Pompeo: Biden’s Weakness on Spy Balloon Assures Chinese Aggression

Steps the Biden administration should take in response to China's reconnaissance balloon

February 4, 2023

President Joe Biden’s weakness with China is once again on display. Earlier this week, U.S. officials tracked a Chinese reconnaissance balloon over the American mainland. A Chinese Communist Party spokesperson claimed this was nothing more than a "weather research" balloon that had simply blown off course. Sure, the CCP’s harmless weather balloon just happened to pass over multiple sensitive military sites vital to America’s national security—nobody should believe that nonsense, especially not the Biden administration.

Even if it were true, the CCP’s policy of civil-military fusion—which requires all available research and technology, from China's private sector or otherwise, to be shared with the Chinese military—makes such an excuse an impossibility. Thus, this appears to be an intentional act of espionage, and it signals that the CCP is feeling ever more emboldened with Biden in charge. If the Biden administration does not act to change this paradigm quickly, the threat of conflict will only continue to grow. Weakness breeds aggression. America must demonstrate clear strength and resolve.

This is far from the first time the CCP has engaged in acts of espionage against the American people. China is, and has been for years, aggressively engaged in acts of espionage and propaganda against the American people at all levels of American society. The threat from the CCP is very real here at home, in places like Des Moines, Tallahassee, and Pittsburgh. Its malign activity doesn’t stay in Beijing or Wuhan; it is already inside our gates.

The CCP has targeted officials in our federal government, like congressman Eric Swalwell and Senator Dianne Feinstein, as well as our universities, local governments, media, think tanks, and more. The CCP underwrote a program of "Confucius Institutes" at American universities, ostensibly to foster cultural connections on our campuses, but in reality, to spy on students and professors and steal intellectual property. China’s economy was built on the backs of Americans not only by taking American jobs but also, crucially, by an unparalleled campaign of corporate espionage that has robbed Americans of billions of dollars’ worth of intellectual property. Even seemingly innocuous apps like TikTok have been revealed to be little more than tools for collecting the private information of Americans and spreading CCP propaganda.

Instead of falling back on diplomatic platitudes and White House press releases about "deep concern" in the face of these threats, the Trump administration took action. We refused to give an inch to the CCP’s malign actions against the American people. As secretary of state, when I learned that the largest spy ring in American history was operating out of the Chinese Consulate in Houston, we shut it down. For years, American officials had turned a blind eye to its operations, fearing what the CCP would do in retaliation if we put an end to it. This was nothing more than weakness, which only reinforced the CCP’s confidence that it could continue to steal from the American people and get away with it. I refused to let that continue on my watch, so I summoned the Chinese ambassador and told him he had 72 hours to get his people out of the consulate. Despite his protests that the CCP had nothing to hide there, just hours after the announcement news broke that the Houston Fire Department was responding to fires at the consulate. They were burning the evidence.

That wasn’t all. We campaigned to shut down every single Confucius Institute in the United States, and we nearly succeeded. We began the process of banning TikTok, an effort which continues across the country at state and local government, and even recently in Congress. I traveled across the United States and spoke to everyone from local governments to state governors to alert them to the dangers posed by the Chinese Communist Party. I did this because the CCP’s actions threaten the United States at every level, and inaction only invites the CCP to escalate its actions.

If the Biden administration wishes to reestablish the relationship of deterrence and reciprocity we cultivated with Xi’s regime, it must take the following steps:

First, the balloon should be safely brought down in a manner that minimizes risk to American civilians and that allows its contents to be recovered. Then, the content and purpose of the balloon should be made entirely public. The American people deserve to know what they are up against.

Second, we should examine every part of the surveillance balloon, determine the manufacturer of each, and sanction them accordingly. Companies around the world need to be on watch to ensure their high-tech parts are not being used by the Chinese government.

Third, the Biden administration must take the threat posed by the CCP seriously. China has been waging economic warfare against the American people for decades, but Biden still fights to cooperate with them on issues like climate change. This must end.

Fourth, Secretary of State Antony Blinken should use planned travel to the region to consult with allies, partners, and friends on further actions that will deter any more of Xi Jinping’s adventurism and hare-brained schemes.

Lastly, America must demand reciprocity. If China doesn’t allow Americans to purchase farmland next to their military installations, we shouldn’t either. If China doesn’t allow our diplomats to move freely across China, then Chinese diplomats shouldn’t be able to either. If Americans can’t get research jobs at top installations in Beijing, then Chinese researchers shouldn’t be able to get jobs here either.

The CCP’s spy balloon is a symptom of the Biden administration’s weakness, not only in relation to the People’s Republic of China, but to America’s adversaries writ large. Xi noted Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, a complete debacle that made America look weak and indecisive. He watched Russia hack American pipelines and noted Biden’s failure to impose any real costs on Vladimir Putin. He watched Putin’s provocations prior to the invasion of Ukraine, and noted Biden’s allowance that a "minor incursion" would be permissible.

Now, he will watch Biden’s response to a CCP tool of espionage blatantly flying over sensitive American military sites. Failure to deal with the surveillance balloon sends a message of weakness, not strength, and reinforces Xi's decision to take advantage of this administration. President Biden must reassert American resolve, not continue to peddle American weakness. If he fails to do so, he will continue to invite greater risk to the safety of the American people.