China’s suspected spy balloon: Fragile statements from Beijing

China’s suspected spy balloon: Fragile statements from Beijing

China’s leaders insist the balloon that was shot down was for civilian purposes. But their own announcements speak against it.

People on a boat pull a white tarpaulin out of the water

The remains of the downed balloon are recovered off the coast of Myrtle Beach Photo: US Navy/reuters

BEIJING taz | The balloon affair never ends: Just two days after the USA received the suspected espionage balloon from China shot down had, Costa Rica has now sighted such a flying object. The attitude of the People’s Republic of China remains the same: it is also a “civilian” balloon that has deviated from its originally planned route due to strong winds.

Soon she will Claim of the Chinese government put to the test with hard facts. Because in the USA the salvaged balloon parts are currently being evaluated for their function. But there are already growing indications that China’s declaration is on thin ice.

A look at the archive is enough for that. As the Financial Times found out, the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, which runs its own television channel on military topics, broadcast a report five years ago about a stratospheric balloon that had tested a hypersonic missile during its flight.

The precarious thing: According to an initial evaluation, the balloon is said to have looked exactly the same as the balloon that was shot down by the USA. The post has now been deleted.

Recently there has been a growing interest in stratospheric balloons

In the last three years, Chinese balloons have been spotted in Asia time and time again – over Japan, India and several times over Taiwan. There they are also not very convinced of China’s theory that it is a so-called meteorological research balloon: The Financial Times Cheng Ming-dean, head of the national weather agency, quotes that the Chinese balloon would be different from traditional weather balloons in terms of both its size and flight altitude.

Stratospheric balloons have experienced increased interest as a technology in recent years, especially in China. Several universities, some of them with ties to the armaments industry, have carried out countless studies on the possible uses of the flying objects.

The distinction between “civilian” and “military” is becoming increasingly difficult to make. The government is pursuing a systematic strategy of merging the two areas for its People’s Liberation Army: According to this, the armed forces should be able to access research results from science and the private sector when it comes to national security.

And most technologies are in the so-called “dual use” area: They can be used for both civilian and military purposes. But if it really was a harmless weather balloon, why didn’t the Chinese report its intrusion into US airspace?

China uses a double standard

In any case, the argument seems hypocritical. Beijing angrily called the US shooting down a “violation of international practice” and even called the charge d’affaires of the US embassy to the State Department for a lecture.

On the other hand, China sets different standards for itself: just recently, state television broadcast a documentary in which Chinese army pilots were highly praised for shooting down a foreign surveillance balloon.

Ultimately, the question of truth is about more than moral dogmatism. If it turns out that the Chinese side has deceived the public, the visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – which has only been “postponed” so far – is likely to become increasingly unlikely.

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