The recent accusation by China that the United States has flown a balloon into Chinese airspace is just the most recent in a long line of contradictory statements made by the government in response to a story that has captivated the world.
The United States initially accused China nearly two weeks ago of sending a spy balloon above its territory.
Reactions from the Chinese people and the government to the occurrence have ranged from outrage to wild speculation.
There was a pause, and then she said it.
Despite the Pentagon’s first announcement of the balloon’s existence on 2 Feb, Chinese officials waited until the evening of 3 February before responding.
They said in a statement that the object was theirs, but that it was a “civilian airship utilized for research, particularly meteorological objectives” that had been blown off course.
Beijing took a rare, almost regretful stance by calling it an accident and blaming “force majeure” for the airship’s unintentional incursion into US airspace.
Nonetheless, state media became more defensive after initially withholding coverage of the subject until the government’s acknowledgment.
The China Daily argued that the “manufactured balloon deception cannot be tracked back to China,” while the Global Times encouraged the United States to “be more honest in repairing relations with China instead of making provocative steps against it.”
Internet users were quick to poke fun at the situation; many referred to the object as “The Wandering Balloon,” a play on the title of a classic Chinese science fiction novel and film.
The next morning, as word came that US State Secretary Antony Blinken had canceled a scheduled trip to China, Chinese authorities launched a longer, more aggressive defense, saying that “certain media outlets and politicians in the US have blown it up to attack and slander China.”
The United States fired down the balloon on the same day, which angered the Chinese.
Mao Ning, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, described the incident as “an obvious overreaction” and “inappropriate and reckless.”
“Our armed forces did not build the airship. It is China’s territory, “she responded in response to a question about whether or not China had asked for the balloon debris to be sent back.
There was an official complaint submitted to the American embassy in Beijing.
Online, A group of Chinese nationalists strongly condemned the United States. Hu Xijin, a prominent pundit and former editor-in-chief of the Global Times, argued that the United States “had to finish” the issue with a missile because Americans “aren’t able to treat an accident by finding truth from facts, instead, they had to politicize it.”
On the other hand, a second balloon was observed floating above Latin America, and Chinese authorities confirmed that it was indeed theirs.
Due to the lack of information about the balloon’s civilian origins, there was widespread conjecture on Chinese online forums about who had launched it.
Many people jumped on recent news stories that identified a local firm, ChemChina Zhuzhou Rubber Research and Design Institute, as a major manufacturer of high-altitude balloons in China.
Bloggers have speculated that the balloon was produced by ChemChina Zhuzhou, a division of a state-owned company. As of yet, though, the company’s involvement in the airship has not been confirmed.
The mystery was compounded on Sunday when a news report claimed an unidentified flying object was spotted in the skies over the eastern province of Shandong.
It was said that a warning had been issued to local fishermen by fisheries officials, informing them that Chinese authorities were planning to shoot down the item.
While some Chinese media sites carried the story, the state-run media and government agencies kept silent. It caused a frenzy on social media all the same, with some users even streaming live satellite photographs of the scene.
However, several people on the internet reacted skeptically, wondering if the news was legitimate and why it hadn’t been released through more formal channels.
Inverting the story
The Chinese government made a new accusation on Monday, saying that American balloons had violated Chinese airspace at least ten times in the previous year.
A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said, “The first step the US side should do is start from scratch and do some self-reflection instead of smearing and condemning China.”
The United States has refuted the claim.
The United States claims that Chinese balloons carrying ocean-monitoring equipment have been recovered.
Meanwhile, official outlets have shifted their coverage to another story: a train transporting toxic materials crashed in Ohio.
The incident took place in early February, but it is just now receiving extensive coverage in Chinese media, which is mostly based on accounts from the United States. In order to stop the spread of pollution, US officials have detonated the train carrying the dangerous chemicals.
It’s since exploded in popularity, making headlines and sparking heated debates everywhere online. More than 690 million times have been seen the main Ohio train hashtag on Weibo, China’s counterpart of Twitter, since the weekend, and more than 40 hashtags have been formed on the topic.
Concern that the situation could escalate into a global environmental crisis has been voiced by many Chinese netizens, and displeasure has been voiced about the very scant coverage of the railway mishap in US media compared to the balloons.
A post that has been liked nearly 3,000 times states, “Turns out the Flying Balloon was being utilized to take the heat for Ohio.”