“Balloongate”, a captivating story, is compelling for many reasons.
American citizens are glued to commentary about the American journey across the continent.
It was described by the Pentagon as “manouvreable”, which indicated that it was under control.
It will be controlled by the Chinese. Where will they fly it, how will it land, and who will own it?
These are the hardware questions that the US military asks as it tracks the balloon’s progress, and considers whether to shoot it down.
Meanwhile, the small white dot at 60,000 feet in the sky casts an enormous political shadow.
It has lowered the diplomatic mood so US secretary-of-state Antony Blinken was forced to postpone the trip to Beijing.
He said “Unacceptable” and “Irresponsible” when announcing his meeting with President Xi was cancelled.
Officials from the State Department stated that events would “narrow our agenda”, which seems to be a fair assessment.
Given the history of Taiwan’s most important bilateral relations, the talks would be challenging enough.
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Next week’s meeting was planned as a reset in relations. This is an attempt to warm up the diplomatic thaw that occurred at the G20 last summer when Biden met .
The purpose of the visit was to establish a framework, a foundation for improved relations. This superpower style is “invest, align and compete”, which the US refers to as the three pillars of their relationship with China.
The act of aggression, however, could make the occasion seem more hostile (literally). It would only harm trust and undermine weight discussions about the antagonism between Washington and Beijing .
The decision to postpone the trip was a major political move as the United States negotiates with a relationship that officials from the state department described as “its most complicated and consequential”.
Yet, some voices insist that the US should have done more.
Washington’s hawks channeled their dissatisfaction via social media.
Republican senator Tom Cotton tweeted, “President Biden should cease coddling and appeasing Chinese communists. Get the balloon down and use its tech package. This could be an intelligence boonanza.
As President Biden’s enemies demanded a more muscular response, similar sentiments were heard throughout the Republican ranks.
What are spy balloons?
They got a measured response, a clear dissatisfaction that was anchored in diplomacy. This recognizes the reality of superpowers spying on each other constantly.
We all face danger from the growing hostility between China and the United States.
Biden’s view seems to be that a balloon with limited intelligence and no military threat is not the end of the universe.
It shouldn’t be.