The continuing storm over the China balloon incident
The U.S. shot down three smaller “UFOs” in succession following the February 4 downing of a Chinese spy balloon. President Biden said there was no indication the three downed objects were connected to China’s spy balloon program.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed on February 13 that since 2022, American high-altitude balloons have flown over China’s airspace more than ten times without authorization. [No evidence was provided to support this claim.] Immediately afterward, the Marine Development Bureau in the Mo District of Qingdao City, Shandong Province asserted that a UFO was found over the waters near Rizhao and was about to be shot down, and warned nearby fishing boats to take precautions. The news quickly spread wildly on the Chinese Internet. The number of Weibo views of the announcement as of now is nearly 600 million. Many Chinese netizens are in high spirits, eagerly looking forward to China’s countermeasures against the United States, and calling for any American craft to be shot down. But as of today, a week later, there has also been no official announcement of the object or its removal by authorities. American Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman asserted that the United States does not send any balloons over China.
On February 17, China once again accused the United States, saying “U.S. balloons have repeatedly flown illegally over China’s airspace without China’s approval. The United States is not qualified to talk about ‘establishing global common norms’ and should earnestly abide by international law” and international practices. “
“White Hair Movement” Breaks Out in Wuhan and Dalian
On the morning of February 15, protests against medical insurance reform erupted in Wuhan and Dalian. Several thousand retired elderly people took to the streets to oppose the authorities’ health-insurance reform plan. Protesters objected to the new rules reducing the monthly subsidy funds that are transferred directly to personal accounts. People in both places even sang the “Internationale” in unison. China’s medical insurance system has been struggling for some time, and currently there seem to be no effective solution other than reducing subsidies for the common people. According to researchers Ding Dan and Wu Yuqing at Guotai Junan Securities, reports show that from January to November 2022, China’s medical insurance funds will have a cumulative income of 2,657.642 billion yuan, with cumulative expenditure amounting to 12,130.174 billion yuan.
To respond to the protests, the government sent text messages to retirees explaining the new measures. However, in some cases, the government reportedly approached the children and even grandchildren of protesters, through their jobs or school teachers, and warned them to prevent their elders from participating in further demonstrations. In addition, there have been reports that some elderly protesters being summoned by the authorities for interviews and then detained, similar to the events of the white-paper movement, creating a sense of fear among protesters.
American version of the Chernobyl disaster
On February 3, a train carrying vinyl chloride derailed and caused a fire in the American state of Ohio, which raised substantial concerns among local residents about chemical pollution. This incident has also attracted huge attention from Chinese media and netizens on the other side of the Pacific.
Chinese official and non-governmental media reported on the accident, including details of the arrest of journalists, the death of river fishes, and the poisoning and discomfort experienced by local residents. [Note: A television journalist was indeed arrested while filing a live report during a news conference by the Ohio governor. The misdemeanor charges were dismissed several days later.] Some non-official media outlets even claimed that this incident was the American version of the Chernobyl disaster. On February 16, CCTV sent a special reporter wearing a respirator gas mask to the scene of the accident in East Palestine to report on the news.
Against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between China and the United States, the Chinese government has resorted to negative publicity towards the United States, using exaggerated means to amplify the impact of this disaster and creating the illusion that “the American people are living in dire straits” for the Chinese people.
Reflecting on the CCP’s propaganda strategies over the past 70 years, it is evident that the government has often used diversionary tactics when facing serious social and political problems, currently including technology embargoes and sanctions by the West, domestic medical-insurance protests, a sharp decline in birth rates, high unemployment rates and the embarrassing spy-balloon incident. This disaster provides an opportunity for the Chinese government to shift public attention away from domestic problems and towards the perceived shortcomings of the United States.