What China is trying to accomplish with repeated incursions into US airspace

William Brangham:

Geoff, Chinese officials still maintain that it was a civilian weather balloon that went off the rails and again criticized the United States for shooting it down. But the Pentagon rejected that claim, saying it was clearly for the surveillance and under the control of the Chinese government.

Last month, the balloon entered US airspace over Alaska, but became public last week as it flew over Montana and some US military installations, before continuing to the East Coast .

The balloon was stopped once it was over the Atlantic by order of President Biden and its thousands of pounds of falling debris pose little danger. The Pentagon said another Chinese balloon was detected over Latin America and at least three other Chinese balloons briefly passed through parts of the United States during the Trump administration. Officials say their presence was not known at the time and was only discovered by examining archived satellite images.

So, to learn more about China’s possible strategy here, we’re joined by Susan Shirk. She is a longtime China analyst and chairs the 21st Century China Center at UC San Diego. His latest book is “Overreach: How China Derailed Its Peaceful Rise”.

Susan Shirk, thank you very much for being here.

The Chinese claim it is a weather balloon that has veered off course. The Pentagon says that’s not true. It was clearly a surveillance device.

Where are you with this argument?

Susan Shirk, University of California, San Diego: Well, I’m convinced by what the Pentagon has to say.

I think the weather device is just a cover story. This may persuade some people in China, but certainly not internationally.


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