On this edition of Parallax Views, Mel Gurtov, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, blogger at In the Human Interest, and author of Engaging China: Rebuilding Sino-American, joins us to discuss the 2023 Chinese Spy Balloon Incident aka #Balloongate that has further inflamed tensions between the U.S. and China. The incident caused an uproar on Capitol Hill and led to Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelling a diplomatic trip to China.
Initially China claimed it was merely a weather balloon that veered off course. The U.S. has said otherwise. The reporting has been that it was indeed a surveillance balloon. The ballon was first believed to enter U.S. airspace near Alaska on January 28th before moving over Canada. On February 1st the ballon was spotted over Montana before being shot down by a U.S. fighter jet on February 4th.
We discuss the importance of this story, the response by the U.S. and China, how the situation could’ve been handled differently/better, the growing tensions between the U.S. and China, and the future of Sino-American relations.
Among the topics covered:
– The Biden administration vs. the Trump administration on China
– The bipartisan consensus in Washington, D.C. and it’s hostility to China; tariffs, trade wars, and Trump’s China policy; China as a strategic threat from the Biden administration’s point-of-view
– Why Blinken’s diplomatic visit to China being cancelled could be seen as a missed opportunity
– Republican pressure for a hawkish, hardline response to China in regards to the spy balloon incident
– The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, AUKUS, Japan, the Philippines, Guam, and security treaty partnerships
– The U.S. role in Taiwan, strategic ambiguity vs. strategic clarity positions on Taiwan, China, and foreign policy
– The issue of human right abuses in China; the Uyghur Muslims in China; Hong Kong
– China’s response to the spy balloon incident; U.S. surveillance in China; satellite technology and spying; was the balloon an immediate threat?
– President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, the People’s Liberation Army, the nature of bureaucracy as it relates to Balloongate, China’s Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department, and the spy balloon
– The potential consequences/blowback of the Chinese Spy Balloon Incident; the hawkish element in China and its press is being fed by the U.S. response; paranoia begets paranoia; the blame game is being played by the U.S. and China and is making diplomatic engagement more difficult
– International security, the U.S., and China; can the U.S. and China find common ground on pandemic response research, climate change, and nuclear weapons?
– Are we in a New Cold War?
– The U.S., China, and the global economy
– Lessons to be learned from the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union
– Comparing the Chinese spy balloon incident to other tense U.S.-China moments such as the shooting down of a Chinese jet over Hainan in 2001
– What has happened to diplomacy and use of the diplomatic toolbox in U.S. foreign policy?; the national security apparatus, the Cold War mindset, ossifying institutions, and opposition to diplomatic engagement with adversaries
– Former World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick’s Washington Post op-ed “Opinion Engage, don’t cancel, China over the balloon”
– Anti-Chinese violence and racism; the Justice Department, the China Initiative, and the McCarthyite crackdown against visiting Chinese scientists that’s been called racial profiling
– The pandemic, U.S. vs China’s response to the pandemic, Zero COVID policy and protests against Xi, anti-China conspiracy theories about the pandemic, China’s handling of the pandemic, and Donald Trump use of the term the “China” virus
– Misperceptions about China; China is not a monolithic Borg entity; the limited understanding many American have of China even at a professional (even government level); looking at the world through Chinese eyes; China, cultural differences, and the pros and cons of U.S. individualism
– Stereotyping and demonization of the Chinese; China as a diverse country
– And more!