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Spy balloon episode seen to betray civil-military split in China’s leadership

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(TibetanReview.net, Feb19’23) – Urging the Army to stand behind the party and remain loyal to it has been a call Chinese President Xi Jinping has been issuing repeatedly over the past more than one decade despite having remained its top leader as the Chairman of the Party’s Central Military Commission throughout that period. And now, Colin H Kahl the US undersecretary of defense for policy, has said Feb 17 that the ongoing spy balloon controversy shows that there is a major civil-military divide inside the country’s political system, according to the nyitmes.com Feb 18.

Kahl has said China’s supreme leader was likely unaware of the Chinese spy balloon that traversed the United States until the controversy erupted, underscoring a split between the country’s top civilian and military leadership.

He has said President Xi probably knew about his country’s broader high-altitude surveillance balloon program, but not the specific spy balloon until it captured widespread attention by floating over the United States.

“I suspect he asked his military about it, and his military started to backpedal and to make excuses,” Kahl has said.

“There is a major civil-military divide inside the PRC system,” he has said, referring to the People’s Republic of China. “Xi Jinping does not trust his military. He doesn’t.”

Probably because of this divide, it was far more difficult for the US to communicate with China during times of crisis than it was with Soviet leaders in the Cold War, Avril D Haines, director of national intelligence, has said during a discussion at Columbia University on Feb 17. This referred to the fact, among others, that China was stated to have refused to take a hotline phone call from the Pentagon when the spy balloon crisis erupted recently.

“One challenge with China is that they tend to clamp down in a crisis and not talk,” she has said.

Meanwhile, in remarks Feb 16, President Joe Biden has called the spy balloon a “violation of our sovereignty” and said the analysis of the salvaged material could provide insights into China’s spying capabilities. But he has insisted he would speak to Xi in an apparent effort to calm tensions.

Kahl has declined to provide any details on the suspected Chinese spy balloon the US shot down over its airspace on Feb 4, pending the outcome of the analysis of the recovered wreckage from it but said the balloon’s payload had the ability to do full-motion and high-resolution video, as well as antennae that could intercept electronic transmissions.

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