Blinken Cancels Trip to Beijing After US Shoots Down Suspected Spy Balloon

China has accused america of overreacting after President Joe Biden ordered a suspected spy balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Sunday. China maintains the balloon, first noticed over U.S. airspace final week, was a civilian plane blown off target. The U.S. and China have been conducting surveillance on one another for years utilizing spy satellites, hacking and different means. The Pentagon has revealed Chinese language balloons additionally entered the continental United States at the very least thrice throughout the Trump administration, in addition to as soon as earlier than beneath Biden. The balloon saga led to the abrupt cancellation of a deliberate journey by Secretary of State Tony Blinken to Beijing and threatens to additional derail the connection between the 2 international locations. “The 2 international locations want to talk to one another,” says Nicholas Bequelin, a visiting fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Middle and previously the Asia-Pacific director for Amnesty Worldwide, in a wide-ranging interview about evolving U.S-China relations and potential for tensions to escalate additional.


This can be a rush transcript. Copy will not be in its last type.

AMY GOODMAN: We start at this time’s present U.S.-China relations, after President Biden ordered the Pentagon to shoot down a high-altitude Chinese language surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina Saturday. The balloon is believed to have first entered the U.S. airspace in Alaska and was then noticed in Montana, which is the house of the Malmstrom Air Pressure Base, a serious U.S. nuclear weapons web site. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken introduced he was suspending a visit this week to China, the place he was scheduled to fulfill with China’s overseas minister. Blinken spoke Friday.

SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: We’re assured this can be a Chinese language surveillance balloon. As soon as we detected the balloon, the U.S. authorities acted instantly to guard towards the gathering of delicate data. We communicated with the PRC authorities instantly by a number of channels about this difficulty. Members of my group consulted with our companions in different businesses and in Congress. We additionally engaged our shut allies and companions to tell them of the presence of the surveillance balloon in our airspace. We concluded that circumstances weren’t conducive for a constructive go to right now.

AMY GOODMAN: China has criticized the U.S. for capturing down what Beijing has described as a “civilian airship.” On Friday, the spokesperson for the Chinese language International Ministry stated, quote, “The Chinese language facet regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace … It’s a civilian airship used for analysis, primarily meteorological, functions. … The airship deviated removed from its deliberate course,” he stated.

U.S. divers are actually looking out the waters off the coast of South Carolina for remnants of the downed balloon to study extra about its mission. A second Chinese language balloon has been noticed in Latin America. It’s broadly identified that the U.S. and China have been conducting surveillance on one another for years, utilizing satellites, hacking, spies and different means.

Over the weekend, Republican lawmakers blasted President Biden for permitting the balloon to fly throughout america. However the Pentagon has revealed Chinese language balloons additionally entered the continental United States at the very least thrice throughout the Trump administration, in addition to as soon as earlier than beneath Biden.

This all comes simply days after the Philippines agreed to permit the U.S. navy to develop its navy footprint within the former U.S. colony as a part of Washington’s efforts to counter China.

We’re joined now by Nicholas Bequelin. He’s a visiting fellow at Yale Legislation Faculty’s Paul Tsai China Middle, beforehand labored at Amnesty Worldwide and Human Rights Watch.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Nicholas Bequelin, if you happen to might begin off by simply going by what occurred this weekend, each the downing of the surveillance satellite tv for pc, which is, I feel, believed to be about three buses lengthy, and in addition Blinken deciding to cancel his assembly in Beijing with President Xi?

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN: That’s proper. So, I feel that the — you recognize, the U.S.-China relation is absolutely on the lowest level we’ve seen in many years. What began as an incident over a surveillance balloon actually has became a a lot larger difficulty on the world’s geopolitical stage. The balloon was noticed by the U.S. navy, which is one thing that you simply count on — international locations spy on one another. However the query we’ve to ask ourselves is: Why did the U.S. determine to make it public, and, in making it public, mainly seal the destiny of that rekindling of the U.S.-China relationship with a go to by Secretary of State Blinken to China, the place he could be assembly with President Xi Jinping forward and getting ready the bottom for a gathering between President Biden and President Xi Jinping? So, I feel as soon as the problem of the spy balloon was within the public eye, it was only a matter of time earlier than, you recognize, the disagreement between the 2 international locations escalated, that the polarization within the U.S. discourse in direction of China was reignited, and that, finally, the balloon was going to be shot down.

So, the true query right here is: Why do we’ve this form of public theater over the spying actions of China? That are, you recognize, very lengthy — there’s a really lengthy historical past of it, and, in fact, the U.S. additionally spies on China — though, we’ve to confess, one nation is a democracy, the opposite is a one-party dictatorship. However nonetheless, on the worldwide stage, you recognize, international locations do spy on one another. And the query we’ve to ask ourselves is: What’s gained from wrecking the rekindling of the U.S.-China relationship? Is it making People safer? Is it making the world safer? Is it going to assist us deal with local weather change or know-how or rekindle financial development? I don’t assume that there was a lot eager about this. And this inflection level is, I feel, very worrying for the way forward for the connection and for the way forward for world politics.

AMY GOODMAN: I imply, it’s clear what occurred was, I imply, the satellite tv for pc balloon got here in by the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, went down by Canada, got here by, what, Idaho, Montana, made its means throughout the nation. Usually, as you stated, this has occurred earlier than, many times and once more, primarily beneath the Republican administration of Trump, however folks didn’t see it with their bare eye. Biden needed to reply as a result of, in Montana, they — in Billings, they have been taking photos of it. However the query is: Why do you maintain a summit, just like the one between Blinken and President Xi? Is it throughout simply peaceable occasions, or is it throughout occasions of nice battle, the place you need to resolve one thing? So, what about Blinken — and, in fact, that will be on the behest of President Biden — canceling a gathering at this important juncture?

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN: Effectively, I feel that the U.S. coverage predating this incident has been to include China, to take all types of measure — diplomatic, navy, intelligence — so as to stop the rise of what it sees as a peer competitor of america. China is an autocratic regime. It has navy ambitions. It desires to reshape the worldwide order. The U.S. thinks that it has to cease this. It has clearly stated that its ambition is to stay the one superpower and stay primary. And, in fact, that is considered very dimly in Beijing.

You must put this incident again within the context of the lengthy relationship between U.S. and China. From Beijing’s perspective, it’s a must to return to 1999, when the U.S. bombed the Chinese language Embassy in Belgrade throughout the Yugoslav conflict. You must put it in context wanting again at 2001, when a U.S. spy EP-3 airplane was downed after a collision with a Chinese language jet. You must put it again in context, as a result of the U.S. is conducting numerous navy maneuvers close to the Chinese language coast round Taiwan. So, from Beijing’s perspective, you recognize, this isn’t an equal struggle. This isn’t a peer to see. China is the challenger. China is the one who feels surrounded and bullied by the U.S. They usually see this as form of one other step in that course.

And once more, you recognize, the query is: All proper, if the U.S. actually asserts its supremacy on this means, if it’s dedicated to remaining the one superpower and the highest superpower, will all the issues on the earth disappear? And I feel that’s a extremely magical pondering to assume that by refusing to have interaction with China, by refusing to speak with China, by not making the circumstances conducive to a gathering between Biden and Xi, that you simply by some means magically are going to unravel all the issues which can be pressing and that must be addressing. The 2 international locations want to talk to one another. And what we’ve seen with this balloon incident is numerous theatrics that justify simply the other.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s discuss what’s taking place between the U.S. and China. You will have China having a relationship with Russia, and a few are accusing it of supporting Russia in some methods, although it has additionally held again from supporting the invasion, has really criticized the invasion. And you’ve got Secretary of Protection Austin within the Philippines saying that U.S. navy bases could be rising there. Clearly, this has to do with China, the elevated U.S. militarization from South China Sea to the Philippines. Are you able to speak concerning the significance of this?

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN: Oh, that is extraordinarily vital. And the announcement by the Philippines that it might open up quite a lot of naval bases to the U.S. is simply the newest of some main tectonic shifts in geopolitical relations within the area. You even have a brand new alliance between Japan, Australia, the U.S. and India. You will have new financial commerce offers. You will have safety preparations between India and the U.S. India was for a really very long time attempting to stay impartial however now’s form of leaning in direction of the U.S. due to the perceived hazard from China. So, there’s a very deliberate, concerted try by the U.S. to encircle China and to forestall it, to dissuade it — that’s the concept — of inflicting a battle within the South China Sea by attempting to militarily take over Taiwan or simply gaining affect within the Indo-Pacific, which the U.S. sees as its space of affect and related to nationwide safety.

Now, there is no such thing as a denying that we’ve to be very cautious of a one-party state dictatorship ambitions. And beneath Xi Jinping, China has a fully horrific file on human rights and on different issues. However, you recognize, take a look at the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, as much as one million of individuals thrown into labor camp. Take a look at what occurred in Hong Kong, which was decapitated with a nationwide safety regulation that has led to the arrest of a whole lot of peaceable protesters and opposition lawmakers. So, there is no such thing as a doubt that, you recognize, China desires to disrupt the world order, desires to make it extra comfy for a dictatorship and one-party system. And that needs to be opposed.

However the issue is: Do you oppose it higher by not speaking in any respect with China? And that appears to be the Biden administration’s technique. And we’ve to be very cautious, as a result of seeding the seeds of humiliation and resentment is just not a very good coverage. We’ve seen it with Russia. Russia is not any peer competitor to the U.S., however it could possibly create an enormous quantity of downside. We see it with Turkey, the identical factor. So, is that what we wish from China? We wish a weakened China that’s — will stay at all times beneath the U.S. when it comes to comparative energy. That’s just about a given, really. However that we wish them to be resentful towards the U.S. and towards the West and seed, you recognize, the roots of doable conflicts sooner or later?

AMY GOODMAN: And may you discuss each China’s relationship with Russia — I imply, on the identical time, it seems like President Xi, within the final months, has been attempting to easy over waves with america. After which additionally discuss what you assume will occur with Taiwan.

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN: So, let’s begin with Russia. I feel that what we see with Russia is that, you recognize, China feels very remoted on the worldwide stage. And it sees a looming battle — it’s not navy — at the very least a really sturdy geopolitical battle with the U.S. It can’t afford, in Beijing’s eyes, to lose an ally like Russia. On the identical time, its financial system and its opening to globalization and to the world can’t afford to chop off relationship with the West. Now we have to keep in mind that China principally trades with the U.S. — commerce with the U.S. is at its highest level traditionally — and with Europe. So, they don’t need to lose this. In order that they have this form of faux neutrality, the place they don’t interact in assist to Russia however really form of proceed to commerce usually.

So, the truth that China aligns itself or form of has this faux neutrality with Russia is a priority. However how do you handle it? Do you handle it by attempting to persuade China to peel off the assist to Russia and to Putin, or do you simply declare them as enemies of the identical ilk and refuse to talk to them? I feel that’s one of many questions that must be requested, and we haven’t seen a lot from this from the U.S. administration in the intervening time.

AMY GOODMAN: And Taiwan?

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN: So, Taiwan is absolutely an enormous difficulty. There’s completely little question that China has the ambition to reclaim Taiwan as its personal. And it has not put a navy answer off the desk. That’s extraordinarily worrying. Now, what’s equally worrying is the truth that the U.S. has mainly deserted the phrases of the coexistence with China on this difficulty, which is, you recognize, we go away the establishment, and we are going to respect some pink traces and — resembling Taiwan declaring independence or stationing U.S. troops on Taiwan or Taiwan taking — one of many two sides, both Taiwan or China, taking navy motion. However the home politics within the U.S. in the intervening time, with the opposition to China being mainly the one glue, the one widespread space between the Democrats and the Republicans, means that there’s a fixed escalation of —

AMY GOODMAN: And the media, by the best way. And the media.

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN: And the media. And the media. And there’s a fixed escalation of, you recognize, be stronger, who’s going to be the strongest in direction of China and on Taiwan, with a string of very high-profile visits, diplomatic visits to Taiwan, that are sure to annoy China after which name a response from China, which then calls a response for the U.S. and so forth. So you’ve gotten this tit-for-tat escalation, which is, I feel, very harmful, as a result of that is how each main conflict begins, mainly, by some incident that runs uncontrolled.

So, the U.S., you recognize, does have an curiosity in holding Taiwan free and avoiding a navy battle there. However once more, you recognize, isn’t the easiest way to do this to truly have a radical and huge diplomatic relationship with — you recognize, with disagreements? Having diplomatic relationship with one other nation doesn’t imply you agree with it. All of us have kin or companies —

AMY GOODMAN: You imply with China, having diplomatic relations with China.

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN: Sure, that’s proper. What’s the impediment to truly, you recognize, speaking? What we noticed on the G7 in Indonesia a few months in the past, when Xi and Biden met for the primary time, was that it instantly led to sort of a thaw within the relationship and form of hope that issues might be normalized and that there could be guardrails for the connection and that the 2 international locations would work to keep away from misunderstanding that may spiral out right into a battle and probably right into a navy battle. That is off the desk now. Blinken is not going to go to Beijing, which implies there will probably be no preparation for a gathering between the 2 heads of state. And we’re actually at a really, very damaging inflection level within the U.S.-China relationship.

The message right here that I need to convey, actually, is, sure, the U.S. will and may stay the only real superpower, the primary. China is just not going to meet up with the U.S. It doesn’t have the belongings. It doesn’t have the assets. It doesn’t have the worldwide affect. It doesn’t even have the innovation of the U.S. However do you need to maintain China able the place it feels completely aggrieved and more and more belligerent? I don’t assume that serves anybody’s pursuits.

AMY GOODMAN: And doesn’t one superpower on the earth additionally destabilize the world?

NICHOLAS BEQUELIN: Effectively, that’s proper. I feel that we’ve seen from the lengthy historical past of, you recognize, U.S. intervention around the globe and geopolitical play that one of many recurring themes is the overconfidence that the present administration has the answer for a selected downside: We all know what we should do. We all know that to unravel the Iraq downside, we will need to have regime change, after which all the pieces goes to be fantastic. We all know that the method to the Center East ought to now run by this or that. Proper?

And now we’ve this identical tradition, you recognize, confidence about we all know what China desires. We all know the way it’s run. We all know cease it. And we’re simply rolling out. And anybody who disagrees with our method must be pushed apart and ignored. And I feel that that’s a trait of American overseas coverage over many years, and that’s at all times a worrying signal, as a result of, you recognize, fairly often it has ended badly.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicholas Bequelin, we need to thanks a lot for being with us, visiting fellow at Yale Legislation Faculty’s Paul Tsai China Middle, beforehand with Amnesty Worldwide and Human Rights Watch.

Developing, we converse to longtime human rights lawyer Reed Brody concerning the European Fee’s plans to arrange a particular middle in The Hague to prosecute Russia for the crime of aggression for its invasion of Ukraine. What has been the U.S.’s response of organising a particular unit to take a look at the crime of aggression being conflict? Stick with us.