US decision to shoot down Chinese balloon, what might follow: U-M faculty can comment

February 5, 2023

University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy experts are available to discuss the U.S. downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast.

John Ciorciari is an associate professor of public policy and director of the Ford School of Public Policy's International Policy Center and Weiser Diplomacy Center.

"The Biden administration was right to shoot it down. The official Chinese narrative is not plausible, and whether or not the balloon was able to record sensitive intelligence data, it presented a clear test of U.S. resolve," Ciorciari said. "In fact, Chinese leaders may have intended for it to be, quite literally, a trial balloon. Allowing it to cross the United States without incident would have set a deeply problematic precedent."

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Javed Ali, associate professor of practice at the Ford School of Public Policy, is a former senior U.S. government counterterrorism official.

"The downing of the Chinese balloon will now transition into a new phase for the United States from a national security perspective," Ali said. "There will be a significant amount of work within the intelligence community to assess the depth of information China collected through this operation, and the types of systems, equipment and sensors on the balloon. And scientists and technical experts will determine how much of any of this is new or what was previously known to be in China's intelligence capability. 

"Beyond the intelligence angle, the Department of Defense is also likely exploring options to this incursion, in the event President Joe Biden requests them as part of a U.S. response."

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