China, a major US threat, resorts to a balloon

Jay Ambrose
Tribune News Service (TNS)

On top of genocide of Chinese Muslims, crushing Hong Kong’s democracy and plans to take over enterprising and happily independent Taiwan, the super-ambitious, totalitarian, morally misinformed Chinese Communist Party has been coming after the United States in every way imaginable. Intellectual property? They steal it. Trade deals? They cheat. Now comes something less likely to be imagined: a balloon.

More suited for war preparation than what you’d have at a kid’s birthday party, this Chinese object was white, gas-filled and 11 miles high in the sky. It was unmanned, relied on solar-power and was something like 120 feet tall as well as 120 feet wide. It had gobs of high-tech devices across its bottom enabling it to gather strategically expedient information from military bases on the ground and around the country on a several-day excursion.

The findings, likely meant to help facilitate a U.S. finale, were immediately transmitted back to China whose spokesmen said it was a civilian weather balloon blown off course. This explanation would have you believe it somehow accidentally ended up where bunches of nuclear missiles were kept and then over other military bastions, the wind showing off its cleverness.

A Chinese spy balloon shortly before it was shot down over Surfside Beach, South Carolina, on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. (Joe Granita/Zuma Press/TNS)

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Some say President Joe Biden should have blown the thing to pieces before it entered the country or at least early on after it entered, prompting a reply that the debris could then have hit the innocent. He held back on a jet launching a successful missile until the balloon was departing over a stretch of the Atlantic Ocean, which was soon filled with explosion litter and lots of workers doing their watery best to retrieve enough of it to figure out more details.

Know this about bulging balloons, that even if they haven’t seemed significant enough to draw front-page attention for a long time, they have met military needs as far back as our own Civil War. The first news of this most recent U.S. siting did not come from government officials who were keeping a close eye on the 30-to-40-mile-an-hour object, but from astonished, sky-gazing, video-inclined folks in Montana wondering what this moon-pretender was up to. Answers of the sort already mentioned were soon enough forthcoming.

It may have helped protect Biden from criticism for laggard action to learn there were three balloon invasions during the Trump administration, except the balloons entered and left the continent so quickly as to amount to nothing much. What the New York Times tells us makes this recent visitation far more disturbing, mainly that recent developments have rendered these balloons amazing spy masters of a kind that can make a big difference.

Of course, balloons or no balloons, China has spied on America with a vengeance for years, once digitally collecting scads of personal data on 22 million federal employees. Yes, 22 million. It has used computers to rob our businesses and steal information from federal agencies, and naturally enough uses satellites as revelatory instruments. Satellites, however, are too far away and move too fast to be the equal of balloons, some experts say.

America spies, too, but its laxity about China was revealed in a PBS story awhile back about the United States recklessly and illegally giving China an incredible battery breakthrough hugely important for the future. Right now, Chinese in America are buying vast amounts of American agricultural land to help feed their own people while harder times could deprive Americans of food they need. Some of that land also happens to be close to military bases, raising questions about military interference.

The sure-enough truth about China today is that its leaders want to control the world, consider us a foremost obstacle and deserve loads of diplomatic attention, even though Secretary of State Antony Blinken rightly postponed a planned visit because of betrayal of our sovereignty and international law. We must also be smart, prepare for the worst and beat China at its own nasty games. Modernized China, population 1,413,142,846, is almost surely the biggest threat we face in the world today.