What the Chinese spy balloon tells us
A Chinese surveillance balloon last week became the subject of public fascination as it floated across the US, then met a cinematic end when a Sidewinder missile took it down off the coast of South Carolina. The craft will be coveted by military and intelligence officials who desperately want to reverse-engineer whatever remains the US can recover.
The incident also speaks volumes about how little Washington and Beijing communicate, David Sanger, a White House and national security correspondent for The Times, writes in an analysis, In the days before the giant balloon met its end, the Pentagon noted a long history of Chinese balloons flying over the US, and said that one balloon was currently in the air over South America.
The former admission raises the question of whether the US failed to set a red line years ago about balloon surveillance, essentially encouraging China to grow bolder and bolder, experts say. Separately, the balloon incident came at a moment in US domestic politics when Democrats and Republicans are competing to demonstrate who can be stronger on China.
Analysis: “We don’t know what the intelligence yield was for the Chinese,” said Evan Medeiros, a Georgetown professor and security expert. “But there is no doubt it was a gross violation of sovereignty,” a topic the Chinese raise when the US flies over and sails through the islands China has built from sandbars in the South China Sea.
Ukraine shakes up its military leadership
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s governing Servant of the People’s party in Ukraine will replace the country’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, amid a growing scandal over financial impropriety within the ministry and an accompanying investigation into corruption. Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the current military intelligence chief, will take over as defense minister, officials said.
The news comes amid what Ukrainian officials say is the beginning of a new Russian offensive. Fighting remains particularly fierce in the east around the city of Bakhmut as Moscow pushes for its first significant battlefield success in months. US officials believe that hundreds of soldiers on each side are being killed or injured every day.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner private military company, whose forces have helped lead Russia’s brutal campaign in Bakhmut, said that Ukrainian troops were “fighting to the last,” denying reports on social media that Kyiv’s forces were withdrawing from the key city in the eastern Donetsk region.
Reinforcements: Western allies are rushing battle tanks, armored vehicles and other advanced weapons to help Ukraine, although many are not expected to arrive for months. Ukrainian soldiers are today expected to begin training outside the country on German-made Leopard tanks, dozens of which were pledged by allies last month.
Ukraine Dispatch: Ukrainians have flocked to ski resorts nestled in the Carpathian Mountains For a respite, our correspondent reports. “They come here to forget,” said one ski shop owner.
China begins to spend once again
Two months after China abruptly abandoned its “zero Covid” policies and let the virus sweep through its population, the country’s economy has begun to recover and consumers are spending again, Factories and ports are also running smoothly, as an end to lockdowns has resolved three years of disruptions to global supply chains.
To counter remaining weaknesses, the Chinese government has promised continued economic stimulus, including large infrastructure projects and tax breaks for small businesses. A hoped-for binge of post-pandemic “revenge spending” has not yet materialized, even as spending on tourism and some domestic travel is up sharply year-over-year.
Investors have already bet heavily on a recovery. Many economists expect China’s growth to exceed last year’s rate of 3 percent, and the International Monetary Fund has predicted that the Chinese economy will expand 5.2 percent this year. But practically no one expects a rebound like the country’s 8.1 percent growth in 2021.
Risks: Chinese exports to the US and the EU plunged last year as the buying power of businesses and individuals was pinched by high inflation. Real estate remains one of the biggest concerns in China. The construction sector — including steel, cement and the fitting out of new homes — represents a quarter to a third of the entire country’s economic output.
Covid: After the virus began to rip uncontrolled through China, the government announced that 80,000 people had died. But that is likely a vast undercount. Reporters for The Times scoured obituaries of the nation’s top academics for clues about the true toll of the outbreak.
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Recapping the Grammys
After two years of Covid-related disruptions, the annual Grammy ceremony returned last night in full swing to its home court in Los Angeles. As the host, Trevor Noah, put it: “We made it! We’re back!” Catch up with the best of the red carpet,
Beyoncé made history as she won four prizes, including best R&B song for “Cuff It,” giving her a record 32 Grammys in her career. Bonnie Raitt took home song of the year, and Lizzo was visibly shocked to win record of the year for “About Damn Time.”
Other awards given out live included best pop vocal album, which went to Harry Styles for “Harry’s House,” and best pop duo/group performance for “Unholy” by Sam Smith and Kim Petras. Accepting the award, Petras, a transgender woman, said: “I just want to thank all the incredible transgender legends before me who kicked these doors open so I could be here tonight.”
The actress Viola Davis won best audiobook, narration and storytelling recording for her memoir “Finding Me,” making her the newest EGOT — the coveted acronym for the winner of an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. See the full list of winners,
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