Flap over Chinese balloon a colossal demonstration of warped thinking in the US
Published: Feb 10, 2023 05:53 PM
US overreacts by shooting down Chinese weather balloon. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

US overreacts by shooting down Chinese weather balloon. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

American military and political leaders, and the front pages of the corporate media, have been devoted to the denunciation of China for allowing a balloon to float across the Pacific Ocean and across North America. Although spokesmen for the Pentagon had acknowledged that the balloon actually posed no threat to the US and that any information the so-called spy balloon might gather would be only a redundant version of information routinely available to satellites and already widely known in intelligence circles around the world, pundits and politicians have been almost hysterical to outshout one another and demonstrate their hatred and aggressive intentions toward China. All of this would be funny, if it weren't so dangerous.

It has been clear for a long time now, since at least the "Pivot to Asia" announced by former president Barack Obama in 2011, that the US has embarked on a campaign to isolate and contain China, to try to disrupt China's development and derail its efforts to improve the lives of its people and the peoples of other developing countries around the world. The American military maintains bases all around China, and US intelligence agencies operate highly sophisticated listening posts to monitor communications and other kinds of information sources within China. American spy planes routinely fly just beyond the limits of China's airspace, sometimes even venturing into that airspace, to gather information. And of course the US has a long history of "overflights" by the infamous U-2 aircraft to spy on Cuba, the former Soviet Union, and other countries, not to mention the many American surveillance satellites which track over China every day. 

All of this makes the current flap over a Chinese balloon drifting across the country seem rather ridiculous. The melodramatic shooting down of the balloon just off the coast of South Carolina was so absurd that the popular American television show Saturday Night Live made it the focus of their opening comedy routine the following night. The hypocrisy and posturing of everyone from President Joe Biden to members of Congress, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Pentagon generals, intelligence spokespersons, and various media outlets is stunning.  

Sadly, this is just the latest round in the ongoing effort to demonize China, to prepare the American people for possible conflict, and to ensure that most Americans have only the most one-sided and hostile kind of knowledge and information. American elites are fearful of the decline of the US as the dominant power in world affairs, afraid of losing the power and privileges which they have enjoyed for many decades and the ability to enforce their will on peoples and countries around the planet. As the Western industrialized economies have lost their monopoly on modern technologies of production, and countries which were formerly the subordinate components of a global system of exploitation and extraction which enriched American and European elites have pursued their own paths of development, American domination has eroded, and a new world order has begun to emerge. China has been a leading example of this, having raised the material conditions of the lives of its people over the past 70 years, extending life expectancy, drastically reducing infant mortality, improving housing, providing educational opportunities, and creating national health care systems which saved millions of lives through the course of the COVID-19 epidemic.

China is returning to the kind of role in global affairs it occupied for many centuries before the onset of Western imperialism in the 19th century and the invasion and exploitation of the country in the Opium War and the following century until the successful revolution led by the Communist Party of China culminated in the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. The accomplishments of the Chinese people since then are a source of justifiable pride for their country, and serve as an inspiration for many people around the world, but for American elites they represent an existential threat. The rich and powerful in America do not want to share the wealth created by working people with those who actually produce it, in their own country or elsewhere. The fear and hatred generated by their realization that the times are changing and that the future will be different is driving them to ever more reckless actions and provocations directed at China. This is a danger to people in China, in America, and around the planet.

This is an age when the world's people face profound challenges. Climate change and global warming threaten the very existence of society in the coming decades. Inequality and injustice destroy lives every day. It is an era when the resources of the world should be directed to solving these critical challenges, not to fanning the flames of "great power conflict" as American politicians and military leaders are doing. That a balloon drifting across North America, which posed no threat to anyone, should be the focus of so much hyped up anger, and be shot down by fighter jets with missiles, is a colossal demonstration of how warped the thinking in the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon has become. China and America should be working together to build a better future, one in which peace and justice are the goals, and in which improving the quality of life for all is the objective, not the perpetuation of the power of a few to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else.

The author is professor of East Asian and global history at New Mexico State University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn