In the pre-balloon era, China was busily engaged in a charm offensive. Following October’s Communist Party congress, at which Xi Jinping won an unprecedented third term in office, Beijing made moves to stifle the combative and confrontational group of diplomats known as wolf warriors. Xi hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the capital, and condemned Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. The tone of China’s leading diplomats noticeably softened. Vice Premier Liu He, meeting with corporate executives in Davos, Switzerland, emphasized that China was back and open for business. And for the first time in almost six years, Xi planned to host a U.S. secretary of state in China.
Whether a product of hubris or incompetence, the Chinese-spy-balloon affair has derailed Beijing’s charm offensive and raised grave suspicions among Americans.
Then a Chinese spy balloon drifted across the U.S., and into America’s consciousness. The very brazenness of the act upended Beijing’s carefully tended diplomatic campaign and forced it into damage-control mode. At the same time, the balloon handed the United States, already engaged in heightened competition with China, a rare opportunity to rally both public concern and international solidarity.
Read the full article from The Atlantic.
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