Feb 3, 2023, 2:38pm EST

The best “spy” balloon memes from China watchers


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The News

China’s alleged spy balloon has sparked a diplomatic crisis, with the U.S. Secretary of State postponing his highly-anticipated trip to Beijing.

Meanwhile, China watchers -- in addition to offering their own takes about the balloon -- also offered some entertaining and amusing tweets on the situation.

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The Memes

Bill Bishop

Perhaps the most influential China substacker, Bishop went down the AI-hype path and had software generate an image of a balloon shaped like Xi Jinping flying over America.” The result? A balloon looking eerily-similar to Winnie the Poo -- a historical association to Xi Jinping that the Communist Party has diligently tried censoring on the Chinese internet.

China Digital Times


This is not just one China watcher, but rather a collective group of China observers known for covering mainland stories that are censored by authorities. Their reaction: A photo of a balloon seller in Beijing.

Kaiser Kuo

The host of the well-respected Sinica podcast has been eagerly covering the balloon developments, with some comedic relief. Two tweets, featuring a panda hot-air balloon, seems to mock the fear of the balloon that some conservative influencers are pushing on their platforms.


The U.S.-based influencer known for translating U.S.-China relations content for Chinese speakers has been using memes to provide updates on the balloon developments from Washington. With President Joe Biden so far not making the decision to shoot down the balloon, Inty in one tweet wrote: “Will the Chinese will have an easier way to enter the United States in the future, by taking a hot air balloon?”


Damien Ma

The founder of the Marco Polo think tank posted about the Pixar movie that everyone has been thinking about for the last several hours.

Curtis Chin

Trying to get people to vote on a poll asking whether the balloon should be popped, the former U.S. ambassador to the Asia Development Bank shared GIFs from some of the most iconic balloon movie scenes.