How big a threat can a Chinese balloon be to the almighty US security?

This Unsplash rich picture bizarrely enough can describe the “childish” US shooting down of China’s technically faulty weather forecast balloon last Saturday. The figure on the left reading John Lennon’s “Imagine” inspiring lyrics is none other but the world hoping for global peace and stability while the US just blasts a balloon on our face.

The story about China’s weather-forecast balloon that had technical problems due to the weather and strayed uncontrollable over the American airspace and most of all its shooting-down by a US aircraft is exactly as much funny as serious when it comes to the stability of this shaky world.

That a weather forecast balloon can have technical problems due to the weather flying very far from its base and at altitudes above passenger/commercial plane heights can be a possibility, right? One would expect that the US monitors the situation and location of the balloon closely and cooperates with China regarding the safe control and transfer of the balloon outside the US airspace, so that China is able to regain access to its equipment. And indeed, initially the first US statements were discussing about just monitoring and surveillance of the balloon’s movement. Obviously, the Texas way of “shoot down everything that moves” prevailed on Saturday when an F22 received orders to shoot this “huge threat” down.

Quite understandably, there were political pressures both inside the Biden administration as well as the Republicans to destroy this stray balloon. But one would expect the world’s biggest economy to use diplomacy with the world’s second biggest economy, just a few days ahead of Blinken’s visit to Beijing, to resolve the matter amicably. Instead, the cowboys impulsively pulled the guns without considering any repercussions of destroying a scientific civilian property of another state.

And then of course, the climax came with Blinken’s cancellation of visit to Beijing and much anticipated high level discussions with Xi just as if the US demanded China to apologise to the US for using force to take the balloon down. To be noted that the Chinese side had been stressing that the reason the balloon accidentally strayed away was technical malfunction due to weather. Instead, the US supported that it was a “spy balloon” intercepting sensitive information from the US.

Given the fact that this was an unmanned civilian balloon and not a military device, China protested heavily against the American violent intervention to shoot it down. China representatives on Sunday claimed that this behaviour was an overreaction and sets a bad momentum for future. They also claimed this to be a clear break of international conventions.

According to Chinese sources, US aircrafts, be it military or civilian, often fly over South and East China Sea as well as the Taiwan Straits but China maintains calm and diplomacy and doesn’t use force to brutally repel them. A spokesperson of China’s Ministry said that China now is given the right to respond to similar cases in this way too.

All that comes after some promising discussions between the two sides during the G20 meetings last November in Bali, leaving some hope to the world that the US and China will try to bridge the substantial gap that has been built between the world’s biggest economies. Nevertheless, to go from Bali to shooting down civilian balloons with technical issues doesn’t show diplomatic consistency from the US side though.

Analysts fear that this incident could spark an unnecessary brand new tension between the two countries as brutal force to respond to such unimportant things as erroneous balloons becomes a standard. Imagine what would happen now if an American lets a “hellion balloon” over Taiwan or other Chinese territories. Should China reciprocate by shooting it down without remorse?

It’s really hard to get that these days a loose balloon can start a war. The American shooting down of last Saturday simply shows that the world’s stability and peace is hanging by a thread. Surely, one would expect a more peaceful and mature handling by Washington of this incident. It is common knowledge that diplomacy should always prevail over the cowboy way, ain’t it?


  1. Private Citizen says:

    There is no such thing as an innocuous Chinese balloon flight over the U.S. The Chinese are always spying on whomever they want – not just the USA – to glean ANY information they believe will help them become the world’s #1 power. They would likely shoot down any balloon flown over their mainland – or t least capture and keep it – analyzing or reverse engineering any and every part of it. China is not your average run-of-the-mill nation that wants to get along with its neighbors. They are an atheistic society bent on world domination. Allow their balloons to fly over your territory at your own peril. If America were as trigger-happy as you imply, we’d be in way more battles than we are. Not even Trump was that gun crazy. He did only what he felt he absolutely had to and no more.

  2. I guess you don’t agree with the fact that the Chinese had implemented a back door to almost every piece of electronics the reverse engineered for the sole purpose of gathering information about the device’s use? The back doors they designed into so many different applications collected and continue to collect trillions of bits of info to be used in konwn (some) and unknown ways to give the Chinese an advantage in the domination race.

    What you did not mention is that the collected data had already been uplinked to a chinese satilite and safely stored away long before the balloon was shot down.
    What will be interesting to know is what the equipment inside really consisted of and what can be gleaned, if anything from the remains, if they are found. It is unlikely that we, private citizens, will ever learn full disclosure especially if it was a clandestine effort to collect more accurate and specific data about the missile sites and other critical defense infrastructure it over-flew.

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