Strange objects over Taiwan
Look, up in the sky, is it a gender reveal gone wrong? An attention-seeking stunt to bring Balloon Boy into the 2020s? Your favorite geopolitics meme of 2023 is flying high again in the new year: Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reported four Chinese spy balloons hovering over strategic targets on the self-governing island in recent days, including an air force base.
Feeling some déjà vu? Last January, a similar balloon made headlines as it traversed the continental United States before a US jet shot it down. The Chinese said it was a weather balloon that had gone off course, but the incident tanked relations between China and the United States for months. Secretary of State Antony Blinken alerted dozens of countries after accusing Beijing of a broader surveillance program that “violated the sovereignty of countries across five continents.”
What makes this different? The balloons appeared on the eve of Taiwan’s presidential election, which is set for Jan. 13. Taiwanese authorities have already accused China of trying to help opposition candidates who would take a friendlier approach to Beijing and be less opposed to China’s ultimate goal of “reunification.”
Against that backdrop, the balloons seem to carry a clear message from Chinese President Xi Jinping: We’re watching you.