China Finds Itself With Limited Options After U.S. Shoots Down Balloon

NYT WORLD: China Finds Itself With Limited Options After U.S. Shoots Down Balloon
By Chris Buckley
Section: World
Source: New York Times
Published Date: February 5, 2023 at 02:00AM

Beijing registered “strong discontent and protest.” But there may be little it can do to retaliate.

After an American fighter jet shot down the Chinese balloon that had floated across the United States, the reaction from Beijing — defensive, angered, yet hedging its options — illustrated the challenges facing China’s leader, Xi Jinping, as he tries to stabilize relations while giving little, if any, ground.
Hours after the balloon was struck by a Sidewinder missile and crumpled into the waters off South Carolina, the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared its “strong discontent and protest” and doubled down on its position that the balloon was a civilian research airship blown way off course by fierce winds. Washington, not Beijing, had broken the rules, the ministry said.

Video : The moment a suspected Chinese spy balloon is shot down over east coast of US

“The Chinese side clearly requested that the U.S. appropriately deal with this in a calm, professional and restrained manner,” said the statement from the Chinese ministry on Sunday. “For the United States to insist on using armed force is clearly an excessive reaction.”
Chinese officials had been preparing to host the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, for talks this week in Beijing aimed at containing tensions over a glut of issues: technology barriers and bans, Western opposition to hard-line Chinese policies in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and American support for Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing has demanded must accept unification. Mr. Blinken pulled out of his trip to China, citing anger over the balloon.
Beijing’s reaction to the bipartisan furor in the United States over the high-altitude balloon suggested that Chinese leaders were baffled that those planned talks in Beijing had been upstaged by what they described as an innocent mistake. But China also suggested that it could somehow retaliate against the American military’s action: The Foreign Ministry noted that it “retains the right to respond further.”

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