A Wandering Balloon Shouldn’t Create a Butterfly Effect

Zhang Xianghua Charge d’ Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Sudan

A Chinese unmanned civilian airship used for meteorological research purposes was recently shot down by the U.S. military fighter jet, which has triggered strong international responses. It is surprising that the U.S. side took the chance to fuss over and dramatize the weather airship incident. This reminds us of the butterfly effect: A butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can lead to a tornado in Texas a month later.
Fussing over the Airship Incident Is a Political Farce
High-altitude balloons are widely used across the globe for scientific research. It is not unusual for balloons to blow off course. Since the incident happened, China has stated repeatedly that the balloon is found to be an unmanned civilian airship used for meteorological and other research purposes, and that its accidental entry into U.S. airspace is entirely an unexpected, isolated incident caused by force majeure. Even the U.S. defense official said the balloon does not present a threat to the U.S. Despite this, the U.S. insisted sending a F-22 fighter jet to down the unmanned civilian airship when it had already left U.S. airspace. It continued to fuss over the airship incident, weaved the “spy balloon” narrative, and used the trumped-up charge to impose illegal sanctions on six Chinese companies and institutions. The U.S. shooting down a wandering airship using a fighter jet and missile is an obvious overreaction, turning the incident into a political farce. Some U.S. politicians disregarded facts and confused black and white, just to intentionally create anti-China stunts. People both in China and around the world are clear-eyed about the U.S.’ despicable behaviors.
Abusing the Use of Power Attests to U.S. Hegemony
In international practice, when an unmanned civilian aircraft accidentally enters another country’s airspace due to force majeure, both sides will usually act in a calm, professional and proper manner without the use of force and resolve the problem through cooperative communication. This is the right and proper approach to such incident. According to international law, the illegality of an unmanned aircraft entering another country’s airspace without authorization can be exempted in the event of force majeure, danger or emergency evasion.
Since the incident occurred, China has acted in a positive and cooperative manner and maintained close communication with the U.S. side. Without any evidence, the U.S. wrongly called the unmanned civilian airship a “spy balloon” and responded unilaterally with abuse of force, in disregard of the communication between the two sides and efforts made by the Chinese company. This is an obvious overreaction that violates the Chicago Convention and multiple basic principles of international law. The U.S.’ shooting down of the airship once again exposes its hegemony and sets a bad precedent for the handling of civil aircraft in similar scenarios in the future.
Throwing Mud at China Shows U.S.’ Guilty Conscience
In response to the unmanned airship’s accidental entry, the U.S. disregarded facts and China’s friendly communication, and took the chance for political manipulation and ill-intended hype. This shows that it wants to artificially find fault with China and play the trick of a thief crying thief. In fact, the U.S. is no doubt the No.1 country in terms of surveillance. Over the years, the U.S. has engaged in massive, non-discriminate wiretapping and secret theft operations globally, including against its allies, by abusing its technology advantage. These operations violate the sovereignty and interests of countries around the world, the international law and basic norms governing international relations. The U.S. military vessels and aircraft conducted frequent close-in reconnaissance on China, including 657 sorties in 2022 and 64 sorties in January this year in the South China Sea alone, which seriously undermines China’s national security and regional peace and stability. U.S. balloons have often entered other countries’ airspace illegally. By 2018, the U.S. has released over 2,000 high-altitude balloons. Since May last year, the U.S. has released a large number of high-altitude balloons from its territory, which have continuously circled the globe and illegally flown over the airspace of China, including Xinjiang and Tibet, over ten times at least without the approval of relevant Chinese authorities. It is quite clear to the global community which country is the No.1 spy empire in the world. The U.S. needs to reflect on its own behavior and change course rather than attacking others and stoking confrontation.
U.S.’ China Policy Is Led Astray from the Right Path
The unmanned airship incident is entirely an accident caused by force majeure, and its facts and nature are crystal clear. However, in violation of the spirit of international law and international customary practices, the U.S. created a diplomatic crisis that could have been avoided. Over the years, there have been an increasing number of similar troubles stirred up by the U.S. that are detrimental to China-U.S. relations. The root cause of such situation is that the U.S., based on seriously misguided perception of China, regards China as its primary rival and biggest geopolitical challenge. This is like the first button in a shirt being put wrong. And the result is that the U.S.’ China policy has entirely deviated from the rational and sound track.
As a Chinese proverb goes, “It is too late to stop a leak when the boat has sailed into midstream.” The butterfly effect tells us that an error could ultimately result in devastating consequences if it multiplies. President Xi Jinping pointed out that whether China and the U.S. can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world. The global community expects China and the U.S. to take the lead, fulfill the responsibility as major countries, keep the bilateral ties stable and advance global cooperation. China will always follow the principle of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation proposed by President Xi Jinping in our efforts to promote sound and stable growth of China-U.S. relations, while firmly safeguarding its sovereignty, security and development interests. We hope the U.S. government will listen to the calls of the two peoples, rid of its strategic anxiety of “threat inflation”, abandon the zero-sum Cold War mentality, and refuse to be hijacked by “political correctness”. We hope the U.S. will work with China to explore the right way to get along with each other to the benefit of both countries and the entire world.

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