The Daily Retina
Balloongate is grabbing headlines again, for all the wrong reasons. CNN is reporting that “US intelligence officials are assessing the possibility that the suspected Chinese spy balloon was not deliberately maneuvered into the continental US by the Chinese government and are examining whether it was diverted off course by strong winds.”
This will not go down well. Now we are expected to believe that perhaps Beijing didn’t actually mean to send the huge spy craft hovering for several days over our sensitive military installations, but somehow it ended up there by accident?
If this is an effort by the Biden White House to divert attention from its embarrassing handling of China’s recent incursion into our air space, they should think again. Or – even worse – if this is meant to curry favor with Xi Jinping by burying China’s misbehavior, the public will be outraged.
Such an attempt to spin recent events would further inflame those who are already concerned about President Biden’s entanglements with China, and who suspect the president is compromised by his family’s business activities in that country.
Unhappily, there is plenty to support those suspicions. As the Washington Post reported a year ago, “Over the course of 14 months, the Chinese energy conglomerate [CEFC] and its executives paid $4.8 million to entities controlled by Hunter Biden and his uncle…”
That figure includes a “$1 million retainer [to Hunter Biden], issued as part of an agreement to represent Patrick Ho, a CEFC official who would later be charged in the United States in connection with a multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe leaders from Chad and Uganda.” The Post says it found no evidence that Joe Biden participated in these unsavory transactions, but others, including Hunter’s former business partner Tony Bobulinski, have alleged that the president was involved.
Such reports ring alarm bells. Some are convinced that Beijing, known for spying on visitors and its own citizens, may have something on Joe Biden that would disprove his assertion that he knew nothing about his son’s business affairs.
Therefore, many Americans are on high alert for evidence that Biden is acting to appease Beijing rather than protect the U.S. The delay in bringing down the Chinese spy apparatus seemed to provide just such confirmation. But it is far from unique.
The president’s decision a year ago to end President Trump’s “China Initiative,” a program under which the Department of Justice (DOJ) focused on rooting out espionage by Chinese scientists and academics, also seemed to suggest that Biden was protecting Beijing.
Under that initiative, the DOJ arrested numerous people, including a Chinese national who was conducting cancer cell research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston until he was apprehended at Logan Airport and charged with “attempting to smuggle 21 vials of biological research to China.”
Charles Lieber, a nanoscience expert who chaired Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department and who received more than $15 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, was convicted of hiding millions in compensation he received from the Wuhan University of Technology and of lying to federal officials, among other infractions.
In short, the China Initiative was justified and productive.
Elsewhere, the Biden administration’s eager reentry into the Paris climate accord and enthusiasm for renewable energy can be read as another gift to Beijing. Biden pledged to cut U.S. emissions 50 percent to 52 percent by 2030, a drastic promise that could leave Americans with less reliable and less affordable energy, while China basically promised nothing, and continues to build new coal-fired power plants.
Meanwhile, Chinese companies provide more than 80 percent of the components for the solar and wind industries worldwide. Despite efforts to boost U.S. self-sufficiency in renewables, trying to reach that emissions target will be a boon to China for the foreseeable future.
China’s provocations are endless, including providing military materiel to Russia in support of its war in Ukraine, repeated harassment of U.S. fighter planes and interference with commercial activity in the South China Sea. And then there is COVID-19.
China is manifestly not our friend, and Biden must show Americans that he will stand up to an increasingly aggressive Xi and safeguard our security. Balloongate has spotlighted his temerity in doing so.
Lots of questions linger about China’s spy balloon. Did the military alert Biden to the spy craft’s presence when it was first detected? Did the White House attempt to conceal the incursion into our airspace, fearful that the intrusion would doom Sec. of State Antony Blinken’s quest for talks on climate change? How did the military decide after the fact that such objects had been detected during Trump’s presidency? Why did Biden decide to shoot down three more objects in quick succession? Was that to atone for being caught out on the first one? What kind of information did the Chinese glean from this balloon?
And now, are we ready to accept it was all a big accident?
Biden took office thinking voters wanted him to overturn everything that Trump had achieved, including securing the border, achieving energy independence and a host of other accomplishments. Among those wins was taking a harder line with China and alerting Americans to the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
Biden would do well to follow Trump’s lead by standing up to China’s aggressions and, in particular, punishing Beijing for violating our air space. Accepting Beijing’s excuse that strong winds blew their balloon across our country will not sit well with many Americans; it will only reinforce speculation that Biden has some reason to go easy on Beijing.
Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.
Source: Opinion: Op-Eds, Editorials, and Political Commentary | The Hill