Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign office, told the media that China has no intention to violate either the territorial or airspace sovereignty of any nation though it was later on accepted by Beijing that it was a civilian airship having nothing to do with military or surveillance of the US and that it was veered off from its course into the US airspace with winds.
The question arises why china is using balloons in this age of satellites and digital surveillance.
Use of balloons in history
Looking into annals of history, the first use of a balloon was reported in 3rd century China.
Zhuge Liang, a military strategist, used a sky lantern to caution the neighboring city about an impending attack.
Since then, the use of balloons was never been altogether ignored by any nation concerned about its security and national interests.
Project Moby Dick was launched by the US air force in 1955 to collect information about the Soviet Union through high-altitude skyhook balloons. But with satellites and drone technology, the use of balloons for spying is relegated if not shunned totally.
When the reported Chinese spy balloon was first spotted over the US state of Montana, both civil and military establishments got alerted about it. Military officials called it a spy balloon, while Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, chastised Beijing for committing a blatant violation of the US sovereignty. As the spy balloon was then hovering over a US nuclear missiles site. The shooting down of it may threaten the security of the US nuclear missiles on this site.
Balloons are still in this Aerospace age
The US military officials blamed Beijing for spying the US nuclear and military installations via balloons in recent years.
Last February, Taiwan accused China of sending spy balloons over the island.
However, Taipei accepted that it was a civilian meteorological research balloon of China and had nothing to do with surveillance.
But the use and development of balloon technology are not limited to China only. To exceed China and Russia, its rivals, the Pentagon is planning to develop high-altitude spy balloons that could fly at 60,000 to 90,000 feet to track the hypersonic weapons and aircraft manufacturing technology of these countries by sensing and analyzing sounds generated from them. They have spent $3.8 million on this technology in the last two years, while in 2023-2024 another $27 million amount would be spent on this balloon technology by them.
The Pentagon in its 2022 report stated that Beijing has more than 260 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems. Which is second in strength after that of the US.
The question is; why China took risk of spy balloon?
The most plus point of balloon technology is their less expensiveness.
Their development, use, and operational cost almost nothing. They could safely and easily face the vagaries of nature.
Moreover, since they are technologically very simple, the radar system of a country does not trace them. The operating systems and modules of radars are set up in such a way as to track down only aircraft and other mechanical flying objects. Tracking down balloons is nearly impossible for them.
These balloons are cheap Floating Trucks carrying tools and equipment for any kind of surveillance, with one disadvantage; they could be spotted easily when they came in human visibility.
It was after the spotting of the Chinese balloon that Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, postponed his visit to Beijing last February 2023.