An editorial by Chinese state newspaper China Daily on Sunday said that the United States has turned the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon into a “Hollywood blockbuster,” adding that the Biden administration overreacted when addressing the situation.
The White House shot down the balloon on Saturday afternoon after it flew into American airspace for several days this past week, and was first spotted hovering over the skies of Billings, Montana.
President Joe Biden initially wanted to shoot the balloon down when he was briefed on the situation on Wednesday. However, national security officials initially refused to do so, citing potential safety concerns for people on the ground.
Once the surveillance balloon drifted towards the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) closed down airspace over parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. The balloon was downed later by an F-22 fighter jet, which fired a missile at it while it was about six nautical miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Biden said more information about the balloon would be available at a later point.
However, the decision to shoot down the balloon was not accepted by Chinese officials. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that it “strongly disapproves” of using force to down the balloon, which China previously referred to as an “airship” that was set up for meteorological research and was blown off its course.
“The Chinese side has clearly asked the US side to properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner. The spokesperson of the US Department of Defense also noted that the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Under such circumstances, the US use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice. China will resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the company concerned, and reserves the right to make further responses if necessary,” the ministry’s statement read.
Meanwhile, China Daily‘s editorial team claimed that the U.S. is using the balloon as an excuse to postpone Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China this weekend. Blinken was expected to visit the country in an effort to ease tensions between Beijing and Washington that were often fueled by trade disputes and the stance toward Taiwan.
“…The balloon is an excuse, not the cause of the postponement. The true cause lies in US domestic politics,” China Daily‘s editorial read, referring to relations between Republicans and Democrats.
“By hyping up the balloon as being ‘a massive surveillance balloon’, US media outlets have provided the excuse for that political animosity toward China to be intensified as the two parties are already jockeying for position with their eyes on the presidential election in 2024,” the newspaper’s editors wrote.
The editorial later concluded that “China cherishes its relationship with the US, and its goodwill should be echoed with goodwill instead of such dirty tricks that seek to make the country a political football in the rancorous power struggle between the two US parties.”
In a Sunday editorial by the Chinese state-owned Global Times, Shen Yi, the director of the Research Institution for Global Cyberspace Governance at Fudan University, made a similar argument. Yi wrote that the U.S. discussions around the balloon explains the “main challenge confronting China-U.S. ties, as well as the ill nature of U.S. domestic politics.”
“A ‘wandering balloon’ – an utterly harmless civilian airship used for meteorological research, blown by wind and accidentally entered into US airspace via Westerlies – has made the US, a superpower which shows off its military muscles around the world, react as if it were confronted by a formidable enemy,” the Global Times’ editorial read.
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.