Balloon farce follows a US trend of imperial deception
Published: Mar 16, 2023 02:23 PM
F-22, aka the balloon killer, is the only fighter in the world to have defeated a weather balloon. Cartoon: Vitaly Podvitski

F-22, aka the "balloon killer", is the only fighter in the world to have defeated a weather balloon. Cartoon: Vitaly Podvitski

A farcical balloon scandal has further soured US-China relations. In late January 2023, the Biden administration and the US mainstream media spent a full week spreading fear about an alleged "Chinese spy balloon" flying over the US mainland. Chinese officials urged calm from the US and explained that the balloon in question was an unmanned meteorological aircraft that had been blown off course by heavy winds. On February 4t 2023, US President Joe Biden ordered the Pentagon to shoot down the balloon, costing $2 million.

The US has manipulated the balloon farce to lay the basis for an escalation in its hostile policy of "containment" toward China. 

The balloon scandal has been followed by a litany of aggressive moves by the US that fit neatly within a Cold War agenda. Chinese firms allegedly "connected" to the balloon incident have been sanctioned by the Biden administration. The US has since hyped up another evidence-free scandal in the wake of the one-year anniversary of the conflict in Ukraine, claiming that China possesses plans to send "lethal aid" to Ukraine. The US has followed up these allegations with plans of its own to galvanize allies to support more sanctions on China's tech industry.

The US's evidence-free allegations follow a specific formula. Scandals set the ideological terrain from which the US's actual agenda, the "containment" or weakening of China, is pursued in policy terms. The balloon incident and the evidence-free allegation that China is seeking to send weapons to Russia has led directly to economic sanctions. Accusations of Chinese potential "aggression" in the Taiwan Straits have once again been followed by an arms package which includes hundreds of missiles for F-16 fighter jets. In other words, when the US spreads fear and misinformation about China, it is the policies that follow which truly speak volumes.

US foreign policy toward China under Biden's leadership is not only dangerous for the entire world but also reeks of hypocrisy. US officials accuse China of policies that they themselves pursue against China. In 2022 alone, the US conducted over 600 reconnaissance flights in the South China Sea. The US has spread baseless rumors about China sending "lethal aid" to Russia while spending the entirety of 2022 sending tens of billions worth of weapons to Ukraine, a pattern that Russia has continuously stated would only prolong the conflict.

Hypocrisy is just one element of US foreign policy. Deceit is another. The US has a long history of spreading outright lies to justify war and aggression. In 2002, falsified US intelligence's claims that Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) led to the invasion of Iraq. US's claims that Libya's government under Muammar Gaddafi was committing atrocities against civilians laid the basis for the NATO intervention of 2011. The US has also accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons to attack its own civilians several times without verifiable evidence to justify its illegal military occupation and sanctions campaign against Syria.

These policies have caused massive instability, death, and chaos in the region and the world at large. They are just the surface of the US's habit of using lies and deception to achieve its imperial ambitions. The US has been at war for more than 93 percent of its history as a nation-state, a percentage that does not include the US's original sins of slavery and colonialism. It is thus not an exaggeration to call the US not only an empire of war, but also an empire of lies. And because this empire has entered a state of decline, deception has become an increasingly important tool for pushing forward the US's hegemonic aims. 

The latest round of US deception targeting China comes as China's economic recovery accelerates and its commitment to peace affirmed in its position statement released on the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine conflict. The US's economy remains unstable and its foreign policy has been increasingly reckless. The Biden administration has exacerbated a longstanding US trend of viewing China's rise as a threat to unipolar hegemony and is pursuing dangerous Cold War policies to maintain US global dominance. Behind the misinformation lies this hard truth which must be reckoned with by the international community if a more peaceful and prosperous future is to be secured for all.

The author is an independent journalist in the US and co-editor of Friends of Socialist China as well as a founding member of the No Cold War international campaign. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn