More Than Hot Air: How Bizarre Incident Popped Washington’s China Plans

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference with Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.InternationalIndiaAfricaUS Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed a visit to China which was scheduled for February 5-6 over an alleged Chinese “spy balloon” which has been recently detected in US airspace. Beijing explained that it is a weather device that had deviated from its planned route.”Looking at this from outside the Biden administration, it seems like there was indecision as to how to respond to the balloon,” Ross Feingold, a Taipei-based political risk analyst, told Sputnik.”Administration officials were made available to the media on Thursday to explain some of the internal discussions that resulted in the decision not to shoot down the balloon. A day later, the Biden administration decides to postpone Secretary of State Blinken’s trip to China. There will be many members of Congress who question why the Biden team didn’t have a tougher response earlier,” he continued.The bizarre incident has eventually disrupted the Biden administration’s plans to hold the high-profile talks in Beijing. The Pentagon has been tracking the balloon – the size of three buses – for a few days but decided to not shoot it down since it was evaluted not to pose an intelligence threat, as per US media.Still, the Republicans see the Chinese airship as no trifle matter: GOP lawmakers immediately demanded answers from the Biden administration about the Chinese device floating over the northern part of the US. They specifically lashed out at President Joe Biden over his apparent indecisiveness and inaction.”China’s brazen disregard for US sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent. I am requesting a Gang of Eight briefing,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted late Thursday.The “Gang of Eight” is a group of Republican and Democrat congressional leaders from both the House and Senate who are briefed by the US Intelligence Community.© Photo : Chase DoakA screenshot depicting an unidentified balloon over US skies.A screenshot depicting an unidentified balloon over US skies.China refuted the claims of the suspected surveillance balloon and explained that it was in fact a civilian airship intended for meteorological research.”Affected by the westerly wind and with limited self-control ability, the airship seriously deviated from the scheduled route,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement as translated by the US press. “China regrets that the airship strayed into the United States due to force majeure. China will continue to maintain communication with the US to properly handle the unexpected situation.”Beijing urged Washington to remain cool-headed but nonetheless, Blinken’s visit was postponed. A senior state department official said that the US noticed China’s statement of regret but the presence of the balloon in the US air space is a “clear violation of sovereignty and international law.””The Biden administration’s foreign policy team still seems to believe that high-level dialogue with China is important even when relations have soured, so, there’s probably some disappointment as well that there won’t be a chance for a face-to-face meeting,” Feingold said.

If there were any hopes by the Biden administration that the meeting would result in agreements to resume dialogue on certain issues (such as the dialogues that China paused in retaliation for House Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last August), that’s off for now. It’s possible that the Biden administration will continue to talk to China about rescheduling for a later date, though it’s too soon to speculate when that might be.

Ross FeingoldTaipei-based political risk analystWorldBlinken to Meet Xi During China Trip, Marking First Such Encounter in Six Years – ReportsYesterday, 20:37 GMT

Blinken’s Botched China Trip

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s China trip was seen as an opportunity to build a floor under the US-China relationship and soothe simmering tensions, according to the US mainstream press.It wouldn’t be an easy task given the downward spiral of US-China relations following Joe Biden and Xi Jinping’s meeting in Bali, which, according to veteran US statesman Henry Kissinger, may have averted a direct confrontation between the powers.

"This visit [would be] the first visit by a high-ranking member of the Biden administration to China, or for that matter to meet with President Xi," Dr. Victor Teo, a political scientist specializing in international politics of the Indo-Pacific based in Singapore, told Sputnik. "This meeting [would be] a follow up to the 2022 Biden-Xi meeting in Bali where both residents agreed that China and the US should try and work out a more 'stable' relationship."

“The US media is reporting that amongst other things, the US side is keen to have a discussion of the Ukraine conflict with the Chinese. This is clearly a diplomatic attempt to further try to maneuver China into a more difficult position. At the same time, the Chinese clearly [was] seeing this as an opportunity to raise their concerns with regards to the issues close to them, for instance Taiwan and the South China Seas,” Teo continued.As Blinken was fixing to embark on a journey to China, the Biden administration has stopped providing US hi-tech companies with licences to export to Huawei, a China telecom giant. The United States also reached a deal with Japan and the Netherlands to restrict China’s access to their advanced semiconductor chip-making technology. Earlier, Joe Biden inked a sweeping CHIPS Act that prohibits companies from spending capital on developing advanced factories in China or producing chips.Meanwhile, House Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy stated earlier this week that China can’t stop him visiting Taiwan if he wants, even though American lawmakers are well aware that Beijing considers such a move as a crossing of its most sensible red line.It is no coincidence that Washington was ramping up its bellicose rhetoric ahead of Blinken’s scheduled visit, according to international observers, who saw that as a US attempt to improve its negotiating position. Furthermore, the Biden administration planned to send its emissary to Beijing exactly at the time when the People’s Republic’s economy was undergoing a temporary slump in the wake of its latest COVID lockdowns.There are at least three reasons for Washington’s hardball diplomacy vis-à-vis Beijing, according to Teo. First, President Biden and his fellow Democrats have no wish to be accused by the Republicans of going “soft” on China and playing defensive in forthcoming elections. Second, Washington has been doing everything to disrupt China’s developmental trajectory to ensure US dominance. Third, Washington needs to reinvigorate its allies in Europe and in Asia, not only to ensure Washington remains supported and strong, but also to ensure that its partners do not “defect” to work with Beijing.AmericasBlinken Postpones Beijing Trip Over Chinese Balloon in Sky Over US Until ‘Conditions Are Right’15:00 GMT

The Balloon Factor

“My belief is that there should be a rapprochement between the United States and China, and we should rein in the independence movement there in [Taiwan],” Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, told Sputnik. “But obviously, that was not what Blinken was going to do. I think Blinken was going over there to use Taiwan as leverage with China against Russia. It might be for the better that he’s not going over there in the first place, at least from my perspective, it could have exacerbated the situation there in Ukraine.”Prior to Blinken’s scheduled visit the US media bemoaned the Russo-Chinese rapprochement amid Moscow’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine. Indeed, Beijing refused to join the West’s sanctions and substantially stepped up trade with Russia thus helping it to weather unprecedented restrictions slapped on it by the US and its NATO allies. In addition, a Russo-China strategic alliance has been a long-standing nightmare of US geostrategists: while Beijing has Moscow’s back in terms of economic cooperation, Russia’s energy and trade routes make the West’s potential maritime blockade of the People’s Republic futile and ineffective, as per Stratfor, also known as a “shadow CIA”.The balloon’s abrupt appearance turned the tables on the Biden administration which has found itself in a heap of trouble having to explain to angry Republican lawmakers why the White House and the Pentagon tolerated the giant foreign aircraft in the US air space for so long.This situation, however, is unlikely to discourage Washington’s intent to continue escalating tensions with Russia and China, according to the professor.”First, the United States will continue to escalate its de facto war against Russia in Ukraine. I think the call for the F-16s will be fulfilled in the immediate future. As for China, in light of Blinken’s cancellation, we will probably see an escalation of tensions with China over Taiwan. That would be the way I would see it now. But of course, again, my analysis could change based upon developing facts,” Boyle concluded.


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