In his State of the Union address, President Biden alluded to the Chinese spy balloon incident in a single line that suggested an effort to contain the spillover from that episode. For its part, the Beijing government also seems to have tried to downplay it, expressing regret initially and using its censorship of media and social media to tamp down the flames of Chinese nationalism.

We are watching something almost unique in history: a growing geopolitical rivalry between two nations that are also deeply interconnected economically.

Right now, Washington and Beijing have few guardrails to keep problems from escalating. If the next crisis between Beijing and Washington is bigger than a balloon, it might prove much harder to deflate.