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China’s red balloon: Best-case scenario is that it’s just for spying

THE WASHINGTON TIMES - Clifford D. May - FEB 14, 2023


China’s rulers have accused the U.S. government of “a clear overreaction” to the flight of its balloon across our country. Which might make you wonder: How would China’s rulers react were an American balloon floating over their country? I can answer that question.

Illustration on China’s spy balloon by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

The late, great publisher Malcolm Forbes’ passions were riding Harley-Davidsons and flying hot air balloons. In 1982, he invited a few members of his Capitalist Tools motorcycle club to accompany him on a two-wheels-and-hot-air tour of the People’s Republic. I was one of them, tasked with writing up the story for Forbes magazine.



Malcolm’s balloon was inflated for the first time in a stadium. Our government-assigned minder remarked on how beautifully the lighter-than-air contraption rose into the sky. Then he asked: “How long before it comes back?”


“Oh, it’s not coming back,” I answered.


“Where will it go?” he inquired with a suddenly troubled expression.





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