The Over-Hyped 'Spy' Balloon That Didn't

With regards to China President Joe Biden said on June 20 2023:

And the reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two boxcars full of spy equipment in it is he didn’t know it was there. No, I’m serious. That’s what’s a great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened. That wasn’t supposed to be going where it was. It was blown off course up through Alaska and then down through the United States. And he didn’t know about it. When it got shot down, he was very embarrassed. He denied it was even there.

commented that:

Biden acknowledges that the weather balloon was ‘blow off course’ and thereby debunks previous claims that it was steerable. China had no intent to let the balloon cross Canada and the United States. And if there had really been ‘two boxcars full of spy equipment’ on the balloon why hasn’t the U.S. shown any of it?

Why would or should a president of the U.S. or China know of some weather balloon floating somewhere?

Xi was embarrassed by the circus the U.S. made over that affair?

Xi denied that the ballon was where it was to whom? And the U.S. would know about that how?

There were so many questions about those ‘spy balloon’ claims that, from the very beginning, I was sure and said that it was all bunk:

But the Biden administration created a scandal over the randomly floating weather balloon. It thereby opened itself to criticism from the hawks in the Democratic and Republican parties. It canceled, without need, the planned mission of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to China.

Well – as it turns out it all was bunk, just as I had claimed.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal headlined:

Chinese Balloon Used American Tech to Spy on Americans
Preliminary U.S. findings show the craft collected photos and videos but didn’t appear to transmit them, officials say

The ‘spy balloon’ was not spying at all. It had a U.S. made camera on board for this or that (navigational orientation?) purpose and was not submitting any pictures from it:

The US gear was intermixed with “more specialized Chinese sensors and other equipment” with the purpose of snapping photos and capturing videos and other information to transmit to Beijing, according to the Journal.

Despite the spy balloon’s surveillance capabilities, the Defense Department does not believe the spy balloon collected data while it was flying over US territory, Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Thursday.

Via Reuters the Pentagon confirmed that the ‘spy balloon’ was just a balloon that was not spying at all:

A Chinese spy balloon that flew over the United States earlier this year before being shot down did not collect information as it went across the country, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

“We assess that it did not collect while it was flying over the U.S.,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters.

The balloon spent a week flying over the United States and Canada before the U.S. military shot it down off the Atlantic Coast on Biden’s orders.

Biden had already confirmed that the balloon was ‘blown of course’ which had been immediately clear to me and to anyone who could look up and understand the relevant weather maps of pressure systems and their atmospheric wind directions and strength.


The balloon was also not a spying device because there are obviously much better ways, like satellites, to gain more precise information than a randomly floating weather balloon will ever be able to catch.

The Biden administration is intentionally using anti-Asian racism to create an ‘enemy’ by alleging that the Chinese are doing wrong in this or that or in whatever may randomly float over the horizon. At the same time it is copying those Chinese policies it had previously criticized:

Bidenomics seems increasingly likely to play a pivotal role in US President Joe Biden’s upcoming 2024 presidential election campaign. With great fanfare in a June 28 speech in Chicago, he offered a stirring endorsement of “industrial policy” as the centerpiece of his economic strategy.

For the US, there is a certain irony, possibly even hypocrisy, in embracing industrial policy as an effective strategy to counter China. Washington has long been critical of Chinese industrial policy as one of its most egregious anti-competitive sins. That was a key allegation in the Trump Administration’s March 2018 Section 301 report that quickly became the foundational evidence for tariffs and the broader trade war that was to follow. The Section 301 report argued that China was unique in relying on the subsidies and targeting of industrial policy—a conclusion I took strong issue with in Chapter 4 of Accidental Conflict, in which I presented evidence of a legacy of industrial policy strategies in Japan, Germany, and, yes, the United States. And now the Biden Administration, which has endorsed most of the tactics of Trump’s trade war with China, is embracing the very same industrial policy approach that China has long practiced.

Well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Doing like China does, because what China does is successful, is now the new normal.

Next: A U.S. weather balloon, with a defunct Chinese camera on board, unintentionally crossing China. “U.S.A., U.S.A., …”

Unfortunately the U.S. is not good at imitating China’s policies:

[T]he point I am trying to make here is that both approaches rely on the government’s ability to target the so-called vital, strategic industries of the future. Japan failed miserably at that, and the US didn’t exactly distinguish itself the last time it tried—ironically aimed at the same semiconductor industry that is getting all the attention today. Indeed, the failure of the then widely-heralded Sematech effort of the late 1980s seems all but forgotten.

The US economy is performing well by many accounts. Competitiveness, however, always remains a major challenge. Bidenomics is aimed at addressing this key challenge, a goal I certainly applaud. But is industrial policy, one of China’s hallmark tactics that we, ourselves, have been so critical of, really the best way to pull it off?

The tax-payer money that Biden is now providing to industries is likely to bump up stock prices and CEO wages through major bullshit projects like the over-hyped garbage in-garbage out patter recognition algorithms that are sold to the public as Artificial Intelligence.

Is there, after all the previous promises and investments, any autonomous driving vehicle out there today that is trusted to do no harm? No?

Well, get ready for another such marketing hype.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.