US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was scheduled for his first visit to Beijing, China, but there was a balloon in the way. The accusation that a Chinese spy balloon was flying in US airspace was used as a pretext to cancel the agenda in early February. Since then, the situation has escalated with mutual accusations and a new chill in the relationship between the world’s two greatest powers.
The Chinese claim that the object shot down by a US F-22 fighter was a weather balloon that went off its expected course, but the situation did not stop there. Blinken called the episode an “irresponsible act” that violated US sovereignty and congressmen used President Joe Biden’s alleged delay in authorizing military action against the balloon as a sign of weakness.
Beijing, for its part, said on Monday (14) that US balloons flew over Chinese territory more than 10 times in 2022. “The US knows how many surveillance balloons it has already sent to the skies of the world. which country is the number one spy empire in the world,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
“What happens is that the USA, in order to sustain this dispute with China, needs to build narratives, because they are the ones that, in some way, justify before public opinion, the establishment, Congress, the measures that the American government adopts and justifies military investments,” he tells the Brazil in Fact Professor of International Relations at the São Paulo State University (Unesp) Luis Paulino.
The researcher points out that the US military budget is above R$ 4 trillion — the Senate approved expenditures of US$ 858 billion for the sector, with increases in transfers to Taiwan and Ukraine.
“This is money that could otherwise be used (to improve) the living conditions of the American people themselves. And they justify this investment – which benefits a certain segment of the American economy, this military-industrial complex – by creating enemies, and China is the ball of the hour”, says Paulino.
The White House itself admitted that the three flying objects it shot down with fighter jets after the first Chinese balloon pointed out as a “spy” was shot down could be for civilian use. The balloons could be “benign” and of commercial or scientific use, warned US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, although he also stressed that the nature of the objects will be investigated.
In the weeks prior to the incident, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yallen had met Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It was the first top-level interaction of the two governments after Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met during the G20 meeting in Indonesia, still in 2022.
To try to contain the Chinese development, which is pointed out by the US as its biggest “geopolitical challenge”, the White House is betting on sanctions. The Chinese advanced technology sector is the target of special attention, especially chips, with the US government prohibiting its companies from selling products to companies in the sector in China.
In addition to competition for technological dominance, there is anti-China sentiment in the United States. According to a Gallup poll, 79% of the US population has an unfavorable view of China. In addition, 49% of Americans believe that China is their country’s “biggest enemy”, against 32% who put Russia in that place and 6%, North Korea.
For Unesp professor Luis Paulino, there is a “certain anguish” in the United States due to the situation of economic codependency with the Chinese at the same time that the White House authorities do not trust China.
Despite the “growing conflict” between the two largest economies in the world, Paulino says he does not believe that the analogy with the Cold War, the dispute between the US and the USSR that shaped much of the 20th century, is not accurate because we do not have two modes of production competing for global hegemony.
“The term ‘Cold War’ is perhaps not the most appropriate because it refers to another context of dispute between the USSR and the USA where you had two systems that were practically watertight. Today you have this situation of mutual codependency”, says the Unesp professor.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho
Leave a Reply