How Chinese Balloon Exposed US Weaknesses, Political Divisions & Neocon War Plans
16:46 GMT 06.02.2023 (Updated: 10:18 GMT 07.02.2023)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his trip to Beijing due to a Chinese "spy" balloon flying over the US, which he called an "irresponsible act" on the part of China. The Chinese leadership explained that the airship was a weather device and urged Washington to calm down. However, the balloon was shot down and Blinken's trip suspended.
"The Americans said they were starting an investigation [into the balloon incident]
," political scientist, leading researcher at the Institute of China and Modern Asia of the Russian Academy of Sciences Pavel Kamennov, told Sputnik. "They probably won't find anything. The Chinese side is indeed right. They were probably conducting some of their experiments, and the balloon was accidentally blown into the United States by the wind. It did not threaten anyone, it did not destroy anything."
"The fundamental point is that the airspace was violated, but Beijing immediately reacted and apologized. In addition, reconnaissance of the territory is now being conducted much more efficiently from space. However, even before the start of the investigation in America, the balloon was immediately called a 'spy' balloon, apparently simply because they call China a threat to national security for any reason," Kamennov continued.
The US military shot down the alleged "surveillance" balloon on February 4, days after it was detected last Wednesday over the northern part of the country. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin claimed that the balloon was used by the People’s Republic of China "in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States." Austin said that Biden ordered the US military on February 1 to shoot down the device as soon as it could be done "without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path."
3 February 2023, 18:41 GMT
Balloon Incident Reflects Rise in Anti-China Sentiment in US
However, the Biden administration's apparent hesitation to down the Chinese airship prompted a wave of criticism on the part of Republican lawmakers. "China’s brazen disregard for US sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent. I am requesting a Gang of Eight briefing," GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted late Thursday.
"Why didn't they shoot it down before it hit Alaska? So why let it travel the United States? I mean, these are the guys who gave us Afghanistan and Vietnam and Iraq. You know, there's a lot of saluting and gesturing and thanks for your service, but there's not a lot of competencies in the American military. Why did they not tell us until a civilian found it over Montana? Why did they shoot it down after it went across the United States?" James Bradley, an American historian specializing in the Asia-Pacific region, told Sputnik.
The abrupt appearance of the Chinese balloon floating over the US has exposed apparent weaknesses in the nation's air defense, according to deputy president of the Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences, captain of the first rank in the reserve, Konstantin Sivkov:
"The incident with the Chinese balloon actually tested the US continental air defense system," Sivkov told Sputnik. "This is an important point and an important conclusion: the American continental air defense was powerless. That is, the ground system was incapable of shooting down the balloon at the heights at which it flew. Only the F-22 Raptor with its powerful location station could reach such a high altitude. The F-15 and F-16 just didn't see it."
According to some estimates, the Chinese balloon flew over the United States at an altitude of 18 to 25 km. Many felt that the planes would not be able to shoot it down. However, the ceiling altitude of the F-16 is 50,000 feet (15,420 m), while that of the F-15 and F-22 is 65,000 feet (19,812 m). In fact, the balloon had long flown at a height that the planes hypothetically could reach. Moreover, the aircraft can accelerate and climb well above its maximum altitude. At the highest point, the plane can no longer maneuver, but this is quite enough to launch a rocket.
The Chinese government repeatedly stressed that the balloon had nothing to do with surveillance
. Once the airship was taken down by the US military, Beijing said it "reserves the right" to take appropriate measures to deal with "similar situations."
"The US used force to attack our civilian unmanned airship, which is an obvious overreaction. We express solemn protest against this move by the US side," China’s Defense Ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei said on Sunday. "[Beijing] reserves the right to use necessary means to deal with similar situations."
There is more to Washington's overreaction to the bizarre incident than meets the eye, according to Chinese political scientist, senior researcher, and expert at Renmin University of China Zhou Rong.
"The balloon incident reflects the rise in anti-Chinese sentiment in the US, but it does not signify a complete regression of Sino-US relations. The duration of the impact of the incident will depend on whether the United States continues to take steps to worsen Sino-US relations in the short term," Zhou Rong told Sputnik.
4 February 2023, 11:30 GMT
The Biden administration cancelled Blinken's trip to Beijing even though the US press asserted to its readers that the timing of the secretary of state's visit to the People's Republic
was nearly perfect. Washington appeared to have boosted its negotiating positions with bellicose rhetoric and tough measures against China's high-tech industry. On top of that, China faced a temporary economic slowdown due to the COVID-related lockdowns and seemingly softened its tone.
Blinken was expected to address China's unwillingness to join the West's anti-Russia sanctions over Moscow's special military operation in Ukraine and the issue of Taiwan, an island considered by the People's Republic as an inalienable part of the country.
However, it seems that the Chinese balloon has not only disrupted Blinken's plans, but also challenged the Biden administration's status quo, given the sharp criticism from the Republican majority in the lower chamber of the US Congress. In an apparent bid at damage control, the US mainstream media alleged that similar "spy" balloon incidents took place under the Trump administration too, but former Trump security officials resolutely denied the suggestions.
Meanwhile, the question arises as to how the incident will affect future US-China relations in the wake of the Biden administration's decision to suspend Blinken's trip.
"Blinken could either well miss an opportunity to exert his diplomatic skill in problem-solving, or find a convenient excuse to back-step gracefully a seemingly immature self-pronounced China trip. In Blinken’s assessment, he may find a postponement of the China visit more productive and constructive," Dr. Mignonne Man-jung Chan, research fellow and deputy director of the Taiwan Center for Security Studies, National Chengchi University, and former senior security advisor to then-President of the Republic of China Ma Ying-jeou, told Sputnik.
According to her, Biden "falls prey to the domestic political competition and needs to stage-show a strong leader’s muscle." She believes that "the damage could be minimized with post-facto bilateral communication."
"It is during contingency management that both countries could demonstrate their capability to tackle issues of mutual concern and willingness to nurture good will," Mignonne Man-jung Chan noted.
5 February 2023, 07:50 GMT
The cancellation of the visit does not mean that Blinken will not visit China in the future, according to Zhou Rong. The political scientist referred to the November meeting of US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Bali, stressing that the results of the negotiations between the leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit "are still relevant."
"Beijing continues to seek to stabilize the bilateral relationship while pursuing cooperation in areas where the two sides do share common interests, for example climate change," Dr Zhang Baohui, director of the Center for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, emphasized in an interview with Sputnik. "The two sides have thus been maintaining regular dialogues at the leadership level and the working level. Blinken’s planned China visit reflects the bilateral efforts to maintain communications and prevent miscalculations amid strategic competition."
According to Zhang Baohui, "the incident should have little impact on the bilateral relationship, which is shaped by the geopolitics of today’s world." He insisted that it also will not affect the working relationship between the two countries, suggesting that "it is likely that Blinken may soon reschedule his China visit."
Nonetheless, clouds are gathering on the US-China horizon, as Republicans and Democrats appear to have reached common ground when it comes to exerting pressure on Beijing, according to Sputnik's interlocutors.
5 February 2023, 19:11 GMT
Even though US-China relations are "very salvageable," it is clear that the Biden administration is interested in raising the stakes and ramping up bellicose rhetoric against Beijing, according to James Bradley. He cited Washington's involvement in the Ukraine conflict
, stressing that the US neocon establishment does not have a real strategy and tactics, but is pursuing its vested and political interests first and foremost.
"The USA is planning on war [with China]," Bradley said. "Right now, we're. It's a proxy war with Russia. The German foreign minister just said, 'We're fighting Russia.' Wake up. We're fighting Russia. So we are at war with Russia. And the nincompoops in the Biden administration think we're going to topple Putin and then something's going to happen. And next is China."
According to Bradley, this modus operandi does not correspond to the American people's interests. Furthermore, there is a global political shift Washington has to take into account.
"America is heavily propagandized against Russia and China," he noted. "I'm not trying to pump up Russia and China. I'm just saying that human beings live there and we could be friends and we could immediately get on the right track just by saying to China, 'You've got a different system and maybe we don't agree with it, but not everybody has to agree on everything.' We have to wake up. The world is going towards China. After World War Two, the world came to us because we were a democracy, we were open and we had a lot to offer. Now the world is looking at America and they're moving towards China and Russia."