Jim, just to let you know, a FedEx pilot shared this on a closed group named Jetflyers. All positive comments.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

Can we understand another country like China and can they understand us? A good way to understand is through the culture and literature:

Poems of Han Shan, Chinese poet, 8th century

"Han-shan, the Master of Cold Mountain, and his friend Shi-te, lived in the late-eighth to early-ninth century AD, in the sacred T’ien-t’ai Mountains of Chekiang Province, south of the bay of Hangchow. The two laughing friends, holding hands, come and go, but mostly go, dashing into the wild, careless of others’ reality, secure in their own. As Han-shan himself says, his Zen is not in the poems. Zen is in the mind." https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Chinese/HanShan.php

Cold Mountain Poems collection excerpts :

1. I’m on the trail to Cold Mountain.

Cold Mountain trail never ends.

Long clefts thick with rock and stones,

Wide streams buried in dense grass.

Slippery moss, but there’s been no rain,

Pine trees sigh, but there’s no wind.

Who can leap the world’s net,

Sit here in the white clouds with me?

2. Sitting alone by folded rocks,

Mist swirling even at noon,

Here, inside my room, it’s dark.

Mind is bright, clear of sound.

Through the shining gate in dream.

Back by the stone bridge, mind returns.

Where now the things that troubled me?

Wind-blown gourd rattling in the tree.


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I don’t know that we will ever know, from public records, precisely how the decision was made by President Biden to riposte sharply over the Chinese ‘intelligence balloons.’ Such sensitive legerdemain seldom appears in official records.

As a Foreign Service Officer during the 1964 Congo crisis (3,300 foreigners, including five Americans captured at the Stanleyville consulate, under rebel death threat), I witnessed ‘our boy’-Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula-suddenly being replaced by our ‘bete noir,’ Moise Tshombe, recent president of the breakaway Katanga Province. I had been providing a morning Congo Situation Report to Secretary Dean Rusk, other top State Dept officials, the White House and elsewhere and had been in close contact with State’s hierarchy.

I was stunned. Nothing in the daily info, including topsecret/codeword indicated such a prospective volte face.

Nearly 70 years later I have seen nothing in published official records acknowledging that this coup was orchestrated by CIA with President Johnson’s and Rusk’s approval. In July, 1964 Tshombe took office and, with his acquiescence, CIA swiftly recruited hundreds of mercenaries. Also, a Congolese Air Force was created, staffed by Cubans left over from the Bay of Pigs.

I doubt that my grandchildren will learn the true story of when and why President Biden chose to hoist Xi on his own ‘intelligence balloon’ petard.

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Feb 7Liked by James Fallows

Jim, as a retired FedExd (and USAF) pilot I appreciate your contributions to both air and world security. This is the first time I read that it was a Cat III approach. Makes the entire situation all the more serious

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Feb 7Liked by James Fallows

Thanks for the link to Juan Browne's video. Absorbing indeed. And as you so often point out, the calmness of the people involved is amazing--FedEx in particular.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7Liked by James Fallows

Bone chilling save at Austin. Vertical visibility of 1200 feet in the touchdown zone and 600 feet in the mid zone is varsity conditions.

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Feb 6·edited Feb 6Liked by James Fallows

James Fallows' China View, great insights, thanks!

thks for the interesting take on Balloon Gate

who would have a more interesting view of aviation, American skies, and China aviation?

In the American reaction to Balloon Gate, we see something played out: Mark Twain's observation that "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

You have to travel there to understand China, and most Americans don't. Westerners don't understand China, in exactly the same the way that China doesn't understand the West.

Only by going there to travel and live do we glimpse the truth. It is the same for them.

Westerners also don't even begin to understand how the Chinese are just like us: they intend to reign supreme. They look at the "other," countries in the West, as some foreign, incomprehensible, maybe lesser and more stupid land. Certainly of no comparison to the greatness of China. China in their minds, will be victorious over all and will take over the world.

This is a 10,000 year old society that barely acknowledges the outside world, and that is something many Americans can never understand about a certain form of xenophobia that all countries have.

Another factor in Balloon Shooting Gate: I don't know who wrote this, but they saw that " ....as a driving force, the role of humiliation is very misunderstood in global conflicts." Throughout history, Kings cannot handle the feeling of being humiliated. And that is why the Nuclear Doomsday Clock was moved to 90 seconds before midnight recently. Foreign policy experts know that it is only through diplomacy, that we can understand the other.

Pew Research:

"6 facts about how Americans and Chinese see each other"



Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a press conference on Nov. 12, 2014, in Beijing. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Washington this week to participate in a major global summit on nuclear issues. Xi will also meet on Thursday afternoon with President Obama. The meeting comes at a time of ongoing tensions between the two countries. The U.S. and its Asian allies continue to express concerns about Beijing’s aggressive posture in the South China Sea. Washington would like to see Beijing put more pressure on North Korea to halt the development of its nuclear program. Xi’s crackdown on domestic dissent is drawing increasingly harsh criticism from many in the U.S. And Donald Trump and his competitors have made the economic challenge from China a major issue in the Republican presidential primary contest.

As Pew Research Center surveys have shown, many of these tensions are reflected in American public opinion. Meanwhile, the Chinese public has its own complaints about the U.S. – in particular, most believe the U.S. is trying to contain a rising China.

Here are six key findings about American public opinion toward China, and Chinese public opinion about the U.S.

1 Overall, Americans and Chinese do not have especially positive views of each other. In our 2015 survey, just 38% of Americans have a favorable view of China, compared with a global median of 55% across 39 countries. Only a slightly higher share of the Chinese public – 44% – give the U.S. a positive rating, in stark contrast with the global median of 69%.

2. On a list of possible issues with China, Americans are most concerned about economic issues, cybersecurity and human rights. Specifically, the amount of U.S. debt held by China and the loss of jobs to China are Americans’ top worries, but cyberattacks and Beijing’s human rights record aren’t far behind.

3. Republicans are more critical of China compared with Democrats. From U.S. debt held by China to the loss of U.S. jobs and China’s growing military power, Republicans are far more concerned about these issues as a very serious problem than are Democrats. The exception is China’s impact on the environment, which worries Democrats more.

4 . Many Americans think China will ultimately become the world’s top superpower, and most Chinese agree. Americans are closely divided on this question: 46% say China either already has or will someday replace the U.S. as the top global power, while 48% say this will never happen. However, 67% of Chinese think their country has supplanted the U.S. or will in the future; only 16% say it won’t happen.

5. Most Chinese think the U.S. is trying to hold their nation back. More than half (54%) of Chinese say the U.S. is trying to prevent China from becoming as powerful as the U.S. Only 28% say the U.S. accepts that China will become as powerful.

6. Young people in both countries express more favorable attitudes of the other nation. Americans ages 18-29 are more than twice as likely as those ages 50 or older to have a favorable opinion of China (55% vs. 27%). Similarly, 59% of Chinese adults under 30 give the U.S. a positive rating, compared with 29% of those 50 and older. And younger Chinese also find U.S. soft power more appealing – for example, 59% said they like American ideas about democracy in our 2012 poll, compared with 40% of the 50 and older group.


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Feb 6·edited Feb 6Liked by James Fallows

Jim I am astonished that, as of last night, there were no opinion columns on the Chinese ‘intelligence balloon’ situation in the New York Times or the Washington Post.. (There was one in Politico.) Normally these folks speculate on the most trivial matters.

Several days ago I posted my thoughts on Heather Cox Richardson.

My thesis relates to my experience when, in 1974-1975, I was the first person to rate publicly the credit of Japan. ‘Kan’ (status) was critical. The Ministry of Finance was accustomed to everyone kowtowing to it. In sharp contrast, I was there to assess Japan’s credit and would not kowtow to anyone.

I found the ‘kan’ can game enjoyable. The Japanese less so. When, at the MOF, the director general excused himself, saying he had to go to another meeting, I said “Please hold the door. I won’t stay when I am not being dealt with at the appropriate level.” The playing field soon was leveled.

As a former Foreign Service Officer, I look at the ‘intelligence balloon’ as a minor matter. The Chinese have long engaged in intense intelligence operations against us. I seriously doubt that a balloon or two more would make a substantive difference.

Its launching was probably a routine matter—there had been others that had created no apparent hub bub. However, this time it was spotted over Montana and the Republicans pounced on it in their China bashing.

The scheduled visit by SecState Blinken to Beijing was a big deal, following Biden’s earlier chat with Xi. However, the Chinese still emanated the ‘kan’ that they were superior (dominant) in dealing with a flabby United States.

We were endeavoring to enhance our ‘kan’ in the South China Sea, in SecDef’s visit to the Philippines to strengthen our naval presence there as a riposte to the Chinese, and by deflecting Xi’s efforts to dictate to us regarding Taiwan.

So why not seize on the balloon incident (a careless Chinese misstep?) to publicly embarrass them?

This also reflected American confidence and strength—American ‘kan’ up Chinese ‘kan’ damaged.

It also showed our Asian allies that we had balls.

Right now the Chinese must be puzzled as to what has happened. They were proceeding on their own schedule of managed relations with the United States until suddenly this happened.

Are Biden and Blinken unwilling to play the Chinese-orchestrated game?

This will prove to be a minor bump in American-Chinese relations.Blinker’s trip will be rescheduled and the United States and China will be arm wrestling around the globe.

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Feb 6Liked by James Fallows

Regarding the near collision of the two planes at Austin.

I regularly play golf at the East Potomac Park golf course in Washington, DC. The park is on the east bank of the Potomac River; Washington's "downtown" airport, DCA, is on the west bank, almost directly across from the golf course. From East Potomac, down-river approaches to DCA are in plain view - an interesting, awesome sight. Quite frequently I see an approaching plane within a mile or so of the runway, accelerate, ascend and turn hard to the right over Arlington / Alexandria. To me this seems an aborted landing. I've always assumed that the aborting was caused by some congestion leaving the runway to be occupied by other equipment and that the ground controllers were messing up. My point being, landing planes coming into an occupied runway seems to be a fairly common occurrence- at least at this particular airport.

Of course all the apparently aborted landings I've observed weren't in conditions of such poor visibility. The Austin incident had this additional element of complication.

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Feb 6Liked by James Fallows

It may take a while to organize the ATC internal communications failures leading up to the event, but it will be done, thoroughly. But it seems to have been the Fedex guys who saved it; their CVR will be interesting. My only "confusion" so far is when SW was cleared for takeoff and advised of traffic on a three mile final, everybody on the frequency heard that. If that's how it was, why didn't Fedex initiate the miss right then? Their CatIII election was compromised right at that point. At any rate, here's a good argument against the advocates of fully automated flight; it's people who load and monitor the system operation, and it will always be people who will catch the failures beyond the ability of auto systems to manage.

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Thanks very much for these two articles. I was waiting for your comments on the Chinese spy balloon story. To me it seems a typical example of the goofy or awkward or inappropriate way in which the Big Advanced China tries to step out into the world stage but still manages to do something off. I think that has been a theme in comments from the West on prior Chinese episodes of big bluster while leaving something missing. I think the world moves on.

On the Austin story, that seems flat out a mistake by Austin sur traffic control, right? And heroes being the Southwest pilot.

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