The appearance of suspected Chinese spy balloons over the US and Latin America has once again compelled intelligence agencies and security experts to think about how the use of technology by China is threatening global security. Beijing has time and again been accused of spying in almost every big country by adopting different modes of surveillance. This includes, but it is not limited to sending ships, airplanes, telecom devices, social media apps, even gifts, and now air balloons.
The recent incidence of the spy balloon spotted hovering over sensitive US airspace has stunned the American government, which responded by calling off the proposed visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to China. Surprisingly, another such spy balloon was seen moving across Latin America, giving an insight into the bold defiance of China. Demands for action against the Chinese spy balloon grew as it was seen as a violation of US sovereignty and international law. American lawmaker Jerry Moran said “China invaded US airspace and the Biden administration needs to take action to address this situation. Further delay is unacceptable.” Finally, US President Joe Biden issued orders to shoot it down. “Its route over the United States near many potentially sensitive sites contradicts the PRC government explanation that it is a weather balloon,” a senior US official said.
Chinese social media applications such as TikTok were found to be used for spying in the US, Australia, Germany, and many other countries. Australia alleged that TikTok was used by the Beijing government to steal personal data. The US and India are among the countries that have banned TikTok over the suspicion of the social media platform being engaged in espionage. There are revelations that TikTok was controlled by the Communist Party of China. The US found TikTok spying on its journalists and government officials and gathering commercially and militarily sensitive information for the Chinese government. Many European countries such as France, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, and other major countries like India and Japan have either banned Huawei or are in the process of doing it to ward off spying attempts by Chinese intelligence agencies. China has been upgrading its technological advances and novel techniques to counter its adversaries abroad, which poses a huge threat to global security, said Jeremy Fleming, head of the UK’s intelligence agency. He also said China was even developing anti-Satellite capabilities that would prevent other nations from using space.
Chinese telecom giant Huawei has been blocked in many western countries for using its 5G equipment to spy and gather sensitive information for China communist party. Australia discovered a similar security breach almost ten years ago. A software update from Huawei had a “malicious code”, which sent sensitive data to China. Australia was the first to ban Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE to block the surveillance by Beijing. Chinese spy agencies were reported to break into the influential sphere in Germany using fake social media profiles. Germans found the Chinese espionage activities more dangerous than the Russian infiltration. “It is a broad attempt to infiltrate parliaments, ministries and authorities in particular,” said Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of German secret service– the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz.
India had raised its concerns when China allegedly sent its spy ship named Yuan Wang 5 disguised as a research vessel to sensitive Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. New Delhi was alarmed by the Chinese space and satellite tracking ship coming too close to India, especially in the wake of Beijing trying to grow its influence in the Indian Ocean Region. A while ago, Israeli officials found listening devices inside the gift given by the Chinese embassy. While it led to the exchange of barbs between the two countries, Israel stopped receiving gifts from China.
China has been blamed by almost all major countries for the security breach attempts even though some of them were not a part of its adversaries list. China was criticized for bugging the African Union’s headquarters which it helped build under its flagship Belt Road Initiative (BRI). Confidential data was sent to China from the computers installed in the headquarter.Latin American countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Chile were also found to be the victims of espionage by the Chinese government and companies. The espionage activities by China especially in the US have been all-time high, suggest reports. And the spy balloon appears to be a part of it.