The Chinese Ambassador to Wellington writes to Newsroom, and others, challenging the US and international allegations about China’s big balloon that was shot down over the US coast.

Much Hot Air about Nothing? —-Some Observations on the Balloon Saga

Dear Friend, Tenā koe.

Recently, the shooting down of so called Spy Balloons by US have caught headlines all over the world and caused some discussions in NZ. In order to help Kiwi friends to better understand the relevant background and China’s position, I would like to share with you some of my observations.

1.The ins and outs of the incident

Just as the Chinese side has stated on multiple occasions, the entry of the unmanned Chinese civilian airship into US airspace is a purely unintended, unexpected and isolated event due to force majeure. China has made prompt response to the US side upon its request and expressed the hope that the two sides could deal with the incident with a reasonable, professional and restrained approach.

It is noteworthy that the airship didn’t pose any threat to any person or to the national security of the US. Even the US Department of Defense stated that “the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground”. Despite this, the US side still decided to use force against the civilian airship even as it was about to leave US airspace. Obviously, this is an abuse of the use of force and a clear overreaction that seriously contravenes the spirit of international law and customary international practice, and leads to escalation of the situation to a great extent.

2.How did such an isolated event turn into a political drama afterwards?

It seems that some anti-China forces in US are making use of the event to exaggerate or hype up the “China threat” narrative to achieve their hidden domestic agenda. Whenever China and US relations are making some progress, similar things will happen coincidentally. If looking carefully, one will find that many irresponsible comments and made-up stories came out all of a sudden without any clear evidence. Such practices are not conducive to building trust or improving ties between the two countries, nor can it make the US safer.

What’s more serious is that the US also used the incident as an excuse to impose illegal sanctions over Chinese companies and institutions, which have undermined China’s sovereignty, security and legitimate rights and interests. China is strongly opposed to this and took countermeasures in accordance with law against relevant US entities.

The way the US dealt with the incident and the mentality behind it had a grave impact on the efforts and progress made by China and the US in stabilising bilateral relations since the leaders’ meeting in Bali, and runs counter to the common aspirations of the international community. As far as I see it, China-US relations should not fall victim to US domestic politics, and world peace and stability should not be the price of the US’s seeking of dominance. We firmly oppose what the US has done and urge the US not to take further actions that could undermine China’s interests or escalate tensions.

An American military unit recovers parts of the Chinese high altitude surveillance balloon off Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Photo: Getty Images

3.Who is the world’s No.1 country of spying, eavesdropping and surveillance?

I think the answer is plainly visible to the international community. Over the years, the US has been engaged in massive, non-discriminate wiretapping and secret theft operations globally, including against its allies, by abusing its tech advantage. These operations violate the sovereignty and interests of countries around the world, international law and basic norms governing international relations, which makes the US the absolute No.1 country in terms of spying and surveillance.

Please let me share with you some facts. The US National Security Agency spied on calls and chat messages through the phones of leaders of Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and other European countries. The US has been operating a highly secretive signals intelligence collection program through almost a hundred US embassies and consulates worldwide. Anzer, a cybersecurity information platform, revealed last year that the NSA stole more than 97 billion pieces of global internet data and 124 billion phone records in 30 days, compromising the privacy of citizens across the world. Namibia recently found in its waters a US saildrone used to gather data underwater, and local media generally believe it to be an American spy drone.

US military vessels and aircraft conduct frequent close-in reconnaissance on China, including 657 sorties last year and 64 sorties in January this year in the South China Sea alone, which seriously undermines China’s national security and regional peace and stability.

In terms of surveillance balloons, the US knows how many it has sent into the skies across the world, and how many times their balloons have illegally entered other countries’ airspace. Since May last year, the US has released a large number of high-altitude balloons from its territory, which have continuously circled the globe and illegally flown over China’s airspace, including Xinjiang and Tibet, more than 10 times without the approval of relevant Chinese authorities. The US needs to reflect on its own behaviour and change course rather than playing the tricks of double standards, attacking others and stoking confrontation.

To conclude, I would like to emphasise that a healthy and stable China-US relationship is in line with the common interests of the two countries, and also comply with the common expectation of the international community including New Zealand. But it takes two to tango. We sincerely hope the US side could take concrete actions to honor their commitment that it doesn’t seek confrontation with or containment of China, and works together with China to manage and build bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.

Ngā mihi. Sincerely yours,

Wang Xiaolong
Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand

As representative in Wellington for the People's Republic of China, Wang Xiaolong describes himself as ambassador, bridge builder, father and hiker.

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