China has reason to stay calm after the US shot down a spy balloon
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Chinese spy balloon floats into the sea after being shot down off the coast of Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023. REUTERS/Randall Hill.
By Ryan Woo and Greg Torode
BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – China may respond to the US shooting down of a spy balloon after warning of “serious consequences”, but analysts say any move would have consequences. may be carefully considered to avoid worsening a relationship that both parties are seeking to improve. Repair.
Analysts and diplomats in the region are closely watching China’s response after a US fighter jet shot down a hot air balloon – which Beijing says was a erroneous weather monitoring device – in the Atlantic Ocean off South Carolina on Saturday.
China on Sunday condemned the attack as an “overreaction”, saying it reserves the right to use necessary measures to deal with “similar situations” without elaborating.
Some analysts say they will scan the seas and skies over East Asia for signs of tension, ahead of the growing deployment of ships and planes from China, the United States and its allies. .
But while bilateral tensions have risen over the past few days over the hot air balloon incident, Beijing and Washington are looking to improve relations.
The discovery of hot air balloons in the upper atmosphere of North America prompted the United States to postpone this week’s visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. That trip was the result of a summit in November between President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping.
Both sides are seen as eager to stabilize relations after a tumultuous few years, with the Biden administration not wanting tensions to lead to conflict and Xi eyeing a recovery in the second-largest economy. two worlds after a severe recession due to COVID-19.
Zhao Tong, a senior fellow at the China office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a visiting researcher at Princeton University, said the road to rebuilding US-China relations may remain on the right track. .
“The two sides still have a common interest in stabilizing and responsibly managing the bilateral relationship,” Zhao told Reuters.
Sweep Beneath the Carpet
Collin Koh, a security researcher at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, predicts that China will continue to respond strongly to US military surveillance patrols but will stop immediately confrontation.
Even in more peaceful times, Chinese forces actively monitor US military patrols, especially at sea, amid tensions, regional military attaches said. on the issue of Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea.
“For manned platforms, we can expect China to show restraint, but for unmanned platforms it becomes more uncertain – especially if Beijing believes it can prevent block the fallout because it doesn’t involve the crew,” Koh said.
He noted China’s seizure of a US underwater glider deployed by an oceanographic research vessel off the coast of the Philippines in December 2016. The Chinese navy later returned it to a warship. of the United States.
Christopher Twomey, a security scholar at the US Naval Postgraduate School in California, said any Chinese response would be limited.
“I think they will protest moderately but hopefully cover this up and restore progress on high-level visits within a few months,” Twomey said privately.
Zhu Feng, executive director of the School of International Studies at Nanjing University, said US officials should stop “hype” events to ensure a return to the normalized communications they The previous request from Beijing went smoothly.
Zhu expressed hope that “the two governments can turn the page as soon as possible so that Sino-US relations can return to an institutionalized channel of communication and dialogue”.
Some analysts are monitoring China’s state media and online activity for hints of any calls for a tougher response, as the main state media China’s system has stuck to reporting official statements.
On China’s heavily censored social media, there is little evidence that nationalist anger is being stirred over the incident, with many netizens questioning a balloon.
“Now, China can retire satellites!” one user joked.