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Tense Relations Between China and the U.S.

In the last two weeks, diplomatic relations between the two superpowers have been tense. The two countries are the US and China. On Feb. 4, the United States ended the tensions by shooting down the balloon off South Carolina’s coast. The boat traveled across the United States detected early on with a delayed response by the government. Some civilians threatened to shoot the balloon down themselves but were ultimately stopped by the F-22 fighter jet.


The United States claims that the balloon’s presence is unwarranted. Moreover,  The US issued accusations of Chinese espionage via balloons. Accusations came following tense China-U.S. relations over economic reasoning. For example, the U.S. recently blacklisted several aerospace private companies that have been allegedly working with the Chinese government. These allegations include working to improve China’s national security and having ties to military operations. This represents the latest shift of turning private, small businesses and incorporating them into a national framework in China. 


Following the United States shooting down the Chinese balloon with a fighter jet, China claimed the American actions to be “over-reactive”. Afterward, China has recently claimed the same unwarranted espionage on their own shores.


The balloon reportedly was the size of three buses. The huge size attracted attention, but the action didn’t come until later. Senior officials, including President Biden, suggested the postponement of shooting the balloon down to optimize the safety of civilians. Other officials agreed due to the composition of the balloon’s materials being unknown.


It is arguable that since the spy balloon was shot down, there is a frenzy in taking down flying objects. In the last week, three other objects have been shot down. These objects were shot down in Alaska, Canada, and Lake Huron periodically over national security issues. However, the difference between the speedy response to these unidentified objects and the Chinese “spy balloon” is that sensors were detected and could communicate information over long distances. To contrast, the balloon that the Chinese claim to be for the weather was not capable. Furthermore, the Chinese government argued that the balloon went astray. These ambiguous responses have raised diplomatic questions about what the proper course of action is when unknown objects are within a country's jurisdiction.


International diplomacy is governed by rules and laws. However, when these rules are crossed by nations, there is little that can be done. At an international level, there is no overseeing body that dictates relations between countries. At best, diplomats at fronting embassies and secretaries of state organize meetings and facilitate dialogue. However, when instances like this occur where there is a presumed breach of trust, there is a strain imposed on the relationship.


As of now, there has been no formal punishment for either China or the US following this debacle. The Secretary of State, Antony Billiken, briefly considered canceling his visit to Beijing. He ultimately ended up canceling it. This change in decision signals strategic diplomacy. It’s unpredictable what will happen next in the future.

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