Floating Chinese weather balloon causes confusion


Tyler Schlitt

Chinese balloon launched into US airspace.

Recently, a Chinese “weather balloon” floating through U.S. airspace made national headlines, raising concerns. In the last month, four aerial objects were taken down over U.S. airspace, leaving Americans wondering what was happening, and whether or not this indicates rising tensions between the two countries. To understand, affected people at Southern Lehigh assess the shoot-downs, Chinese intelligence spying in other countries, and the geopolitical situation between the United States and China.

The balloon drifted into U.S. airspace on January 28, 2023. According to a February 4th White House press release, the balloon wasn’t shot down over U.S. airspace for fear that falling debris might damage property. Once the balloon drifted off the landmass of South Carolina, it was shot down approximately 8 miles offshore of Myrtle Beach by the Air Force’s most modern air superiority fighter, the F-22 Raptor.

Jake Levin, a senior at Southern Lehigh, happened to be next to Myrtle Beach when the engagement occured. Having studied some international relations, he speculates that the nature of the shootdown itself won’t pose a major danger. 

“[The Chinese government] already condemned the shootdown diplomatically,” Levin said. “Shooting it down was an overreaction, but I can’t foresee them taking any other sort of action because they did violate our airspace. It’s hard to say what we [the American government] did was illegal. Really, there is no argument to be made outside of complaining that the shootdown was unnecessary.”

As such, the balloon incident, although prominent in American media, does not seem to have provoked any specific retaliation, or pose a question of one to come in the future. When it comes to the question of whether or not we are doomed for conflict, however, Southern Lehigh Global Issues teacher Mrs. Jennifer Wlodek has a more optimistic outlook. Having experience overseas, she is able to see the nuance in rising tensions between the United States and China. 

“With the right administrations within each country, they can work together to prevent conflict, even if there is a slight escalation of tension,” Mrs. Wlodek said.

In the Cold War with the Soviet Union, open war never directly erupted between the United States and Soviet Union, yet multiple proxy wars erupted around the world. The primary concern is that conflict with Taiwan could result in the same sort of situation. The Chinese government has long had tension with the Taiwanese government, as the latter is the remains of the Republic of China which fled mainland China after the Chinese Revolution of 1949. 

Evelyn Wang, a Foreign Policy National Champion in the Speech and Debate club, recently visited her family in Taiwan, and provides insight on the reality of the situation.

“In general, people view China negatively and, in the political sphere, the topic of mainland China is very controversial,” Wang said. “But in everyday life, it’s not as much of a presence as the West makes it out to be, or even how China is made out to be in the United States.”

Concern and worry regarding the future of the United States is understandable, but there certainly is no verdict that conflict between China and the United States is bound to begin in short notice. Even if the balloon provoked a national security scare, the other UFO’s that were shot down were claimed by the U.S. government in a White House press release to be unrelated to the Chinese government.