China has strongly protested at the shooting down of its meteorological balloon that had strayed into US airspace “completely accidentally”.
A US military fighter jet shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, a week after it first entered US airspace.
“China clearly asked the US to handle this properly in a calm, professional and restrained manner,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The US has insisted on using force, obviously overreacting.”
Although China explained, clearly and unambiguously, that the high-altitude balloon spotted flying over the continental United States was a civilian balloon used for meteorological purposes and that its entry into US airspace was unintended, the US is still using the incident to justify the postponement of the planned visit to China of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
But the balloon is an excuse, not the cause of the postponement. The true cause lies in US domestic politics. US President Joe Biden said he had issued an order on Wednesday to take down the balloon, but the Pentagon had recommended waiting until it could be done over the sea. Republican opponents in Congress still argue he failed to act quickly enough.
That reflects the struggle between the two parties and how public demonstrations of which party is tougher on China has become part of their feuding, hindering the world’s largest developed country from bettering relations with the world’s largest developing country. By hyping up the balloon as being “a massive surveillance balloon”, US media outlets have provided the excuse for that political animosity toward China to be intensified as the two parties are already jockeying for position with their eyes on the presidential election in 2024.
As the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in an earlier statement, China respects the decision of the US side to postpone Blinken’s visit, but the fact that the latter’s decision is based on some US media outlets’ hyping-up of the issue plus the fierce quarreling between the two US parties raises doubts about whether the US is sincere in claiming it wants to put bilateral relations back on a healthy track.
Since Biden agreed that it was important to maintain contact and communication at all levels in his face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bali ahead of the G20 Summit in November, either the US government lacks sincerity, or it lacks the capability to do so given the anti-China sentiment that prevails in Washington, which makes the Sino-US relationship extremely fragile, as the loudest voices are always the most unfriendly ones.
China cherishes its relationship with the US, and its goodwill should be echoed with goodwill instead of such dirty tricks that seek to make the country a political football in the rancorous power struggle between the two US parties.
Editorial, China Daily