The Chinese spy balloon that floated across the U.S. last week before being shot down highlighted espionage attempts by the People’s Republic targeting the nation. But it is far from the only way Beijing spies on Americans — just the latest and most noticeable.
For the record, China continues to claim that its spy balloon was merely a civilian operation used for weather research. Only, no one is buying that line.
Experts note numerous recent incidents that demonstrate how China surveils the country to harvest intelligence along with military and civilian technology.
A study by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., in 2021 listed 160 spying incidents where Beijing targeted the U.S. since 2000.
And their number is sharply increasing.
Chinese spy balloons have crossed into U.S. territory in the past but the way that this one maneuvered, steering toward sensitive U.S. sites, raised alarms at the North American Aerospace Defense Command, officials said https://t.co/dRF429vhjl
— Reuters (@Reuters) February 6, 2023
Data revealed that there was a 24% increase in espionage from 2000 to 2009 followed by a 76% surge between 2010 and 2021. Further, the CSIS think tank observed that the data used to compile the list was from open sources, meaning there certainly were far more examples of spying.
The scope of Chinese spying is breathtaking. The U.S. Justice Department reported that over 100 U.S. and foreign companies were hacked by a ring of five Chinese nationals. Charges were brought against the group in 2020, which is believed to have the backing of the Chinese Communist Party.
Plans for some of America’s top military advancements have reportedly been stolen by Chinese agents. In 2018, hackers from the People’s Republic accessed classified documents for a new supersonic anti-ship missile being developed.
Earlier, Chinese espionage efforts stole plans for the new F-35 stealth fighter. This was revealed through leaks from intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, though both the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin Corp. denied the security breach.
At any time, China operates over 120 satellites in orbit that monitor the globe. An unclassified 2019 Air Force report revealed that half of the spacecraft are owned by the People’s Liberation Army and are focused on “regional flashpoints.”
Spies and secret agents are a big part of any espionage operation, and China’s is no exception. In 2020 China was forced to close its Houston consulate over government accusations that intellectual property theft cost “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
And then, of course, there’s the recent example of U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) cozying up to suspected Chinese spy Fang Fang.
Indeed, the spy balloon incident may serve as a wake-up call to the American public that China is far from being a friend and ally of the U.S. Rather, it is a geopolitical rival that must be carefully watched over and thwarted at every turn.