Chinese Spy Balloon - Latest in Chinese Shithoussery

On February 2, 2023, officials in the United States and Canada announced that they were tracking a Chinese Surveillance Balloon over parts of the US (areas around the state of Montana).  It appears that the high-altitude balloon entered the US through Alaska and made its way to Montana and later Missouri, moving in an Eastern path.

This has caused a diplomatic row with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelling his much anticipated visit to China in February, which would have marked the first visit by a top US Diplomat to China in several years.

The Surveillance Aspect: Observational Balloons have been used for at least 200 years now to gather intelligence about enemy positions etc. The advent of modern cameras has made them a useful tool since smaller ones could possibly go undetected for some time. The Chinese Spy Balloon in question though seems to be a large structure carrying a substructure more than 90 feet long making the balloon itself much larger. This suggests that the balloon is equipped with advanced technology such as cameras, sensors, and communication devices that would allow it to collect and transmit data from high altitudes as is the case here (cruising at altitudes of more than 60,000 Feet).

Apparently the Chinese government has been using these balloons to gather intelligence on various countries, including their military operations, industrial activities, and natural resources. The high altitude of the balloons makes them difficult to detect, and they can fly over large distances, providing a wide-ranging view of the landscape below. More importantly, they can’t be brought down by most jets as well since they fly at such high altitudes. And more importantly as the US Officials have stated, bringing them down with small missiles etc. might cause damage to structures and people on the ground.

Why though? Now this is something that is more difficult to explain. The Chinese of course have denied that it is a "Spy" Balloon and that it has merely gone of course while "harmlessly" floating and collecting "data" near US territory.

Well, as they say, when you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.

China has been known to push adversaries to test boundaries. As can be seen from the recent Indo-China border clashes, the aim seems to be to cause a minor (relatively) but sort of hostile situation to assess reactions to the infractions. In the Indian context, it had limited success as it showed that China could cause a lot of trouble should they want to at the Himalayan borders. Thankfully it also inadvertently showed that Indian positions could give it back in kind (something the Chinese dint anticipate by the looks of their reactions subsequent to the Galwan Clash).

But we digress.

In this case, the Balloon has caused significant confusion and even embarrassment to the US administration. While not really a threat to US Power, it has shown a minor kink in their air defence (even if going ahead the Americans will more than be ready for future trespasses). But in my opinion, this incident has given the Chinese something to laugh about and the Americans some amount of acidity.

This seems to be the latest in the current "Cold War" between the US and China. Unfortunately for us, we won’t get to hear much about US reactions to this since the Chinese Internet Firewall would prevent outright leakages of any such "counter balloons" (for lack of better imagination), similar to what happened post the Indo- China clashes at Galwan (At least 20 Indian and 40 Chinese soldiers were killed but the Chinese claimed only a handful even though snippets from Chinese sources pointed to much higher casualties).

So for now, we can only hope for an appropriate US response for this increasing Chinese Shithoussery.