Biden’s Strategy for Building a World from the Bottom: Russian Counterattack on Ukraine, and a Test for the Ages and the United States of America
Biden’s maneuvering is also the latest sign that an emerging goal of his foreign policy is to stress differences between Moscow and Beijing. Before he went to Asia, Biden suggested that China didn’t have that much respect for either Russian President Vladimir Putin or Russia itself.
The document, required by Congress, comes 21 months into Biden’s term. The broad contours of the strategy have been in evidence over the course of the President’s tenure, including a focus on rebuilding global partnerships and countering China and Russia.
The president delivered his speech at a time when the United States was in a conflict with China and Russia. The relationship of the two nuclear powers has been strengthened in a new age of power politics that Biden sees as a battle between democracy and tyranny. Biden referred to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine as a “test for the ages, a test for America, a test of the world.” He also said that Americans were working to get more freedom, more dignity, and more peace.
“We will not leave our future vulnerable to the whims of those who do not share our vision for a world that is free, open, prosperous, and secure,” he goes on. There is no country better able to lead with purpose and strength than the United States of America.
The document says that Russia poses an immediate threat to the free and open international system as a result of its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine. “(China), by contrast, is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to advance that objective.”
“This decisive decade is critical both for defining the terms of competition, particular with the (People’s Republic of China), and for getting ahead of massive challenges that if we lose the time this decade we will not be able to keep pace with,” he said.
The Meeting of the World’s Biggest Powers: The U.S. vs. the China-Taipei Connection
The leaders of two superpowers met face-to-face and unmasked on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Monday evening. They talked about the war in Ukranian, the tension in the Taiwan Strait and the North Korean missile tests.
The last time a U.S. president shook hands with a leader of another country was in China. Donald Trump was in the White House, the COVID-19 pandemic was months away and relations between Beijing and Washington, while experiencing friction over trade, were on much firmer ground.
Today, trust is low, the rhetoric is not friendly, and there are disagreements in many areas.
There will be no joint statement of any sort here. A senior U.S. administration official told reporters this week that a meeting is not being driven by deliverables. “The president believes it is critical to build a floor for the relationship and ensure that there are rules of the road that bound our competition.”
The leaders have not been able to make up for the decline in ties between the world’s two largest economies since last year, when Biden took office.
“If the result of this meeting is to put the relationship back on a more diplomatic plane, in which instead of beating each other up they can begin a dialogue on the kind of issues that need to be dealt with, I think this meeting could very well be pivotal,” Panetta told CNN’s John King on “Inside Politics.”
Biden said on Wednesday his goal for the meeting is to get a deeper understanding of Xi’s priorities and concerns, and “lay out what each of our red lines are.”
Xi has said that “reunification” between China and Taiwan is inevitable and has refused to rule out the use of force. The Chinese military is holding large-scale military drills near the island in an attempt to improve their relationship with Taipei.
When Pelosi was preparing to visit Taiwan with her delegation, Biden was warned not to play with fire by China’s president, who said that those who were playing with fire would die.
Tensions Between the US and Taiwan in the Light of Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan and the Promise of a “Peaceful Reunification”
The Communist Party chief repeated that China would prefer peaceful reunification but added that the use of force is an option.
Tensions spiked when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August. Beijing responded with sanctions and large-scale military exercises around the island.
The most volatile areas for disagreements in the relationship are Taiwan, trade and human rights. After adding more confusion to the US position on Taiwan by suggesting Washington might come to the island’s defence in the event of a Chinese invasion, Biden said he and Xi now comprehended what the other was saying.
“I think the Biden administration will be less flexible or maneuverable” on China, says Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has said he would like to visit Taiwan if he becomes majority leader. The move could be disastrous according to another Chinese expert.
The Chinese lost their face when Pelosi went. The Chinese expert who was not authorized by his university to speak to the media said that maybe they will take action next time.
The Cold War is Coming: What Do China Really Want to Do about China? A Comment on the CIOs of the World’s Most Critical Technology
Chris Miller,author of the recently published CHIP War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology says that in the Cold War the US imposed tough export controls on the Soviet Union. “There’s really a lot of similarities, to be honest.”
From Beijing’s perspective, the U.S. has since done the opposite on all counts. Beijing decried it’s actions, which include an export ban on Semiconductors and sanctions of China’s leading technology firms.
In China’s case, enforcing the restrictions could be difficult, though. Small devices are easy to smuggle across borders. It’s a work in progress, and other countries that are in the complex supply chain would need to be on board.
Beijing expressed opposition to the move, and officials decried what they called Washington’s “Cold War zero-sum mentality”. China has yet to take action. Analysts say that may be because the controls were announced at an awkward time for Chinese policy makers, days before a leadership reshuffle at the twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress.
Experts think that if Biden and XI can muster the political will, there will be a willingness to open more channels of communication.
The issue with China is that they don’t like interacting with other people and repeating talking points. Jean-Pierre Cabestan is a professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University and said that the president is not very innovative in his interactions with his peers.
There is a chance to take a gamble, he believes, after the Chinese Party Congress and the US mid-term elections are over.
What will the U.S. and China tell us about the current moment? A warning from the US president during a high-energy summit
No one should expect too much from this summit, warns Zhu. A discussion can help understand the two people, but it’s not going to do anything.
Medeiros, the former U.S. official, says the current moment is dangerous — and in some ways, similar to the 1950s and early 1960s, when mistrust grew between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and they each “tested and probed” each others’ boundaries.
The Cuban Missile Crisis made both sides believe that strategic restraint was always in their mutual interests, he says.
The trajectory of the relationship is positive, and it is in the interests of both our countries, said Biden as the VP when he visited Beijing to build a personal relationship with China.
The two leaders agreed to sit down together in Bali, Indonesia just ahead of the G-20 summit. Their meeting was set to begin at 4:30 a.m. The White House said it would last a couple of hours. Afterwards, Biden will give a speech and take questions.
Biden, meanwhile, arrived in Asia following a better-than-expected performance by his party in the US midterm elections – with the Democrats projected to keep the Senate in a major victory. Biden was asked whether the results allowed him to go into the debate with a stronger hand. He told reporters that he was coming in stronger.
The stakes are high for their meeting. In a world reeling from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Covid-19 pandemic and the devastation of climate change, the two major powers need to work together more than ever to instill stability – instead of driving deeper tensions along geopolitical fault lines.
The talks are supposed to be used to build a floor for the relationship and prevent it from falling into open conflict, according to an official from the White House. The main objective of the sit-down is not about reaching agreements or deliverables – the two leaders will not release any joint statement afterward – but about gaining a better understanding of each other’s priorities and reducing misconceptions, according to the US official.
The meeting will not lead to specific deliverables, Jake Sullivan stated to reporters aboard Air Force One.
“Given that China and the US are in a state of near-total rivalry and confrontation, there is not much possibility to anticipate that the major issues can be truly clarified,” Shi said.
Each side blames the other entirely for the state of the relationship and each believes they are faring better than the other in the situation, said Kennedy, who has recently returned from a weeks-long visit to China – a rare opportunity in recent years due to China’s zero-Covid border restrictions.
The Chinese and Americans think they are winning, and so they are willing to pay for it. And they think the other side is very unlikely to make any significant changes,” Kennedy said. “All of those things reduce the likelihood of significant adjustments.”
But experts say the very fact that the two leaders are having a face-to-face conversation is itself a positive development. Dialogue is important for reducing risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations when suspicions are high and tensions high.
“I would love to be a fly on the wall to see that conversation because I don’t think that the US or China has been very precise about what its red lines are. And I also don’t think either has been very clear about what positive rewards the other side would reap from staying within those red lines,” said Kennedy, of CSIS.
China halted dialogue with the US in various areas as a result of its response and launched large scale military exercises around Taiwan which formed an effective blockade.
Now the two leaders are sitting down in the same room – a result of weeks of intensive discussions between the two sides – Taiwan is widely expected to top their agenda. But in a sign of the contentiousness of the issue, barbs have already been traded.
During their meeting, Xi and Biden agreed “that a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won and underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” according to the White House statement. The Chinese readout included no mention of nuclear weapons.
The experts in both the US and China believe that some progress on greater communication and access between the two countries should already be viewed as a positive outcome.
Biden’s international trip to ASEAN, Cambodia, and the UN Security Council: focusing on the ASEAN-South-East Correspondence
Biden arrived in Phnom Penh on Saturday, holding a bilateral meeting with ASEAN chair and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and attending the ASEAN-US summit.
A day after he arrived in Asia, he received news that his party was expected to retain control of the Senate, giving him a boost for the remainder of his international trip.
Even as votes are still being counted and the scale of the challenges abroad, the effort to translate-21 months of intensive engagement into tangible results for US alliances, will put the political capital on the international stage to the test.
Biden previously met Kishida and Yoon together on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in June, pledging to enhance cooperation – a complicated task for the major US allies that have a historically fraught relationship.
But that cooperation is imperative as recent, stepped-up aggression from North Korea will be top of mind for the trio of leaders Sunday. According to a CNN count, North Korea launched missiles for 32 days this year. By contrast, it conducted only four tests in 2020, and eight in 2021.
This leg of the trip, a senior administration official told reporters on a call earlier this week, reflects “stepped-up engagement with ASEAN and with Southeast Asia” during the Biden administration.
Biden, the official added, will “lay out our vision for keeping up a pace of enhanced engagement and trying to also address concerns of importance to ASEAN in ways that they are looking for,” keeping with an ongoing theme during the Biden presidency of building alliances in strategic competition with China.
The official said the conflict in Myanmar was among the key topics to discuss this weekend in Cambodia.
World leaders will discuss “efforts to promote respect for human rights, rule of law and good governance, the rules-based international order, and also to address the ongoing crisis in Burma.”
Biden traveled to Sharm El Shiekh, Egypt, where he met the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El- Sisi, as well as attending the COP 27 climate summit.
The U.S. said the Biden raised concerns about PRC practices in the areas of Tibet and Hong Kong. China has warned against interference from other countries and insisted that the issues are internal.
Senior US administration officials said Biden would be “honest” in voicing his views on Taiwan when he meets Xi, a signal the conversation would not gloss over the two men’s deep disagreements.
“He’ll have that opportunity to sit, to be totally straightforward and direct and to hear President Xi be totally straightforward and direct in return,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters traveling on Air Force One to Bali.
Sullivan said the White House hopes the leaders will come from the meeting with a better understanding of how they should manage their relationship and competition.
What does the Chinese leader of the Asian world want from us? A message from the United States in the aftermath of the 2016 Beijing midterm election
Drew Thompson, an analyst in Singapore, believes that the situation could have been worsened by the level of control wielded by Zhou Yongkang, who became the Communist Party’s head last fall and solidified his hold on power.
The public comments of the leader of the country should think about and know where to lead their country. He should be aware that he needs to get along with other countries and the world in order to succeed. But they could also be read as the kind of lecture that Washington once delivered to Chinese leaders that Xi is now taking the opportunity to throw back at the US.
Last year, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi put out three core demands — “bottom lines” — that China wanted the U.S. to agree to in order for relations to improve: to not get in the way in the country’s development, to respect China’s claims over places like Taiwan and to respect Beijing’s Communist Party rule.
A senior administration official briefed reporters before the meeting between Biden and the Chinese president, saying that the issues had deep fundamental differences of perspective and concerns.
An aide gave President Joe Biden the phone after a banquet with Asian leaders, which featured a plate of lobster and saraman.
On the other end of the line was David Trone, the millionaire Maryland wine retailer who was thousands of miles and a time zone 12 hours away and had just clinched another term in the House.
The call wasn’t long, a person familiar with it said, but reflected the warmth and enthusiasm Biden had deployed dozens of times in calls to winning candidates over the last week – each one further solidifying a midterm election that dramatically reshaped the prevailing view of his presidency.
But on the other side of the world, Biden’s advisers say there has been a tangible effect tied to election results that, had they matched historical trends, threatened to undermine his standing ahead of the most consequential meeting of his first two years.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan provided a glimpse into dynamics of the moment, pointing to the fact “that many leaders took note of the results of the midterms, came up to the president to engage him and to say that they were following them closely.”
Sullivan said the theme about the strength of American democracy and what this election said about American democracy was what emerged over the course of the two days.
The First White House Meeting with Xi: Is It Really Necessary? The American Political Landscape is Stabilizing after the G-20
Even though White House officials were bracing for losses in the weeks prior to the election, they have not avoided using their TV or social media interviews to speak out against pundits and politicians who said otherwise.
It’s a reflection – abroad and back in Washington – of a team that officials acknowledge feels constantly underestimated and has long coveted unambiguous success after a relentless and crisis-infused first 21 months in office.
White House officials had been eyeing the G-20 for months and were looking forward to a face-to-face with China’s president. The two sides were getting ready for the public announcement of the engagement. The tenuous state of the relationship necessitated a sit down, regardless of domestic politics.
Implicit in a White House mood that has only seemed to grow more buoyant with each new day of called races, the election results prove Biden’s theory of the case is, to some degree, actually working – that an American political landscape that served to rattle allies and foes alike over the last several years was, in fact, stabilizing.
Multiple people familiar with the situation said that there was an awareness of the potential split screen of a US president dealing with political defeat in his party at the same time that China’s President would be arriving in Indonesia to attend a party congress.
One US official said thatceptive matters and so does political standing. “It’s not the be-all, end-all, and it was never a central focus or driver of the dynamics, but we’re well aware of the fact everyone was watching this election around the world.”
Far from a liability, however, each of the congratulatory calls back home have underscored the driving wind at the back of a president who entered the meeting with Xi at a moment where US-China relations appear to be inching away from great power competition toward inevitable conflict.
“I know I’m stronger,” Biden said, before noting that given his long-standing relationship with Xi formed during their times as their nations’ vice president that the results weren’t a necessity for the meeting to achieve its goals. US officials are also careful not to overstate the effect on a trip – and in a region – where the layers of complexity and challenges far exceed what voters decide in a congressional district or swing state.
Biden isn’t subtle about his sweeping view of the strategic stakes of a time when he’s framed as a “inflection point” between democracy and autocracy.
After the election, friends and foes alike were left to take Biden’s word that he would answer the questions with an emphatic “Yes.”
The assault on the US Capitol was the result of Donald Trump’s lies in the election and he remained the most powerful figure inside the Republican Party.
Biden was able to pass a sweeping domestic agenda despite being in the minority of Congress. Yet he still held an approval rating in the low 40s, weighed down by four-decade high inflation and a population exhausted by years careening from crisis to crisis.
The possibility that Biden would face the same harsh judgment of his first two years in office as nearly all his recent predecessors wasn’t just likely. It was a foregone conclusion.
Instead, as he moved through bilateral meetings and pull-asides, gala dinners and summit gatherings, Biden’s own political vindication served another purpose for his approach on the world stage: Validation.
Sullivan said Biden felt that it established a strong position for him on the international stage after he left the summit. I think we will see that when we go into the G20 and his bilateral engagements in the Indonesian island of Bali.
Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, who faced a tough reelection battle in a redrawn district, had secured another term in office. Biden needed to take the time to say good bye.
The US-China Relations Comes Full Circle: After Nixon, Biden and Xi met with the US on December 8, 2015 at the Tevatron
The US believes there is at least one outcome from the summit, that Russia cannot use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine and that a restart of talks between the US and China will bolster the upcoming global climate conference in Egypt.
That the world’s two most powerful leaders had not been addressing these issues together in recent months shows how the entire world suffers when Washington and Beijing are as deeply estranged as they’ve been this year.
Leon Panetta is a former White House chief of staff, defense secretary and CIA chief who dealt with US-China relations for decades.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said both sides should not try to change or subvert the other’s system.
At an appropriate time for the Egypt climate summit, Biden publicly said that the US was ready to re-engaged in climate talks. The two leaders agreed to empower senior officials to maintain communication and deepen efforts to tackle climate change and global macroeconomic stability, according to a White House release.
So, Washington’s foreign policy has come full circle, since part of Richard Nixon’s motivation in engaging China during the 1970s Cold War deep freeze was to open strategic gaps between Beijing and Moscow.
There is no change in the dynamic between Russia and Beijing now that China is the global power.
The Secretary of State will go to China in early next year to follow up on the president’s meeting, the State Department said.
The world is big enough for the two countries to develop and prosper together, wrote a foreign ministry spokeswoman after Xi met with Biden.
China’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: a key test for a sustainable solution to the G20 crisis, and a boost for Chinese stocks
China appeared to have been unaware of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Beijing has called repeatedly for a peaceful, negotiated end to the war.
Biden came to the G20 with a stronger position due to Democrats taking control of the Senate, but he is up for reelection in two years.
Analysts said the meeting could lay the groundwork for a stronger relationship. Stock markets in mainland China and Hong Kong were buoyed as a result, with technology giants such as Alibaba
(BABA) and Tencent (TCEHY) soaring on Tuesday.
Neil Thomas, senior analyst for China and Northeast Asia at the Eurasia Group, said the purpose of the meeting was to “build a floor” under declining relations between Beijing and Washington.
The meeting was positive because the two sides were interested in finding common ground, according to Ken Cheung.
On Tuesday, the Hang Seng index was up almost 4% and on track for a third straight day of gains. The index, boosted by China’s latest policy shift towards a gradual reopening of borders and a sweeping rescue package for the ailing property sector, has soared 14% since last Thursday.
Chinese technology shares, which had been hammered by a regulatory crackdown at home and rising geopolitical tension abroad, led markets higher on Tuesday. In Hong Kong the shares ofAlibaba shot up by 11%.
The Innocuous Response of the United States to an Unarmed Aircraft: Why Do We Need to Fly Closely? What Do You Need to Know about China?
The ING analysts said that this was more progress than they had anticipated, and dominated what may have otherwise been a fairly irrelevant G20 summit.
Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Meanwhile in China newsletter, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country’s rise and how it impacts the world. Sign up here.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theater Command, in a report on China Military Online, had a different interpretation of the encounter, saying it was the US jet that “abruptly changed its flight attitude and forced the Chinese aircraft to the left.”
Performing what the US military deemed an “unsafe maneuver,” a Chinese navy J-11 fighter jet flew within 20 feet of the nose of a US RC-135 Rivet Joint, an unarmed reconnaissance plane with about 30 people on board, forcing the US plane to take “evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision,” according to a statement from the US Indo-Pacific Command issued on December 28.
CNN contacted military and aviation experts who said the Chinese jet was in the wrong place and that it wasn’t necessary to make a close encounter with the American plane.
“The 135 is an unarmed aircraft. Why does the PLAN consider it necessary to intercept carrying missiles when the intent was to visually identify the aircraft? A major and tragic incident can be avoided if you do this.
“The intent of the interception was presumably to visually identify the aircraft and the fighter could have stayed several miles away and competed that task. Getting closer brings no gains,” he said.
“The (Chinese) response is so far divorced from reality that it is fictional. An airliner-sized aircraft does not aggressively turn into an armed fighter.
But Hopkins also said the US military risked blowing the incident out of proportion in saying the US jet had to take “evasive maneuvers,” a term he described as “overly dramatic.”
“These are no different than a driver adjusting her position to avoid a temporary lane incursion by an adjacent driver,” Hopkins said. The US response is pure theatre and creates an exaggerated sense of danger.
“Flying aircraft close to each other at 500 miles per hour with unfriendly intentions is generally unsafe,” said Blake Herzinger, a nonresident fellow and Indo-Pacific defense policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
US Defense of the Law: The High-Dimensional China Needs a Continuum? Chinese President Biden’s First State of the Union Address on Beijing’s Elusive Military Activities
The PLA has ruined any hotlines and discussion forums that were supposed to address incidents with the United States. If an intercept goes wrong, there are more options for senior officers to limit potential escalation.
“The US’s provocative and dangerous moves are the root cause of maritime security issues. China urges the US to stop such dangerous provocations, and stop deflecting blame on China,” the Foreign Ministry’s Wang said.
The Chinese Southern Theater Command said the US reconnaissance jet was flying “in the vicinity of China’s southern coastline and the Xisha Islands” – known in the West as the Paracels – where Beijing has built up military installations.
The US does not recognize these territorial claims and routinely conducts operations there, including freedom of navigation operations through the South China Sea.
In the most infamous incident in 2001, a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US reconnaissance plane near Hainan Island in the northern South China Sea, leading to a major crisis as the Chinese pilot was killed and the damaged US plane barely managed a safe landing on Chinese territory. The US crew was freed after 11 days of negotiations.
Are the latest incidents linked in any way to Beijing’s espionage program described by the administration after the shooting down of the Chinese balloon and other reported crossings of other balloons over US territory? Any indication of successive Chinese breaches of US airspace would mark a serious twist in US-China relations already tested by a belligerent Beijing at what may be the start of a 21st century Cold War.
At a time of rising diplomatic tensions and the emergence of new details of an expansive Chinese balloon surveilance program, Biden called Beijing out before millions of viewers in the US and around the world.
Finally, what is the political impact of this string of incidents. Republicans were angry that Biden said there was the chance of injury to civilians or damage to buildings on the ground for waiting so long to shoot down the balloon. He warned China in his State of the Union address that he would defend US sovereignty. His aides have described his response to other incidents as a decisive commander in chief. This shows that the White House understands the political peril in wait if Americans were to perceive he was not doing everything to defend the homeland.
As he slammed autocracies and argued for the superiority of democracies, Biden specifically named the leader of China.
“Name me a world leader who’d change places with Xi Jinping. You should name me one. Biden has known the Chinese counterpart for a long time, and they met in Indonesia last year. The president was almost shouting at the end of a sentence that could be seen as disdainful of China’s stunning economic emergence at a time when Xi’s aura has been damaged by mismanagement of Covid-19.
The alternative in this scenario – that Xi was aware that a balloon was being dispatched over the United States ahead of a visit from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing – would raise a separate set of concerns about China’s decision-making in relation to the US.
“We can’t definitively say without analyzing the debris what these objects were,” she said, noting that so far there is no indication that the balloons were part of China’s spy balloon program or foreign external spy programs. They have also ruled out that they were a part of the U.S. government.
The Response of President Biden to the High-Area Surveillance Balloon Collision in the United States: A No-Go Theorem
It’s impossible to miss the symbolic synergy between his policy toward Russia and China as he laid out what might be seen as a Biden doctrine of standing with democracies against autocracies and attempting to apply their power outside of their borders.
The response marks the second time this week that Biden has downplayed the effect of the intelligence gathering balloon that was sent across the US by Beijing.
The balloon was in the air and US officials objected to Chinese officials. Senior administration officials say that after the balloon was shot down, they communicated with Chinese officials.
Biden administration officials insisted the meeting was not canceled but delayed until a later date. The date hasn’t been set yet.
Earlier this week, former President Donald Trump accused Biden of having “surrendered American airspace to Communist China.” Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Biden of causing “global shame” with his response. (Biden officials have said three balloons had flown over the US during the Trump administration, though it appears Trump officials weren’t aware of the overflights.) Even Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal emerged from a classified briefing for senators on Tuesday and said, “I have a better understanding, but the American people deserve and need to know more.”
The administration has said that they were able to mitigate the intelligence collection capacity of the balloon and have countered that they will benefit from the ability to get information about the balloon and Chinese intelligence capabilities in the recovery of its crash site.
The resolution condemns the Chinese Communist Party’s use of a high altitude surveillance balloon over the United States as a blatant violation of the United States’ sovereignty.
Some Republican lawmakers have raised pointed questions about why the Biden administration did not move to shoot down the balloon before it crossed down into the continental US – either while it was over Alaska or sooner.
Reply to the DIA Report on President Biden’s Investigation of the Alaskan Airborne Balloon–Ballistics Interaction
He gave a detailed account of how he told Xi about US warnings that China shouldn’t provide military support to Russia.
The report was accessible through a series of secret channels in the US government. It was not flagged as an urgent warning and top defense and intelligence officials were not alarmed by it. Sources familiar with the report said that the White House was not made aware of the DIA report, and President Joe Biden was not briefed on it.
Instead of treating it as an immediate threat, the US moved to investigate the object, seeing it as an opportunity to observe and collect intelligence.
China had the ability to maneuver the balloon. Once the balloon was over Montana, officials believe China took advantage of its position to loiter over sensitive sites and try to collect intelligence.
The US Defense Department, however, later clarified that those two objects “did not closely resemble the PRC balloon” shot down last week. There are also signs that federal lawmakers may be getting information from military and local authorities that is incomplete, risking further confusion or politicization about what is going on.
Senate staff pressed military officials about who they knew and when at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Rubio and Sen. Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Biden’s top defense and intelligence officials raising questions about the administration’s decision-making after the balloon crossed into Alaskan airspace.
On January 28, when the balloon entered US airspace near Alaska, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, sent up fighter jets to make a positive identification, according to defense officials, reflecting a subtle shift in urgency.
Military officials said it is not necessarily surprising that the president was not briefed until January 31, given the expectations for the balloon at the time.
Congress is interested in the decision-making process on the balloon because of the trickle-out information.
Xi Jinping and the US: Do we really know what China is doing to solve the problem of Alaska or how China is trying to control it?
“There are still a lot of questions to be asked about Alaska,” a Senate Republican aide told CNN. “Alaska is still part of the United States – why is that okay to transit Alaska without telling anyone, but [the continental US] is different?”
One pilot took a selfie in the cockpit that shows both the pilot and the surveillance balloon itself, these officials said – an image that has already gained legendary status in both NORAD and the Pentagon.
The assessment was communicated to American lawmakers in briefings Thursday, according to CNN reporting – and if true, could point to what analysts say would be a significant lack of coordination within the Chinese system at a fraught period of China-US relations.
It could mean that Xi and his top advisers underestimated the potential gravity of the fallout of the mission and the possibility it could imperil Blinken’s visit, which would have been the first from the most senior US diplomat since 2018 and had been welcomed by Beijing as a path to easing strained ties.
Pentagon press secretary bri asked “whether the Chinese government is controlling the movement of the balloon or is it just floating with air streams.” Pat didn’t say anything in detail.
Beijing, in a statement last weekend, appeared to link the device to “companies,” rather than the government or military – though in China the prominence of state-owned enterprises and a robust military-industrial complex blurs the line between the two.
“Because of his personality, he wants 100% (control),” said Alfred Wu, an associate professor, also at the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. “I don’t think Xi Jinping allows for that kind of autonomy.”
The Failure of the China Balloon Launch Program to Lead a Dynamical Dialogue Between China and the USA: A Political-Theoretical Perspective
That means that lower-level officials who may have the capacity to more closely monitor such missions may not be empowered to do so, or not be equipped to make political judgments about their impact, he said. Power struggles between lower and higher ranking officials could also complicate communication, he said.
He said that it was a feature of Chinese governance where lower levels fought for their own autonomy and upper levels fought for greater control.
Past crises in China have pointed to these tensions, including the outbreaks of both SARS in 2002-2003 and more recently Covid-19, where reporting delays were widely seen as having slowed the response and compounded the problem. Local officials who were used to a system where information flows from the top down, not the bottom up, were blamed by some.
Balloon launches could also fall into a gap in which operations were not managed or overseen in the same way as space or other aircraft missions, according to Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago.
In this case, entities launching balloons could have received little or no opposition from other countries including the United States, in part due to weather conditions and at modest costs, according to Yang.
It was likely that leaders of these programs did not get top priority attention from the perspective of political risk due to the fact that they have become emboldened over time to test new routes.
Instead, he may have underestimated the US domestic reaction that resulted in the postponement of the talks because he was comfortable with an incident that diverted the attention of the public.
Meanwhile, Washington may be offering its message that Xi wasn’t aware of the situation as it seeks to “continue the dialogue” started during a meeting between Xi and US President Joe Biden at the G20 summit in Bali, according to Wu.
Three days of shootdown of aerial objects by US fighter jets is threatening a political storm and is just the latest in a string of national security mysteries.
It’s possible that in a unique, fast-moving situation, the government may not know much more than it is saying. The piecemeal emergence of details is making it hard to understand. On issues including the Chinese balloon and the discovery of classified vice presidential documents at Biden’s home and office, the administration has sometimes struggled to control a media narrative to its own political detriment.
The intrigue is also unfolding against a tense global situation, with already difficult relations with rising superpower China becoming ever more hostile and with the US leading the West in an effective proxy war against Russia in Ukraine.
The Democratic senator from Montana said on CBS that things have been crazy over the course of the last couple of weeks.
With the North American Aerospace Defense Command on heightened alert, US fighters have now blasted three objects out of the skies since Friday following the shooting down of the Chinese balloon off the South Carolina coast on February 4:
An F-16 shot down a high-sky object on Sunday afternoon near Lake Harbor, which lies between Michigan and Ontario. The object was a flight hazard and not a military threat, according to the Pentagon. The craft connected to a radar signal picked up over Montana, the home of US intercontinental missile silos and other sensitive sites.
In fact, NORAD commander Gen. Glen VanHerck said recent objects shot down were likely the first “kinetic action” that NORAD or the US Northern Command had taken against an airborne object over US airspace.
So the events of the last few days do provoke serious national security and political questions that stretch far beyond the often narrow political battle in Washington, and that can only be assessed once more details are understood.
If they are not related to China, are the latest strange objects flying over North America linked to some other hostile power or group, corporate or private entity? Are they connected to one another or are they the result of coincidental events at a time of heightened awareness and tensions?
Is NORAD now picking up more objects that could be hostile because of a heightened alert following the Chinese balloon crisis? If the objects are suspicious is there a sudden spike in such flights or did such objects fly across the continent with impunity in the past? Is this a new problem that should concern the aviation industry, given the increasing threat to civilian aircraft from more low flying drones?
“They do appear somewhat trigger-happy, although this is certainly preferable to the permissive environment that they showed when the Chinese spy balloon was coming over some of our most sensitive sites,” Turner told Jake Tapper.
Such speculation may be premature. Biden no longer tolerates unknown aerial objects as a result of the political debate over the balloon.
“Because we have not yet been able to definitively assess what these recent objects are, we have acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our security and interests,” said Melissa Dalton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs.
Mr. Biden has come under fire from both sides for being slow to respond to the Chinese spy balloon, which was seen by many as a sign of Chinese influence, and for overreacting to the objects that were not actually part of the Chinese spy balloon.
The Unmanned Aircraft Associated with China’s Flight Over Alaska and the Yukon: Trump, Schumer, Rosendale, and Jean-Pierre
“They are getting lots of positives that they did not get before. Most of that is going to be airplanes, whatever it may be,” said Kayyem, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.
We can’t answer that question because we can’t find out if it’s part of a larger scheme to pick up things that didn’t pose a threat or if it’s just part of a bigger effort to watch people.
On Sunday there was more confusion. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the two objects shot down over Alaska and the Yukon were balloons but smaller than the original Chinese intruder, after saying he had earlier been briefed by Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser.
Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana appeared to make a direct link Sunday on “CNN Newsroom” between the Chinese balloon and the latest objects, even if there is no confirmation so far that they are connected.
“It doesn’t give me much safe feelings knowing that these devices are smaller,” he said. I am worried that the cumulative data is being collected. I need some answers from the American people.
The balloons that were found above Montana last week have been spotted in the past above Japan, India and Taiwan. China admitted a high-altitude balloon found above Latin America this month was its own, though it said the balloon was a civilian airship doing weather research.
The United States briefs 40 other countries about the crash of a Chinese balloon. On Capitol Hill, both chambers of Congress receive classified briefings on the incident. There is a unanimous resolution passed by the House condemning China’s alleged activities in the US.
On Thursday, the President offered his first extensive remarks on the aerial objects, saying the three smaller ones were “most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.” He also mapped out four measures to detect, monitor and establish rules and regulations around unmanned objects.
And the White House separately reassures Americans: “There is no – again, no — indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says at her daily briefing.
State of the Art and Status of the Beijing-San Francisco-Kobayashi-Maskawa Security Conference in Washington, D.C.
Emily Feng reported from Taipei. Lexie Schapitl reported from Washington, D.C. Vincent Ni and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.
The security conference will feature both Blinken and Wang. US officials said a meeting between the two is not currently planned but have not fully ruled out the possibility.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on February 3 that the airship deviated from its scheduled route because of a westerly wind and limited self-control. China regrets that the airship caused force majeure. There will be communication with the US to handle the unexpected situation.
“I’m not going to go into any specific intelligence that we may have,” he said. “Again, we know this is a Chinese balloon and that it has the ability to maneuver, but I’ll just leave it at that.”
CNN Observer: Dwight Eisenhower’s response to the 1957 Sputnik attack on the Soviet Union and the Soviet-Nucleus crisis
A professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, Zelizer is a CNN political analyst. He is the author and editor of 25 books, including the New York Times best-seller, “Myth America: Historians Take on the Biggest Lies and Legends About Our Past” (Basic Books). You can follow him on social media. His views are his own in this commentary. View more opinion on CNN.
The three objects were described by the administration in ways that caused confusion and raised questions about extraterrestrial activity, which the press secretary ruled out on Monday.
Biden’s comments seemed to address the critics who argued that the administration had not shared enough information or sufficiently explained the shift towards aerial objects.
Biden has faced the challenge before. When dealing with national security issues, American presidents have found it hard to balance transparency and secrecy.
Sometimes presidents want to stay out of the way. Certainly, this was President Dwight Eisenhower’s response when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik-1 satellite on October 4, 1957. Eisenhower worked to contain fears that mounted over the military implications of the launch. Eisenhower said there was no additional threat to the United States as a result of putting one small ball in the air.
Eisenhower underestimated the impact Sputnik would have on the public and the Democrats used it to argue that the Republicans did not do enough in the Cold War.
But Eisenhower’s response reflected his general disposition when it came to foreign policy and national security, as Evan Thomas documented in his book, “Ike’s Bluff.” He wanted to do everything he could to prevent a nuclear conflict.
Eisenhower kept his line on military spending even as congressional Democrats increased their rhetoric about aissile gap attributed to administration policies.
Presidents have also held back information for strategic reasons. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy initially didn’t mention that the Soviets were building missile sites in Cuba. A public confrontation between the US ambassador to the UN and the Soviet ambassador would show evidence of what the soviets had been up to. The moment was important, giving the US the upper hand in persuading other countries that the Soviets were to blame for the dangerous standoff.
There are times when presidents are trying to refrain from making statements in haste in order to avoid military provocations and other instances when they can change their position as the situation changes. Being an effective president means being willing to evolve as new facts and opportunities emerge, while still being firm and decisive.
This was certainly true with President Ronald Reagan, who after 1985 displayed considerable flexibility and caution as negotiations with the Soviet Union eventually culminated in 1987 with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). He had to deal with a lot of ups and downs over a two-year period,including the need to protect progress from the right wing of his party. Indeed, Reagan had to withstand fierce criticism from conservatives who accused him of falling for a trap set by old Kremlin hard-liners and practicing the sort of appeasement he built his career opposing.
How did the last known object be shot down? A response to a White House message on the matter four days after the shooting down the China spy balloon
Biden’s White House speech to address the matter four days after the last known object was shot down comes after the president faced increasing pressure in Washington to be more transparent about the situation and his decision making as commander-in-chief.
“We don’t have any evidence that there have been a sudden increase of objects in the sky,” Biden said. We have taken steps to narrow our radars and thus we are seeing more of them.
After the U.S. shot down the Chinese balloon, Biden demanded that Jake Sullivan lead an “Interagency team” to review US procedures.
Specifically, the administration will be establishing an improved inventory of unmanned airborne objects above American airspace, implementing further measures to detect the objects, update rules and regulations for encounters with these types of objects above US skies, and establishing common global norms for similar encounters.
Administration officials from the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence community have briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill on the initial Chinese spy balloon in recent days.
Until more information was obtained about the three unidentified objects that were downed last weekend, officials were hesitant to have the president speak publicly about them.
“The military advised against shooting it down over land because of the sheer size of it. He said it was big enough to pose a risk to people on the ground if it were shot down. “Instead, we tracked it closely, we analyzed its capabilities and we learned more about how it operates. We were able to protect sensitive sites because we knew its path. We waited until it was safely over water, which would not only protect civilians, but also enable us to recover substantial components for further analytics.”
The Defense Ministry had to shoot down a Chinese Weather Balloon on Taiwan’s Outlying Islands – a message from the Biden administration
All three incidences have been assessed by the intelligence community. They’re reporting to me daily and will continue the urgent efforts to do so and I will communicate that to the Congress,” Biden said.
The Republican senator from Maine said she didn’t find the Biden administration’s all-Senate classified briefings very enlightening.
John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, said that the council expects to have new instructions for the government on how to deal with unknown aerial objects in the coming days.
Kirby said that the high speed of the planes and the relatively small size of the mostly stationary objects limited the visuals that were reviewed by the FAA and intelligence agencies.
Kirby said Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan was conducting a review with other agencies to come up with a set of parameters for making decisions about how to handle the objects shot down.
The U.S. intelligence community so far thinks that the three objects shot down over Alaska, the Yukon in Canada and Lake Huron near Michigan could be commercial or research balloons, but the government is hoping to recover debris to forensically examine. On Thursday Jean-Pierre said it could take some time to complete the project.
The president said he waited to shoot down the spy balloon until it was safe over the water while he took down the rest without knowing what they were. He said he has ordered his administration to develop “sharper rules” to respond to future intrusions in American airspace.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s Defense Ministry says a Chinese weather balloon landed on one of its outlying islands, amid U.S. accusations that such craft have been dispatched worldwide to spy on Washington and its allies.
The ministry’s statement said that the balloon carried equipment for a state-owned electronics company.
The company that the report was about, Taiyuan Wireless (Radio) First Factory, had provided electronics but didn’t build the balloon.
The China Meteorological Administration was given equipment by a number of companies, according to the person who provided the information.
He said that the balloon was most likely launched from the city of Xiamen with no fixed course, in order to monitor the weather.
Its deflation was likely a natural outcome of it having reached maximum altitude of around 30,000 meters (almost 100,000 feet), Liu said. The Taiwan Strait is frequently visited by such balloons but have recently begun to draw attention, he said.
The Defense Ministry of Taiwan, a Cold War Zone and a Top Quasi-Dominated State by a Simplified Chinese Character
Information on the equipment was written in the simplified Chinese characters used on the mainland rather than the traditional on Taiwan, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said.
The middle line of the Taiwan Strait and the Taiwan air identification zone are frequently visited by Chinese military aircraft and warships. That has prompted Taiwan to boost military purchases from the U.S., expand domestic production of local planes, submarines and fighting ships, and extend compulsory military service for all males.
Washington is Taiwan’s closest ally even though there was no formal ties in 1979. Beijing protests strongly over all contacts between the island and the U.S., but its aggressive diplomacy has helped build strong bipartisan support for Taipei on Capitol Hill.
While not expressing regret for downing the three still-unidentified objects, Biden said he hoped the new rules would help “distinguish between those that are likely to pose safety and security risks that necessitate action and those that do not.”