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China Sent a Spy Balloon, But Here's Why We Can't Shoot It Down

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

One political party is obsessed with Russia, thanks to the 2016 election. The real danger is China, however. They’ve replaced Russia as our greatest geopolitical foe. The dragon has replaced the bear in international rivalries, and Beijing has been brazen in its attempts to flex its muscles. They’ve continued building these artificial islands in the South China Sea, where the next military engagement involving the United States could erupt. They’ve been quietly increasing their global reach, establishing bases in and around the Horn of Africa.


China still lacks the logistical capability to transport mass numbers of men and material rapidly, but they’ll figure that out. And while they may not be on par with the United States in terms of naval capabilities, carrier operations specifically—they have developed specialized missiles for our fleets should conflict arise. Under Biden, they’ve become more aggressive in and around the Taiwan Straits. So, are we shocked that a spy balloon was discovered hovering over the United States surveilling our military installations (via WaPo): 

A Chinese surveillance balloon over the United States has been spotted and scrutinized by the U.S. military for several days, the Pentagon said Thursday, a new development in a time of spiking tensions between the two countries. 

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon, said the Defense Department considered shooting it down over Montana on Wednesday but decided against doing so out of concern for what might happen to the debris. 

U.S. military officials are taking additional steps to obscure sensitive sites, the senior official said, declining to elaborate.


China has already established an extensive spy operation involving human assets in the United States, operating in academia. That’s not to say we forget about Moscow, both Russia and China possess nuclear weapons, so they can’t be ignored, but Beijing should be regarded as the more significant threat. We haven't shot down the balloon because of concerns about falling debris hitting civilians. At least, that's what's being reported. 

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