How a wandering balloon caused an anxiety attack

BEIJING: Anthony Blinken’s first trip to China as U.S. secretary of state should have made headlines during the first weekend of February. But a stray balloon made him reportedly postpone the high-stakes diplomatic trip, casting yet another dark shadow over the relationship between the world’s two largest economies.
The “balloon episode” can be summed up as follows: A Chinese high-altitude balloon was first detected near the Aleutian Islands on January 28, but it wasn’t until February 1, when it traversed Canada and re-entered U.S. airspace, that it attracted a great deal of public attention and was seen as a violation of U.S. sovereignty. The Republicans in opposition also took the opportunity to launch a political attack on the ruling Democratic administration, demanding President Joe Biden show a tough stance toward China. Eventually, the balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina by an F-22 fighter jet on February 4.
China repeatedly stated this balloon was a civilian airship mainly used for meteorological research. Affected by the westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship had deviated far from its planned course and unintentionally drifted into American airspace, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Yet very few Americans seemed willing to believe China’s explanation, even if it did sound reasonable: At such a sensitive time in China-U.S. relationship, China does not need to employ a “surveillance balloon” that is so easily detected–and rather impractical.
–The Daily Mail-Beijing Review news exchange item