for the first time under the Biden administration about three months ago, when Blinken’s travel plans to China were first announced.

Gabriel Wildau, chief executive of Teneo, said in a note: “The nascent détente between the US and China is now in a state of peril, if not completely dead, and any Any future détente will be easily derailed by domestic politics.”

“An important question is why did the Biden administration decide to make this balloon public and not the previous one [reported] Wildau said.

Representatives of the US government did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the decision to disclose the existence of the balloon to the public.

The downed spy bubble raises tensions between the US and China

The US Department of Defense said a fighter jet of the US Air Force shoot down balloons at the weekend, after initially deciding not to do so when the balloon was over US soil. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced that a confidential China briefing with all senators will be held on February 15.

“Schumer revealed that we knew that once the balloon was made public, China tried to steer the balloon away from the US as soon as they could,” a press release from Senate Democrats said on Sunday.

The Chinese Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs both called the US move to shoot down the hot air balloon an “overreaction”.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said: “What the US has done has seriously affected and damaged both sides’ efforts and progress in stabilizing China-US relations since the meeting in Beijing. Bali”. .

The State Department said in multiple statements that the “balloon” was primarily for weather research and “had deviated from plan” due to winds and forces beyond China’s control.

While discussion of hot air balloons – including memes – goes viral on Chinese social media, China’s official Chinese-language mouthpieces have so far been more silent. A nightly state news broadcast on Sunday made no mention of the balloon being shot down.

“Both sides understand the challenges,” said Dali Yang, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. “We do receive public communications and perhaps both sides regret how the situation has developed.”

“I also have a feeling that China is working to make up for lost time,” Yang said. “That alone would mean that the Chinese leadership will be more restrained and not want to let this bubble burst more than necessary.”

The US government strongly believes that the Chinese hot air balloon has a monitoring device: Consulting

Over the past few days, both countries have emphasized the need for communication and have done so at a high level.

Blinken spoke Friday with Wang Yi – China’s former foreign minister who was recently promoted to a more senior diplomatic role – according to information from both countries.

While Blinken said it would not be appropriate to visit Beijing at a time of “a clear violation of US sovereignty and international law”, he will travel to the Chinese capital as soon as conditions permit, according to a statement. source said. statement by US State Department spokesman Ned Price.

However, analysts say too many changes have made it easier for the situation to return to the way it was before the ballooning incident.

“Last week’s hot air balloon crisis will have a significant impact on bilateral relations and certainly US public opinion, political and policy debates over the [China]”, Roman Schweizer, executive director of aerospace and defense at Cowen and Company’s Washington Research Group, said in a report Sunday.

“Countries spy on each other — enemies and friends, using all kinds of methods and technologies. Getting caught is risky,” says Schweizer. “The hot air balloon crisis may have confused the PRC so much that it would seek to retaliate, change the narrative, or simply make America worse somehow.”

On the US side, he expects the Biden administration to “put pressure on to be tougher”. He pointed to the administration’s export controls targeting Chinese technology and potential limits on US investment in China, as well as new developments from the House Select Committee on China.

the sentiments of the American public

In the first major victory of US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, members from both Democrats and Republicans voted overwhelmingly in January to established the House Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Communist Party of China.

It remains unclear whether McCarthy will visit Taiwan, as his predecessor did in August, angering Beijing. Taiwan is a self-governing democratic island that Beijing considers part of its territory.

More than half of Americans agree that the United States should continue to let senior politicians visit Taiwan even if it harms bilateral relations with China. Pew Research said in October.

“In the past few years, more and more the majority of people in the US have an unfavorable view of China” amid concerns about China’s human rights policy, its partnership with Russia and other factors, according to Pew Research.

Michael Hirson, head of China research at 22V Research summarized the impact of weekend events on US-China relations in a tweet:

“The hot air balloon episode is both exciting and unsettling because that’s the phase of the US-China relationship we’re entering: absurd and also dangerous.”

— Michael Bloom and Christina Wilkie of CNBC contributed to this report.


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