The Disturbing Truth Behind China’s Spy Balloon Penetration

The motives and the significance - and why it's happening now. Originally published at Front Page Mag

What are the motives and significance of the Chinese spy balloon penetration of U.S. territory, and why now? First the backstory:

China’s military capability may soon rival that of the United States. What holds back Chinese President Xi Jinping from moving militarily on Taiwan are two things:  First he may think that time is on his side, with Biden’s America in decline and a perception that a two-year window remains for action. Second, what holds Xi Jinping back is of course his concern that if the invasion fails, he would be removed by the CCP.

So, Xi continues to build Chinese military power capabilities while the U.S. deteriorates, and he bides his time while studying and calculating the range of responses from the U.S. that China would face from such an invasion.

The Chinese projection of power against the United States is shaped by two priorities. First, is their commitment to what is known as unrestricted warfare, one part of which emphasizes using multinational, non-state, and supranational organizations to counter the U.S. Toward this end, the Chinese now control the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO), which provides China with a proxy front to impose an unprecedented medical tyranny far exceeding the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns and controls. The second priority is the age-old Chinese military strategy that emphasizes  “the supreme excellence of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” Even if the Chinese cannot match the U.S. military because of U.S. export controls on high-end semiconductors and advanced AI technology, Beijing believes their level of control in the U.S. can continue America’s demoralization and division—potentially leading to collapse. Said another way, China is delaying military action in hopes of breaking America without fighting.

As for engaging the U.S. militarily, Xi and his advisors study America’s past. They know the U.S. military’s masterful logistics can deliver swift  and decisive enemy defeat, such as the Bush administration’s victory in the Gulf War in 1990-1991. But the Chinese also note the fecklessness of the Clinton and Obama administrations that followed, in which two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed;  Egyptian ally Hosni Mubarak was abandoned; the U.S. diplomatic compound in BenghaziLibya was destroyed, and ISIS appeared invincible after two and a half years of U.S. military engagement.

After Trump became president in January 2017 the Chinese witnessed a dramatic reversal. Within about a month of taking office Trump unleashed American power that decimated ISIS within weeks. A month later Trump ordered a strike of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles that took out Syria’s air force. And in early 2020 Trump authorized a drone strike in Iraq that killed Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and the number two leader Iran.

Everything changed with the 2020 election—characterized by massive voting irregularities—that displaced Trump and delivered Joe Biden as U.S. President. What most voters didn’t know, but Xi Jinping did know, was that Biden was a compromised president. The Biden family had received—in prior  years leading up to the election—tens of millions of dollars from Chinese business deals, and the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania had received $70 million from sources in China.

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, a brilliant lawyer and the most successful prosecutor of the Mafia who conducted a forensic analysis of the Hunter Biden laptop and its contents, described the Biden Family as being “owned by the Chinese Communist Party,” and Joe Biden himself as being “in partnership with the Chinese Communist Party.”

The weakness Biden signaled as President, characterized by his inexplicable decision to abruptly withdraw from Afghanistan, leaving behind some $80 billion of advanced U.S. military equipment and abandoning the strategically located Bagram Air Base was naturally encouraging for Xi. Biden’s top military generals, Secretary  Lloyd Austin and Joint Chief General Mark Milley, who were involved in the Afghanistan decision-making fiasco, have also originated other harmful leadership initiatives, such as universal mandatory Covid-19 vaccination requirements and obligatory Critical Race Theory indoctrination for the officer corps and the enlistees in all military branches—both of which policies significantly added to the demoralization of the military—resulting in recruiting shortfalls—with all of it being observed and digested by the Chinese leadership.

Xi’s authorization of launching a spy balloon and have it fly over a broad swath of the United States, and hover over sensitive areas to collect intelligence data where nuclear warheads are siloed, was also intended to accomplish several important objectives for the Chinese:

First, the Chinese penetration by a spy balloon of U.S. territory succeeded in publicly humiliating America—reinforcing the lesson of Afghanistan to allies such as Taiwan—that the United States is unreliable—lacking courage and a comprehensive strategy to defend its own territory.

Second, the spy balloon was likely used to test America’s ability to detect incoming threats and to find holes in the country’s air defense warning system. The spy balloon first came into U.S. airspace over the sparsely populated Alaskan Aleutian Islands on January 28, where the U.S. military should have  blown it out of the sky. Perhaps there’s a hole, as there was no response nor any scrambling of U.S. fighter jets.

Third, Beijing could see Biden’s weakness and willingness to defer power to subordinates in the response to his order to shoot the spy satellite down three days later, February 1st, when it entered Montana airspace. After giving the order, Biden passed the buck to military advisors who said “wait till the balloon crosses the country and gets to the Atlantic”—all of which prolonged the nation’s humiliation and demonstrated a fundamentally flawed decision-making process, which Beijing was no doubt testing. Said another way, Xi wanted to reconfirm Milley’s deference to China, which Milley had previously demonstrated twice in communicating critical national security information to Chinese leaders in December and January 2020-2021, without President Trump’s knowledge or consent.

All of this is the consequence of corruption and the 2020 election irregularity.

Scott S. Powell

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Scott Powell has enjoyed a career split between theory and practice with over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and rainmaker in several industries. He joins the Discovery Institute after having been a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for six years and serving as a managing partner at a consulting firm, RemingtonRand. His research and writing has resulted in over 250 published articles on economics, business and regulation. Scott Powell graduated from the University of Chicago with honors (B.A. and M.A.) and received his Ph.D. in political and economic theory from Boston University in 1987, writing his dissertation on the determinants of entrepreneurial activity and economic growth.