What has China said about the balloon controversy

image of Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry

The latest in a series of reversals in China's stance on a global drama is its accusation that the US has flown balloons into its airspace.

Since the US first claimed that China had flown a spy balloon over its territory, it has been almost two weeks.

The incident has sparked a variety of reactions from the Chinese government and people, ranging from outrage to hysterical speculation.

Chinese officials held off responding right away after the Pentagon first revealed the balloon's existence on February 2; they finally said something the following evening.

They acknowledged ownership of the object in a statement, but added that it was a "civilian airship used for research, primarily meteorological, purposes" that had been deflected from its intended course.

They described it as an accident and adopted a tone that was almost regretful—unusual for Beijing—saying they "regretted the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.".

State media, who up until the government's admission had largely refrained from covering the story, however, became more defensive.

The Global Times called on the US to "be more sincere in fixing relations with China instead of making provocative actions against it," while the China Daily claimed that the "fabricated balloon lie cannot be tied down to China.".

The incident sparked immediate online humor, with many users jokingly referring to the object as "The Wandering Balloon" in reference to the well-known Chinese science-fiction book and movie The Wandering Earth.

The following morning, as word spread that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had canceled a trip to China, Chinese authorities responded with a longer, more forceful statement, claiming that "some politicians and media in the US have hyped it up to attack and smear China.".

The balloon was shot down by the US the same day, angering China.

It was described as "a clear overreaction" and "unacceptable and irresponsible" by Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry.

"The US does not own the airship. When asked if China had asked for the balloon's remains to be returned, she replied, "It belongs to China.

A formal complaint was made by officials to the US embassy in Beijing.

Chinese nationalists blasted the US indignantly online. The US "had to end" the situation with a missile, according to prominent commentator and former editor-in-chief of Global Times Hu Xijin, because Americans "aren't able to treat an accident by seeking truth from facts, instead they had to politicalize it.".

Chinese authorities also acknowledged ownership of a second balloon that was seen drifting over Latin America at the same time.

In the absence of information regarding the balloon's civilian origins, there was hysterical speculation on the Chinese internet about who exactly had launched the balloon.

A local business, ChemChina Zhuzhou Rubber Research and Design Institute, was recently mentioned in news articles as one of China's major manufacturers of high-altitude balloons, which attracted a lot of attention.

A state-owned company's subsidiary, ChemChina Zhuzhou, was allegedly the manufacturer of the balloon, according to some bloggers. However, there is no proof connecting the business to the airship.

On Sunday, The Paper reported that an unidentified object was allegedly flying off the coast of the eastern Shandong province, which added to the confusion.

It claimed that local fishermen had received a warning from fisheries officials that Chinese authorities were getting ready to shoot down the object. .

Some Chinese media outlets reprinted the report, but the government agencies and state media said nothing. Nevertheless, it caused a social media frenzy, with some accounts even live-streaming satellite images over the region.

However, some people responded online with skepticism and questioned whether it was true, wondering why the news hadn't been announced on more official channels.

The Chinese government made a new allegation on Monday, claiming that US balloons had violated their airspace at least ten times in the previous year.

Instead of defaming and accusing China, the US side should first start over and engage in some self-reflection, according to a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry.

The US has refuted the charge.

State media has started concentrating on a different story at the same time: an Ohio train carrying hazardous materials derailed.

Although the incident occurred in early February, Chinese news outlets are now giving the subject significant attention, citing reports from US media. To avoid contamination, authorities have carried out a controlled release of hazardous chemicals from the train.

Since then, it has gained a lot of attention on social media. Since the weekend, the Ohio train hashtag has been viewed up to 690 million times on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, with more than 40 hashtags being created around the subject.

In addition to anger over the relative lack of coverage given to the train incident in US media compared to the balloon incident, many Chinese internet users expressed concern that the incident would escalate into a global environmental crisis.

A post that has been liked almost 3,000 times states, "Turns out the Wandering Balloon was being used to take the heat for Ohio."

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