The “spy balloon” episode took the wind out of the stated purpose of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s now-postponed China visit, which was aimed at achieving rapprochement between Washington and Beijing. The dominant view among the US strategic affairs community sees the downing of the “spy balloon,” the cancelled visit of Blinken, and now the refusal by the US president to apologize for “killing” the civilian Chinese airship, as the formal launching of a New Cold War amid increasing hostility between the two rival nations. Although Beijing criticized the US’s “irrational” action as an “overreaction,” analysts abroad and within the mainland are interpreting China’s quick apology for the Chinese flying object mistakenly entering the US air space as [China’s] unwillingness to escalate “balloon” row. Besides, other voices, including the Washington-based think tank CSIS, the Wall Street Journal, and a high-ranking Chinese diplomat, have argued that the entire matter should have been treated and dealt with as a diplomatic episode. The chargé d'affaires of the Chinese embassy in Washington Xu Xueyuan wrote in an article in the US media that China-US relations should not be “led astray by a wandering balloon.” The raison d’etre for downplaying the controversy has been interpreted by some as Beijing’s objective to “restore and develop the economy” that has been dragged down by the three-year epidemic in 2023.
This panel discussion will analyse the incident and deliberate on the following questions: a) has the storm over the balloon robbed Washington and Beijing of an opportunity; b) if this is really the beginning of a New Cold War, what are the security implications in the Indo-Pacific; c) does an intensification of US-China competition indicate that China could queer the pitch for India’s G20 presidency this year; d) is the balloon row really the spectacle that the Biden administration will use “to push its stuttering election cart”; and, last but not least, e) what does one make of the fact that China figured at least five times in Biden’s POTA speech.
About the Panelist
Prof. Da Wei is the Director of the Center for International Security and Strategy (CISS) at Tsinghua, and professor of the Department of International Relations, School of Social Science, Tsinghua University. Prof. Da’s research expertise covers China-US relations and US security & foreign policy. He has worked in China’s academic and policy community for more than 2 decades. Prior to current positions, Prof. Da was the Assistant President of University of International Relations (2017-2020), Director of the Institute of American Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (2013-2017). Prof. Da has written hundreds of policy papers for the Chinese government and published dozens of academic papers in journals in China, the US and other countries. He earned his BA and MA from UIR, and his Ph.D. from CICIR. Prof. Da was a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States from 2006 to 2007, and a Visiting Senior Associate at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University from 2008 to 2009.
Ms. Shannon Tiezzi is Editor-in-Chief at The Diplomat. Prior to that, she was The Diplomat’s China editor. Her main focus is on China, and she writes on China’s foreign relations, domestic politics, and economy. She received her master’s degree from Harvard University, with a focus on modern Chinese literature, and her B.A. in English and Chinese from The College of William and Mary. Shannon has also studied at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Prof. Alka Acharya is Honorary Director of the ICS and Chairperson at the Centre for East Asian Studies, SIS, Jawaharlal Nehru University. She has been teaching courses on Chinese Foreign Policy and Political Economy to the Masters and M.Phil students and guiding doctoral research since 1993. She is the joint editor of the book Crossing a Bridge of Dreams: 50 years of India-China and has contributed chapters to many books and journals. She has authored a book China & India: Politics of Incremental Engagement, published in 2008 and most recently edited a volume titled Boundaries and Borderlands: A Century after the 1914 Simla Convention (Routledge, New York 2023). She was nominated by the Indian government as a member of the India-China Eminent Persons Group (2006-2008) and member of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India for two terms (2006-2008) and (2011-2012).
About the Moderator
Prof. Hemant Adlakha is Vice-Chairperson, Honorary Fellow of the ICS and Professor at Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Prof. Adlakha’s areas of research include political and foreign policy discourse in the PRC and modern Chinese Literature and Culture. He is a member of the International Editorial Committee, International Society for Lu Xun Studies, Seoul (ROK). His articles have appeared in China Report, The Diplomat, Japan Times, Encyclopaedia of Race and Racism, 2nd Edition, Washington etc. His co-translation of Lu Xun’s prose poetry collection from Chinese into Hindi has been published by the NBT in November 2019.
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