Balloon goes up in Chinese ‘I spy’ guessing game

Beijing and Washington trade diplomatic hot air as tensions rise again in new Cold War

China’s rocky relationship with the United States has ballooned off course, sparking diplomatic hot air and Cold War rhetoric.

In a surreal 72 hours, Beijing and Washington have been locked in a standoff after a suspected Chinese “spy” balloon was spotted last week flying over Montana. 

The US state is home to part of an extensive US nuclear arsenal, triggering a war of wars between the world’s two economic superpowers.

By Sunday, the US Navy was scouring the coastline of South Carolina after the high-tech airship was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean by an F-22 fighter jet.

“The US attack on [a] Chinese civilian unmanned airship by force is an obvious overreaction,” People’s Liberation Army Colonel Tan Kefei, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said in a statement as reported by the state-run Global Times.

“China will reserve the right to take necessary measures in dealing with similar situations,” he added.

Floating feud:

  • The balloon was first sported over Alaska more than a week ago.
  • It then made its way across Canada before reentering American airspace.
  • Beijing originally apologized for the incident, expressing “regrets” about what it described as a civilian weather balloon.
  • But the Pentagon insisted it was being used for “Chinese surveillance” over the US.
  • A second balloon has been spotted over Latin America. 

The true cause lies in US domestic politics …

china daily

Diplomatic fallout: The backlash from the airship controversy forced US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to scrap his high-stakes Beijing trip. He was due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.

Rabid response: On Monday, the state-owned China Daily accused Washington of being “paranoid” in an editorial.

Between the lines: “The balloon is an excuse, not the cause of the postponement [of Blinken’s visit]. The true cause lies in US domestic politics … and the US media hyping-up of the [balloon] issue,” China Daily fumed.

Big picture: Beijing has been caught with its pants down in this game of spies. It comes at a time when Washington is beefing up its military cooperation with Japan and the Philippines amid China’s threats to invade Taiwan

China Factor comment:  Comrade Xi is milking every drop of bile from “balloongate” to cover up his shambolic coronavirus policy. In December, he finally ditched his “zero-Covid” strategy. Since then, up to 80,000 people have died in a matter of weeks. But the true figure could run into at least one million.