Jun 30, 2023, 2:42pm EDT
securityNorth America

What China watchers think about the US findings on the spy balloon

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The News

A suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that flew over the U.S. and Canada and escalated tensions between the world’s two largest economies was made out of off-the-shelf American tech, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Preliminary findings from the “closely-held” U.S. investigation into the balloon found that despite having intelligence-gathering capabilities, the balloon did not collect and relay sensitive information to China due to the Pentagon’s countermeasures, officials said.

The latest developments have sparked discussion on whether the investigative findings were strategically leaked to the media, and, if so, how the move might affect U.S.-China relations.

We’ve curated three expert takes.

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  • It is remarkable that the PRC thinks it has leverage over the US to force it to not release a report about a spy balloon that violated US sovereignty and flew over the US,” Bill Bishop, author of the Sinocism newsletter, tweeted. “You have to give the PRC side credit, they played a weak hand expertly against the Biden Administration.” Such tactics appear to have been unsuccessful this time — but are part of Beijing’s broader strategy to get foreign powers to acquiesce to its demands, the Asia Society’s Orville Schell told Semafor this month.
  • Martin Chorzempa, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, criticized the ongoing diplomatic narrative pushed by the U.S. government, which has, so far, stipulated that it would not reveal damaging, classified information on the surveillance balloon to appease Beijing.
  • The actual impact of the recent balloon news on U.S.-China relations “will be almost zero,” Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Beijing’s Renmin University said, adding that the tensions between the two superpowers will not be alleviated. The most aggravating factor of the whole saga for China is that the U.S. military shot down the balloon, Shi said. — South China Morning Post
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Know More

Thursday and Friday’s headlines come just before U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is expected to make a trip to Bejing early next month to meet her new Chinese counterpart He Lifeng, among other officials.

In an exclusive interview with MSNBC, Secretary Yellen said that she intends to discuss disagreements between the two countries, “so that we don’t have misunderstandings,” she said.

Yellen also said that the U.S. will continue to uphold measures to protect its national security even if it entails “economic costs”.