David Pierson at The New York Times:
While many in the world see the Chinese spy balloon as a sign of Beijing’s growing aggressiveness, China has sought to cast the controversy as a symptom of the United States’ irrevocable decline.
Why else would a great power be spooked by a flimsy inflatable craft, China has argued, if not for a raft of internal problems like an intensely divided society and intractable partisan strife driving President Biden to act tough on Beijing?
This gets at why “the balloon incident” genuinely scares me; it suggests that the United States is doomed to the ratchet effects of domestic outbidding over who can be “tougher” on China.
That’s a recipe for threat inflation, poor policy decisions, and (even more) toxic domestic politics.