In the past few weeks, an unmanned civilian Chinese airship – and the US handling of the matter – brought new challenges to the relationship between China and the United States, testing the two countries’ ability to properly address an unexpected incident.
The airship, which was used for meteorological research, unintentionally entered US airspace because of the westerlies and its limited self-steering capability. China has made these details available to the United States after earnest verification and in the shortest possible time. We have asked that the situation be handled in a calm, professional and quiet manner. The United States labeled the airship as China’s “spy balloon” of the People’s Liberation Army, and shot it down, though it posed no real security threat. The United States also alleged that China has a high-altitude surveillance balloon program targeting the world, and illegally imposed sanctions on six Chinese companies and institutions.
The overreaction by America – and its moves to heighten the issue – have exacerbated the situation. This isolated incident has caused new wounds in China-US relations. The bilateral relationship is the world’s most important and complex. Relations between the two nations have never been smooth sailing but have included a process of overcoming problems whenever they occur. Many of the issues between the two countries originate from strategic misperception and misjudgment. The difficulty caused by the airship’s accidental entrance in US airspace is yet another example.
But problems are not to be feared; what matters is good faith and the ability to resolve them. This bilateral relationship requires a “whole-process” approach and attention to the bigger picture. What, then, is that bigger picture? It is the fact that the two countries have many more common interests than differences; it is the common understanding that a sound and stable China-US relationship is fundamentally good for the two countries and people worldwide. When the China-US relationship enters a difficult patch, we must show the courage and wisdom to respect facts and return to reason. Sensational and politically driven moves harm everyone. By handling this balloon incident properly, China and the US would prove to their people, and the world, that they can respect each other and act responsibly to manage differences and avoid confrontation.
China stands for more dialogue between the two countries at all levels. This has been an important understanding reached between President Xi Jinping and President Biden at their Bali meeting three months ago. It falls on both sides to implement it. If we condense the past experiences of our bilateral relations, they point to this: China and the United States both gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. We sincerely hope that the United States will work with China and not allow a wandering balloon to lead the bilateral relationship astray. We look forward to concrete steps to prevent the situation from going further down the wrong path, so that the China-US relationship can return to a track of sound and stable development.