Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
February 14, 2023
US-China relation needs a re-set, it is important not just for the two nations but it is good for the world. It was about to start re-setting, but the suspected Chinese spy balloon over the US started ten days ago put on a sudden brake. Since then, the US shot down three more high-altitude objects. Even though the White House has announced that the last three objects do not have Chinse connection, but the public might have made the conclusions that China did send all these four objects to spy on the US, violating US sovereignty and international law. The US is not alone being alerted, NATO and Japan are also reacted with serious concerns against China.
China has denied any responsibility and accused the US of over-reactions. In addition, China has also accused the US has sent balloons over China. Of course, the US denied it. This episode of “Balloon Politics” may come to an end after the US thoroughly examined the electronic gears recovered from the first shot balloon; determined and announced to the public that there is no evidence of espionage capacity. Unfortunately, public suspicions will not be easily squashed.
On the other hand, if there is hard any evidence of espionage, it will be a very challenging time for US-China relations. Not only the public sentiments at both nations will be highly charged; but it will test the wisdom of both governments on how to diffuse this espionage crisis. That will be another re-set, it is not impossible, but it will take time, and most importantly patience.
However, nations spy on each other all the time with all kinds of methods and technologies. No major wars in human history started with an espionage case. US-China relation will get a re-set, some time soon.
Balloon furor deflates China’s commercial charm offensive
Tue, February 14, 2023 at 1:30 AM PST
The uproar over a suspected Chinese spy balloon — and three other unidentified flying objects — has brought an abrupt halt to Beijing’s nascent Washington charm offensive, emboldening Biden administration officials and lawmakers looking to crack down on Beijing’s economy.
After months of relative quiet in a trade conflict that’s raged since the Trump era, the Biden administration is slapping new sanctions on Chinese firms and congressional lawmakers are using the debacle to add momentum to their campaign for new rules on American investments in the Chinese economy.
“This intrusion was completely unacceptable and has got a lot of people asking a lot of questions,” Rep. Bill Huizenga, a senior member on the House Financial Services Committee, said about the initial balloon incursion. “I don’t see [our approach] becoming less hawkish. If anything it’ll stay the same, but likely get more hawkish.”
The House Financial Services Committee is now kicking off work on legislation targeting American firms operating in China — rules they hope will prevent U.S. banks from funding technologies that can end up in Chinese military or surveillance applications, like the balloon and other spy devices. The Biden administration is also readying its own action on the same front, with a new executive order expected next month, following its decision Friday to blacklist six Chinese aerospace firms allegedly associated with surveillance balloon development.
The reopening of hostilities in the trans-Pacific trade war is a shift from the implicit ceasefire that President Joe Biden struck with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bali last November, when they pledged to put a “floor” on the deteriorating relationship on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.
But in the time it took the Chinese balloon to travel from Montana to South Carolina, U.S. officials say that any nascent goodwill has evaporated, and Washington is again revving up its campaign to hem in the Chinese economy.
But while Washington is by and large united in its desire to crack down on China’s high-tech economy, policymakers are increasingly divided over how to do it.
Those lawmakers presented their case at a Financial Services hearing on China this week, led by committee Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).
“For the U.S. to compete with China, we cannot become more like the Chinese Communist Party,” McHenry said. “We need to carefully evaluate if a policy proposal could jeopardize America’s ability to innovate, grow, and allocate capital, or if it would cause allies to question our commitment to free people and free markets.”
Instead of a government review board, members of the committee offered up a bill from Barr that would expand the federal government’s authority to sanction or blacklist Chinese firms connected to the country’s military. Such an approach would give more certainty to financial institutions about where they could invest, Barr said, rather than leaving their fate up to an oversight committee.
The debate is also continuing to play out in the White House, where the push by national security adviser Jake Sullivan and others to tighten oversight of U.S. investments in China has been met by resistance by economic officials in the Treasury and Commerce Departments. Congressional leadership has pushed the Biden administration since last year to quickly issue that order, and China hawks are hopeful the balloon incident will spur them to action.
Diplomatic spat deepens as U.S. examines Chinese balloon debris
Yew Lun Tian and Steve Holland
Tue, February 14, 2023 at 3:07 AM PST
BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A diplomatic rift between China and the United States deepened on Tuesday with Beijing accusing Washington of flying high-altitude balloons into its airspace and that of other countries, as the U.S. military examined debris of a suspected Chinese spy balloon it downed this month.
The White House said on Tuesday it was still searching for debris from the most recent, unmanned objects, and had not seen any indication they were part of China’s spy program. But they exposed Washington’s heightened sense of alert as the standoff over the balloon delays efforts to reset bilateral relations.
The White House has disputed China’s allegations. Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, tweeted on Monday: “Any claim that the US government operates surveillance balloons over the PRC is false.”
Washington has imposed sanctions on six Chinese entities it says are tied to the balloon, an action which drew criticism from Beijing on Tuesday. But there are some signs the two countries are still seeking to inject stability into turbulent relations.
‘COMMERCIAL OR BENIGN PURPOSE’
The U.S. military said on Monday it had recovered critical electronics from the suspected Chinese spy balloon as well as large sections of the vessel itself.
White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that no group or individual has claimed the three objects, and that the U.S. intelligence community believes they could be “tied to some commercial or benign purpose.”
After UFO shoot-downs, senators fret over holes in homeland defenses
Joe Gould, Bryant Harris
Tue, February 14, 2023 at 12:50 PM PST
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on Tuesday voiced frustration that, after tens of billions of dollars spent on America’s sophisticated homeland defenses, low-tech objects of mysterious origins managed to enter North American airspace.
As the Biden administration gave senators a classified briefing Tuesday on four incursions by unidentified floating objects in recent days, lawmakers were left with many questions unanswered, and several have vowed to go over the North American Aerospace Command’s budget and capabilities with a fine-toothed comb.
“The latest incidents reveal that we have real gaps when it comes to policing our airspace, and we need to have better situational awareness and more of a protocol of how exactly to react,” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee and its defense spending subpanel, told Defense News on Monday.
Since Biden ordered the shoot-down of the suspected Chinese spy balloon that transited the United States earlier this month, NORAD — the U.S.-Canadian organization responsible for warning and defending against missile threats to North America — has been looking more closely for potential airborne threats, including by tweaking radar detection parameters.
After three more unidentified devices have since been spotted and shot down, with the latest on Sunday over Lake Huron, U.S. officials attributed the spike in part to NORAD sharpening the ability of its radar “gates” to detect small objects at high-altitudes, moving at slow speeds.
U.S. airspace detection capabilities haven’t always been attuned to spot these sorts of objects. VanHerck and other officials say at least three Chinese surveillance balloons transited the United States during the Trump administration and weren’t immediately detected.
“The intel community after the fact assessed those threats from additional means of collecting and made us aware of these balloons that were previously approaching North America or transited North America,” VanHerck said, adding that NORAD has a “domain awareness gap that we have to figure out.”
But a Center for Strategic and International Studies report last year faulted NORAD’s employment of Cold War-era technology and decision processes as outmoded. One of its authors, missile defense expert Tom Karako, said that while NORAD has been experimenting with machine learning and artificial intelligence, it needs to be using them more broadly to analyze the gobs of data collected by its radars to spot potential threats.
Melissa Dalton, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs, told lawmakers at a Feb. 9 hearing that the Defense Department “continues to be acutely aware of the need to enhance persistent surveillance of the airspace and maritime approaches to North America.
At that hearing, the Senate’s top defense appropriator for defense, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., also said he supports more funding in the 2024 budget, due in March, to help the Pentagon stop incursions into U.S. airspace..
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that President Joe Biden ordered National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to lead an interagency effort to explore the parameters and protocols in place for dealing with such objects, and to find potential improvements.
None of the three objects shot down over the weekend have been recovered. Kirby said military officials are still working on recovering debris from the recent shoot-downs to better understand what the objects were. He said the devices may not have posed any real national security threat, but officials won’t know for sure until after that work is finished.
NATO Secretary General: incidents with balloons over U.S. form part of pattern
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Recent incidents regarding balloons shot down by the United States, which suspects they are surveillance balloons from China, form part of a pattern which highlights the need for NATO to be vigilant, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“What we saw over the United States is part of a pattern where China and also Russia are increasing surveillance activities on NATO allies,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday.