China and U.S. International Rivalry – So Much More than A Few Balloons

Just in the last week, the U.S. military has shot down a Chinese balloon over the Atlantic Ocean, and three unidentified objects off the Alaskan coast, near Lake Huron, and the Canadian government shot one down over Northern Canada. The news is buzzing with this new development, and the politicians are severely criticizing the Chinese government with the assumption that all three objects originated in China. The appearance of these objects is unprecedented. Up until last week, the U.S. has not once shot down an airborne object in North American airspace.

The nature of these objects is far from clear. The U.S. claims the first object was a surveillance balloon, while the Chinese government maintains it was a weather balloon. The other three objects were much smaller, but were likely similar balloons. The remains of these objects have not been recovered due to severe arctic weather.

What is clear is that in this world, divided into competing states run by competing elites, surveillance and spying go hand in hand with military and economic competition. The U.S. has 750 military bases in at least 80 countries. The U.S. also spends more on its military than the next ten countries combined. Through diplomatic pressure and military treaties, the U.S. is able to operate its military and surveillance aircraft in much of the world’s airspace. Iranian, Chinese, and Venezuelan governments have all claimed that U.S. aircraft, including spy balloons, have at times violated their airspace. It is difficult to know the truth of things, but it is highly likely that U.S. military surveillance extends beyond the limits of what is officially legal.

This episode of spy vs spy between the U.S. and China is a symptom of a much greater and more dangerous conflict. These two major world powers, run by two competing sets of wealthy elites, are bringing the world closer and closer to a deadly conflict. Working and poor people have no interest in this contest of power, and every interest in destroying the system of international competition, which makes this dangerous conflict inevitable.