Balloon Launches are a common thing and we (the US) launch them all all the time and all over the world. Here is a link to the NASA website.
I worked the US Ballon Launch Facility in Antarctica in 2019. We maintained the NASA area where the balloons are stored, prepared and launched. Balloons are really cool for collecting data.
When that data collecting is complete the digital instruments are dropped from the ballon, via remote control, to be picked up on the ground (hopefully). The ballon then travels away and rides the jet streams until it eventually deflates and falls back to earth.
I now work on the Alaska Radar Stations that provide NORAD with the data regarding everything flying in that part of the world.
The path of this balloon went right over the top of at least four of these Radar Stations in Alaska before it entered Canadian airspace where it crossed over several of the Canadian Radar Stations (which also communicate with NORAD) before entering the continental US air space again. There is no doubt that the US has been tracking it since long before it entered our airspace.
If someone brings it down they get to clean the mess. If there was ever any sensitive Chinese electric surveillance equipment onboard, the Chinese have already dropped it off (remotely) along time ago. Even the Chineses are not dumb enough to let us the US get its hands on surveillance equipment from a ballon that could just as easily be had from Satellites.
It would not surprise me at all if one, or several of our balloons have not made it over Chinese ( and many other countries) airspace over the years. Deflating derelict long durations balloons is probably not something that the US wants to get started.
With all that said, the US has competent and amazing group of people that protect our skis from threats every day regardless of politics or the regime in charge at the time. They make the decisions based on the facts and experience.
The political spin and "news" is all just that........Politics
Everything you say makes a lot of sense. And please correct me if i am wrong but from reading your post I understood that this is an old derelict balloon and that it's pretty normal for such balloons to fly wherever the jet stream takes them.
Given that this is a relatively common occurrence I am wondering why did this particular balloon cause such a big stink? I mean Blinken is not going to Beijing over this.Surely the politicians and/or their advisors must be aware that this is a fairly common occurrence. Why make an international scandal out of this? What is there to gain?
Now i am sorry if this is a really stupid question, but from a balloon's trajectory, flight characteristics etc... is it possible to tell if it is an old derelict balloon or a fully functioning one ?