# How the US Shot Down a Chinese Spy Balloon and Republicans Politicized the Incident
The US-China relationship is complex and often tense, and the recent incident of the US shooting down a Chinese surveillance balloon off the Carolina coast is no exception. On Saturday afternoon, an F-22 Raptor with a single missile shot down the balloon, which was between 60,000 to 65,000 feet in the air.
While in a healthy and mature political environment, this would likely be seen as a story related to diplomacy, espionage and tense relations between the world’s two most powerful countries, the current political climate has led to a very different kind of conversation. In this blog post, we’ll explore the five steps of this conversation, from the head-shaking hysterics from Republicans to the inevitable GOP smear campaign to the realization that similar incidents happened during the Trump administration.
## Step One: Head-Shaking Hysterics from Republicans
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer appeared on Fox News last week and asked a series of questions that reinforced concerns about how unserious he is about his responsibilities. “Is that bioweapons in that balloon?” the Kentucky Republican asked. “Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?”
## Step Two: The GOP Smear Campaign
Republican lawmakers then began to target the Biden administration, with Sen. Marco Rubio writing via social media that China believes America is a weakened superpower with a reputation of strength that no longer holds true. Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina even went so far as to argue that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris “should resign.”
## Step Three: Blaming Biden
Republicans then began to argue that such an incident wouldn’t have happened if Donald Trump were still in the White House.
## Step Four: Realizing Similar Incidents Happened During Trump’s Presidency
According to the Pentagon, Chinese balloons “transited the continental United States at least three times during the prior administration.” Though the details surrounding those incidents are sparse, a Washington Post report added that the Defense Department notified Congress over the weekend of “several previous incursions of U.S. airspace by Chinese surveillance balloons, with earlier sightings near Texas, Florida, Hawaii and Guam.
## Step Five: Ignoring Step Four
Republicans then began to ignore Step Four, with Rep. Mike Turner brushing off the relevant detail and quickly going back to targeting the Democratic White House. On “Fox News Sunday,” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas suggested the Trump-era incidents were somehow Barack Obama’s fault.
For his part, Trump himself, after being told about Chinese efforts during his administration, boasted that China “would have never” engaged in such efforts during his administration, despite the apparent evidence to the contrary.
Based on what we currently know, the facts surrounding this incident appear relatively straightforward: China made a mistake with a surveillance balloon; Biden was advised to wait to shoot it down until it wouldn’t pose any risks to the public; and then a U.S. missile resolved the matter. The Chinese equipment will be retrieved and analyzed.
I don’t doubt that GOP officials will continue to make a fuss, perhaps as some kind of clumsy effort to put Biden on the defensive ahead of tomorrow’s State of the Union address, but reality does not appear to be on Republicans’ side on this.