“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon,” or so the great writer A.A. Milne would have us believe. In Milne’s defense, this line was written long before China got into the balloon-making business. Unless you happen to live under a rock on a distant planet, you are no doubt familiar with the infamous Chinese balloon that was recently spotted traveling across a number of U.S. states, including Alaska and Montana, before being shot down in South Carolina. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was quick to criticize the rapid-fire response, insisting that the balloon was merely a weather device that had been blown off course. It’s now pretty clear that the balloon was not a weather device; it was a surveillance device. Although the balloon is gone, the threat from China still exists. In fact, the threat posed by the CCP has never been as potent as it is today.
Mira Ricardel, a geopolitical expert, told me that the CCP “is both an economic competitor and military adversary.” Xi Jinping’s policy of “civil-military fusion” now means the United States can no longer separate China’s economic goals from its military and global ambitions. From a military perspective, Ms. Ricardel noted, China continues to build up the PLA presence in the South China Sea, as well as intimidating and threatening Taiwan. As U.S. General Mike Minihan recently warned, war with China over Taiwan appears rather inevitable. According to the decorated general, the United States and China could go to war within the next two years. To compound matters, as Ms. Ricardel, an employee of The Chertoff Group, a security and tech firm, noted, the CCP is also expanding its intercontinental ballistic missile inventory, as well as “deploying dual-use advanced technologies, and expanding its presence and capabilities in space.” What about surveillance and data harvesting? The CCP is “actively engaging in surveillance and espionage, intrusive cyber activities, to include attacks, and intellectual property theft,” she said. Beijing is also exerting more influence over supposedly private enterprises, like ByteDance, for example, the company behind TikTok, a dangerous Trojan horse designed to gather inordinate amounts of data.