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This series features brief discussions with leading China experts on a range of issues in the U.S.-China relationship, including domestic politics, foreign policy, economics, security, culture, the environment, and areas of global concern. For more interviews, videos, and links to events, visit our website:

The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is the leading nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages understanding of China and the United States among citizens of both countries.

Apr 19, 2023

The unauthorized entry of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon into American airspace has provided a unique opportunity to examine the ability of Washington and Beijing to handle diplomatic crises. The incident leaves us wondering how the United States can better understand Chinese bureaucratic structure and decision-making and thus more effectively modulate its responses to unforeseen events. How will the two countries deescalate tensions when something more serious than a rogue balloon agitates the relationship? As the ability to interpret signaling accurately and maintain de-escalatory communication between the United States and China become more critical, so too will understanding the answers to these questions. 

In an interview conducted by Oriana Skylar Mastro on April 13Tyler Jost and Susan Thornton help contextualize the spy balloon incident within China’s bureaucratic decision-making.

0-1:26 Introductions

1:26- 5:38 Why was the balloon a big deal?

5:38-9:54 The (lack of) airspace regulations

9:54-18:24 The U.S. reaction

18:24-24:04 U.S.-China Crisis communication

24:04-26:54 Lightning round

26:54- Who owes who an apology?

About the speakers:

Read the transcript for this podcast

Follow Susan Thornton on Twitter: @suea_thornton

Follow Tyler Jost on Twitter: @tcjost

Follow Oriana Skylar Mastro on Twitter: @osmastro

About the speakersSubscribe to the National Committee on YouTube for video of this interview. Follow us on Twitter (@ncuscr) and Instagram (@ncuscr).