Balloon Hysteria Furthers Insidious Belief that U.S. is Soft on China

Balloon Hysteria Furthers Insidious Belief that U.S. is Soft on China
Image Credit to Sky News

For the past several decades, the American public has been instilled with an intrinsic hatred for and fear of China.

No singular event in this seemingly inevitable march to war is more emblematic of the American public’s warped psyche than the “Chinese Spy Balloon” narrative—perhaps due, in part, to its facial absurdity. The happening eclipses even similarly nonsensical yarns such as widespread TikTok paranoia (see the NSA’s PRISM program), China’s American farmland purchases (Chinese firms account for <.5% of all foreign-owned land in the U.S.), and the “invasion” of Chinese fentanyl through the Southern border (fentanyl trafficking is illegal in China).

Indeed, even the pervasive use of the term “Chinese Spy Balloon”—an utterly unsupported Pentagon accusation—signifies the absolutely captured state of the American consciousness.

This narrative control is critical to Washington as it manufactures consent for its declared “great power competition” with Beijing.

The saga began on February 2, when an official spokesman announced the Pentagon was tracking the passage of a “high-altitude surveillance balloon” over the continental U.S. The spokesman expressed confidence that the “surveillance balloon” belonged to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In this initial announcement, it was importantly noted “[i]nstances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years.”

On February 3, a PRC spokesperson confirmed the balloon originated from China, but said it was merely a civilian weather balloon on a research mission. The spokesperson apologized for the intrusion and explained the balloon entered the U.S. by accident due to unexpected wind currents. The statement stressed continued communication and diplomacy.

On the afternoon of February 4, American forces downed the balloon just off the coast of South Carolina. The next day, the Chinese foreign ministry called the response “a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.”