Spy balloon dustup turns US-China relations into worsening.
The revelations of a Chinese balloon spying program have ended fledgling efforts by President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to manage tensions that could spiral into conflict and confrontation.
As the US scrambles fighter jets to down unidentified flying objects, the US is still having difficulty establishing communication lines between Washington and Beijing.
“Whether you want to call it competition, or something else, the U.S.-China relations at the moment are bad in almost every dimension. Tim Bergreen, ex-staff director of the House Intelligence Committee Democrats, said that this includes the military.
Biden has not yet addressed the nation about what his administration knows regarding the threat posed by China. Officials from the United States have also dismissed questions about whether Biden will speak with Xi. Their last encounter occurred in November at a face to face meeting on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Indonesia.
Washington sees Beijing’s support for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine as the greatest threat. China sees Biden’s support for Taiwan’s defense, raising the possibility of American troops being used, as a violation of Beijing’s self determination.
Despite the discovery of the spy satellite, the White House reiterated this week that it doesn’t seek conflict with China.
John Kirby, a national security spokesperson, stated that while it doesn’t change the fact we want to avoid conflict with China, it does not alter the fact we don’t seek conflict with China.
Administration officials also stress that lines of communication with Chinese counterparts remain open, despite a rebuff by the Chinese Minister of Defense after outreach from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last week, after the U.S. downed with an air-to-air missile the first, publicly-acknowledged Chinese surveillance balloon.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is China’s military. This strategy has been used to repel American military outreach attempts, Bonny Lin, director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ China Power Project, explained Wednesday to a Senate committee.
“I don’t think Sec. Lin stated that Austin’s counterpart didn’t pick up the phone.
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It shows that, across the U.S. engagement in China, our military to military ties and relationship are relatively weak. Despite the efforts of the administration to focus on crisis communication with the PLA and deconfliction, we have not made significant improvements. While I don’t think it is wrong to be on the U.S.side, I do not fault it to be on China’s side.
Lin said that they are not motivated to communicate or deconflict with us from their point of view because they see our attempts to communicate as either allowing, or green lighting, certain U.S. operations.
Chinese officials criticize the U.S. for bringing down the balloon. They call it an overreaction, and maintain that their explanation of the passage of a “civilian-manned airship” into American airspace was an accidental, unanticipated, and isolated error.
On Wednesday , Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, stated that Beijing was ready to take unspecified “countermeasures” to counter the Commerce Department’s sanctioning of six Chinese entities. These were allegedly related to the PLA’s aerospace programs.
The administration still has the option of high-level dialogues with top Beijing officials.
The Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a trip to Beijing due to the discovery of the balloon. However, a spokesperson for the State Department, Ned Price, said that meetings between top U.S. officials and Chinese officials could take place in a third country. There are reports that Price could also meet his counterpart at a Munich security conference on Thursday.
Both sides should move forward because the Chinese face many domestic problems, many of which are their own, that they must deal with economically, demographically and otherwise. Bergreen stated that Biden is also looking to re-election.
He said that Biden must “balance that against a Congress which essentially, there is almost no limit on how anti-China one can be on Capitol Hill now.”
Some lawmakers were quick to blame China for the three unidentified flying objects Biden ordered to be shot down over the weekend. However, the White House insists that there is no evidence they are part of the Chinese spying program.
Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), a top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said this week that China had “almost certainly launched” three objects.
Although the Biden administration did not draw that conclusion, it pointed out other instances of Chinese sabotage in Indo-Pacific waters against American allies.
The State Department Spokesperson, Price , condemned Monday China’s use of a military grade laser against a Philippine Coast Guard ship. It temporarily blinded its crew and reiterated Washington’s mutual defense pact with Manila.
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Officials urge patience
Military tensions between China and the U.S. are likely to escalate as Kevin McCarthy, the House Speaker (R-Calif.), is expected to visit Taiwan. Beijing considers Taiwan to be violating its deepest, most brightest red line.
Comfort Ero, the President and CEO of International Crisis Group said that “the relationship, it signals just how fragile it is, and how a public event forces decision makers to make decisions that play to the domestic audience,” during a briefing last week.
“It’s because of those miscalculations, those tendencies to exceed… Given how public this was, it’s no surprise that Blinken canceled his trip. It’s also not surprising that Biden responded the way he did. But it’s also why we recommend guardrails to manage crisis management in a measured manner.