After downing the spy balloon, the ball of fire rolls!

February 10, 2023
After downing the spy balloon, the ball of fire rolls!

Jameel Altheyabi

Countries around the world held their breath while watching with concern the consequences of the Chinese spy balloon downing incident. The balloon, which penetrated into the Canadian and American airspaces, was shot down on Saturday by a missile fired from an F-22 fighter, and its wreckage was scattered in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The incident unlocked the door of speculation wide open with several questions: Will the Cold War end and a ball of flame roll between Washington and Beijing? Will the American and Chinese giants fight each other? Can the United States open a new front in Asia, which is bleeding from the consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war?

I believe that the question of a cold war is meaningless, as US-Chinese relations continue to remain in a state of the cold war for decades, even after former President Richard Nixon succeeded in breaking the ice between the two countries with his famous visit to Beijing in the early 1970s, and until the last handshake between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

As per the nature of the new system, which is the byproduct of World War II, the US-Chinese relationship remained full of apprehension, suspicion, and mutual fear. And the tension that it witnessed during the era of former US President Donald Trump exacerbated recently. The frequency of disagreement and apprehension increased between the two countries regarding the island of Taiwan. Consequently, China enhanced its military capabilities, as well as its great ambition to dominate space, monopolize Africa, and expand in Asia through the New Silk Road.

It must be noted that the US Secretary of Defense Gen. Lloyd Austin visited the Philippines days before the balloon incident, where he signed an agreement with Manila to increase the number of military bases that the United States has the right to use if a conflict erupts with China over the South China Sea. Days before that, a memo from a senior American general was leaked in which he predicted that the US would be at war with China by the year 2025, on the issue of a possible Chinese invasion of the Taiwan strait, and the annexation of Taiwan to China, which it considers Chinese territory. This was not the first time that the prospect of a potential war has been circulated. A higher-ranking general had previously speculated that a war may occur during the years between 2025 and 2027.

It is to be added to this that China, according to its President Xi Jinping, believes that it will overtake the United States by the year 2035. The obvious question for everyone concerned about a possible confrontation is: Will this war be another test for nuclear power, which has remained in its fortified bunkers since America dropped its nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945? And if this war breaks out, will the world again suffer from the interruption of commercial supply chains in a more egregious way than what happened as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic during the period 2019-2022?

On the other hand, China is very apprehensive about Washington’s intentions, especially since the US intensified its diplomatic force to mobilize the largest number of allies in favor of its plans to confront China at the prospect of any future conflict.

There is no doubt that Beijing feels that Washington is about to surround China with a wristband, from every side: the South China Sea, the Taiwan strait, and the waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. For Beijing, this is a dangerous development especially since the United States is trying to isolate Russia because of the Ukraine war.

As happened during the years of the Cold War between Moscow and Washington, it also seems that Beijing and Washington are keen not to roll a fireball between them, in order to prevent any error in strategic assessments or any amount of misunderstanding that could ignite the fire.

But keeping the fireball in its place is alone sufficient to prevent the most populous country and the most powerful country in the world from sliding into a conflict? It is certain that the coming months will bring about a definitive answer to this.

February 10, 2023
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