After balloon launch: “unprecedented crisis” between China and the USA

Status: 02/06/2023 1:52 p.m

China’s government is sticking to it: the shot-down balloon over the USA was only used to observe the weather – Washington had completely overreacted. The verdict is also clear among the general public.

By ​Benjamin Eyssel, ARD Studio Beijing

China’s state broadcaster CCTV’s main evening news service made no mention of the balloon dispute. Instead, the first news will be how Chinese farmers will start sowing in the spring.

But in online media and social media, the pictures of the downed balloon have long since spread. It mainly presents China’s version of a weather balloon that accidentally entered US airspace and was shot down by the US Air Force for no reason.

“They threaten us”

In a street poll in Beijing, most also heard about the incident. “China has already explained the whole thing,” says a 26-year-old. “I’m not sure if the US shot down the balloon before or after that. If that was after our statement, then they definitely overreacted.”

“I found out about the incident on short video apps,” says a 15-year-old. America shot down a weather balloon. “I think the US will fight us, they threaten us.” A 71-year-old says he has never had a bad image of America. “Now I find them too bossy. The US thinks everything they do is right. Everything China does is wrong.”

Diplomatic protest from Beijing

China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng addressed the US Embassy in Beijing today over the dispute over the downed balloon. He urged the United States not to escalate tensions or take further measures that harm China’s interests.

He reiterated the Chinese position that the balloon was a civilian unmanned airship that accidentally entered US airspace. The Chinese government is protesting the shooting down and is closely monitoring the development of the situation.

“Incident is a symbol”

At the weekend, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense issued written statements on their websites about the incident. One reserves the right to react in similar situations with necessary measures, it said, among other things.

The dispute over the alleged spy balloon has further worsened the already extremely difficult relations between China and the United States. “Relations between China and the United States have entered a crisis unprecedented in 50 years,” says independent Chinese political scientist and former university lecturer Wu Qiang. This is the latest development in a deterioration that has been going on for many years.

“The balloon incident is a symbol of that. Nevertheless, I want to be optimistic about the development of relations this year,” he says. China may have more room for negotiation in future dialogues as a result of the balloon incident.

There is a lot to talk about

But China and the USA are currently a long way from dialogue. There is a lot that needs to be discussed: the dispute over the island of Taiwan, Russia’s war in Ukraine, Chinese human rights violations, North Korea. Actually, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was supposed to be on a visit to Beijing to at least keep some channels of communication open. Because of the incident, he has postponed his trip – indefinitely.

After the balloon launch: relations between China and the USA at a new low

Benjamin Eyssel, ARD Beijing, February 6, 2023 12:48 p.m

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