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This Is Why China Still Uses Balloons to Spy on US, Other Countries



Agents process material recovered from the high altitude balloon recovered off the coast of South Carolina, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., (FBI via AP)
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Why would China rely on something as low-tech as a weather balloon to spy on the United States and other countries?

Well, compared to satellites, balloons are cheap. And a balloon can observe an area for a long time because it’s in sync with the earth’s rotation, says Vox producer Coleman Lowndes.

In addition, the Biden administration said Thursday that the Chinese balloon shot down by the United States was equipped to detect and collect intelligence signals. China, according to the White House, has a fleet of balloons outfitted with high-tech equipment designed to spy on 40 countries.

Meanwhile, China is sticking to its story: The balloon was simply a civilian meteorological airship that blew off course.

Watch: Why Does China Still Use Spy Balloons?

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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