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USA – China. Chinese balloon. Michał Bogusz from OSW: it can cause a shock like Sputnik launched by the USSR

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The case of the Chinese balloon has the potential to become a shock for the US, similar to the launch of Sputnik by the USSR in 1957, but it will depend on the development of the situation in the coming weeks, assessed Dr. Michał Bogusz from the Center for Eastern Studies (OSW). The Americans claim that the balloon shot down over the USA carried spy devices, the Chinese say it was a weather balloon.

US Air Force shot down a Chinese balloon last week, which previously flew over US territory for several days. Beijing says it was a stray weather balloon, but according to Washington it carried spy devices and was part of an extensive reconnaissance campaign China.

The balloon issue was part of the growing friction in relations between the world’s two largest economies. Some commentators compared it to the incidents between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. CNN speculated that the “balloon crisis” could be “the defining moment of the new Cold War.”

READ MORE: The US shot down a Chinese spy balloon. The US Navy publishes photos of the wreckage >>>

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Fragments of a Chinese balloon shot down by the USPAP/EPA/FBI

“It was a shock to many Americans”

– I think it’s too early to assess the repercussions and whether it is “Sputnik 2.0”. However, the balloon case has potential for that. Everything depends on the development of the situation in the coming weeks – said Dr. Michał Bogusz from the Center for Eastern Studies (OSW) in an interview with PAP, referring to the launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 by the USSR in 1957. This caused fear in the US about the technological advances of the Soviets and launched the space race.

– In Europe, we are used to having something flying over our heads, but for many Americans it was a shock, especially since they could see this balloon during the proverbial walk with the dog – emphasized the OSW analyst.

Chinese balloon shot down over US territorial watersReuters

Pentagon announced the detection of a Chinese spy balloon a few days before the planned visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China. Experts did not expect a breakthrough, but hoped for the resumption of regular dialogue and stabilization of relations after a period of aggravation.

Soon, media around the world began to write about the balloon, and in the US it became the subject of a sharp political debate. The White House assessed the balloon’s presence as a violation of US sovereignty, and Blinken postponed his visit to China to an indefinite date.

The remains of a Chinese spy balloonUS NAVY/DVIDS/PAP/EPA

“Beijing treated it as a routine mission, assuming that the Americans would not detect it.”

Commentators are wondering why the information about the Chinese balloon over the US appeared just now. According to some Western media, Beijing wanted stability, and the leader of the PRC planned to meet Blinken, so he would rather not torpedo his visit. There was speculation that sending the balloon at such a delicate time might have been a mistake by lower-ranking officials, or an attempt at sabotage by hardline opponents of improving relations. This, in turn, would call into question Xi’s power.

According to Bogusz, information about the balloon would not have been revealed if it had not been seen from the ground. “Pictures of some object taken by people appeared on the Internet, and in this situation the Pentagon could not pretend that it did not see it,” the analyst assessed.

– The balloon was observed from the ground because, for reasons unknown to us, it was relatively low for such an object. The Americans reported that he was 18,000 meters above sea level when he was shot down. Normally, such objects fly above 35,000 and are not visible from the ground, the OSW expert noted.

– Why did the Pentagon prefer not to see him earlier, as in previous similar balloon missions from China? We can only guess that they decided it was better not to reveal to the Chinese that they could see them. Beijing, for its part, sent this balloon because it treated it as a routine mission, assuming that the Americans would not detect it, and if they did, they would keep silent about it as before. It happened differently and the genie escaped from the bottle – assessed doctor Bogusz.

Joe Biden after shooting down a Chinese spy balloon. “We successfully shot it down”Reuters

According to him, the approval for the spy balloon program had to be given by the Central Military Commission, and Xi, who chairs it, had to approve the flight schedule. However, it is not clear whether Xi knew about the planned flight over the US and whether his consent was required before each mission.

Expert: US and China are not ready for confrontation, neither “cold” nor “hot”

The analyst estimates that after the incident, for some time we will have to deal with an escalation of exchanges between the US and China and there may be demonstrative movements, especially since the political situation in both countries is conducive to this. However, both countries are not ready for a confrontation, neither “cold” nor “hot”, so when the media storm passes, they will try to stabilize relations.

– There is no turning back from the rivalry, it has not been possible for a long time, but finding some temporary mechanisms to prevent the uncontrolled breakdown of the relationship is still in their interest, so talks will resume soon. Probably at the beginning on a lower level and on neutral ground – predicts an expert from the Center for Eastern Studies.

Main photo source: Reuters

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