Balloon Diplomacy


Note: this is a machine translation from the original Russian text

The US Secretary of State unexpectedly postponed his visit to Beijing, scheduled for February 5-6. What would that mean?

On February 3, the head of American diplomacy announced that he had decided to postpone a visit to the Chinese capital scheduled for Sunday. According to Blinken, the United States has informed China about this step at various levels. At the same time, the Secretary of State refused to announce new dates, making it clear that it would be premature to talk about this before resolving the current incident.

According to the American ABC News channel, Blinken does not want to cancel the visit in order not to "inflate" the situation. In addition, the Secretary of State allegedly does not want the "balloon theme" to be dominant in the negotiations. "It's hard to imagine a worse "warm-up" ahead of Anthony Blinken's critically important talks in Beijing, which are expected in the next few days, than the news that a suspected Chinese spy balloon is merrily hovering over the United States." This is how CNN political analyst Stephen Collinson assessed reports of an alien balloon flying over American territory.

The cancellation two days before his visit, which had been preparing since last summer, became an information bomb. And no wonder. After all, the American media made big plans for this trip. Blinken was to meet with the re-elected leader of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping, the head of the office of the International Affairs Committee of the CPC Central Committee Wang Yi, as well as the new Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang. They talked about "restarting US-China relations, relieving tensions in the trade and economic sphere," talking about global security and "helping Russia circumvent sanctions."

But it seems that the cancellation of the visit was the only reaction that the United States could afford in connection with a very curious situation that arose during the flight of a Chinese research probe over American territory.

A scandal has arisen in the USA. The radicals accused the administration of passivity, began to demand an immediate harsh reaction. The Republican leader in Congress, Kevin McCarthy, for example, said that China "committed a destabilizing act, brazenly violated the sovereignty of the United States, and President Joe Biden cannot remain silent." The American right saw in the story of the balloon an additional reason to attack the president, whom they consider soft towards China: they say, there is a violation of US sovereignty, and the administration does not react properly. As a result, the US State Department and the US Defense Ministry were forced to accuse the PRC of violating the airspace, the country's sovereignty and the norms of international law. To which the Chinese Foreign Ministry calmly stated that the probe of a civilian purpose, research, does not pose any threat, turned out to be over the territory of the United States by accident. The wind blew. Like, why make so much noise?! Let's resolve everything peacefully.

The head of the office of the CPC Central Committee's foreign affairs commission, Wang Yi, reacted to the Secretary of State's decision to postpone the planned visit: "Beijing does not accept any unfounded speculation and hype." He stressed China's exceptionally responsible approach, and also recalled that China has always strictly adhered to the norms of international law. Even in this case, Beijing adheres to international law, the probe flies almost in the stratosphere, just below the satellites, where there is no air as such. And the fact that the winds brought it, they say, is force majeure. With whom it does not happen.

A strong reaction could be the destruction of the probe and the implementation of Blinken's visit according to plan. But on what basis should we eliminate a scientific probe that accidentally flew into the Americans and is also moving at a high altitude?

It would be even stronger to show evidence that this is not a scientific probe at all, but an intelligence one, which the Pentagon accuses the Chinese of. But then you need to knock it down so as to save the equipment. But with this, apparently, the Americans have big problems. The strongest and most equipped army in the world turned out to be unarmed in front of a "peaceful" Chinese balloon. As it turned out, knocking him down is far from an easy task. The Pentagon, pathetically justifying himself, said that he allegedly had F-22 fighters ready to destroy the balloon if an order came from above. But, ultimately, at first the military decided not to do this, ostensibly so as not to put people in this sparsely populated state at risk. As if a lot of debris could form during the destruction, falling on their heads. And by the way, in Montana, where the balloon flew, there is a warehouse of American strategic missiles.

The probe first appeared over America on January 28. Then he barged over Canada for a couple of days without causing any reaction. As Biden himself said, he was informed about a strange object on February 1, and the US president immediately gave the order to shoot down the balloon as soon as possible. But it was only on February 4 that his order was carried out. That is, for a week, the Chinese probe calmly traveled over American and Canadian territories and, as stated by US Secretary of Defense Austin, observed strategic objects.

The Envoy of the People's Republic of China only one day did not live up to one of the favorite Chinese holidays – the Lantern Festival (Yuanxiaojie), which this year fell on February 5. Traditionally, on this day, the Chinese hang colorful holiday lanterns and launch them into the air. It seems that this year in China this day was celebrated with special pathos, sending millions of balloons into the sky.

After the tragic death of the Chinese probe, the Chinese Foreign Ministry regretfully stated that the actions of the United States in relation to a peaceful balloon were disproportionate and even reserved the right to protect the company that launched the flying object and to retaliate.

In the United States, many, including famous personalities such as Elon Musk, allowed themselves to mock the actions of the White House. The Chinese balloon was compared to a copy of the globe, a symbol of peace, and Biden was compared to a villain who brought down fighter jets and missiles on a defenseless flying object.

Several decades ago, at the height of the Cold War with the USSR, the Americans themselves actively used such means of espionage and provocations. And they were justified by the fact that their probes were flying in the stratosphere, which is not airspace. According to some reports, not one, but about five thousand similar balloons flew over the territory of the USSR. About one thousand of them were shot down. To combat such objects in our country, special high-altitude aircraft were used and special missiles were developed. Apparently, there were no such people at the ready in the United States, and the Pentagon was thinking for a long time about how to carry out the president's order. The US Department of Defense is most likely lying. If ordinary Americans had not discovered the balloon, the US military would simply have remained silent. Why make a fuss if Chinese reconnaissance satellites are flying a little higher, and nothing happens? Here it is appropriate to recall the notorious American spy planes U-2, which plowed the space over the USSR with impunity for many years until high-altitude anti-aircraft missiles appeared in our country.

Generally speaking, there is a lot of guile here. For example, American ships regularly pass near the island of Taiwan, which is a province of China. Moreover, the United States officially recognizes this. That is, they deliberately enter the territorial waters of the PRC, violate the sovereignty of China. China is not ready to react accordingly yet, although last year after Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, the Chinese military demonstrated how they can block shipping in this area. By the way, a naval blockade can be that non-lethal means of returning Taiwan "to the bosom of the motherland." That is, China is quite capable of winning here without a war.

And the supply of the Taiwanese puppet administration with American weapons is not a violation of the sovereignty of the PRC?

If the flight of the balloon and the American reaction are not part of a sophisticated geostrategic plan, then why would the Chinese not be lying against this background, too? Maybe this Chinese balloon got to the Americans by accident, because of the weather conditions. Maybe there was nothing in it but air. Or maybe, on the contrary, Chinese technologies have stepped so far that even American strategists are not able to decipher them.

But in fact it turns out that the Chinese have shown how they can disarm the enemy without war and military action. This is just in the spirit of the canons of Chinese martial art. China's social networks and even newspapers are full of cartoons about how "a Chinese balloon is floating merrily over the USA." They write that Chinese science and technology is able to produce thousands of such balloons that will fly all over the globe. Exclusively for scientific, peaceful purposes.

And the fact that the ball was eventually shot down doesn't matter anymore.

And as for Blinken, sooner or later he will get over it and come to Beijing. Despite the many claims against the United States, the PRC does not seem to refuse dialogue either. When diplomats speak and balloons fly, guns are silent. So we still need to talk.