The high-profile spectacle of an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the continental U.S. is shining a spotlight on the prevalence of similar incidents around the world, from Taipei to Latin America.

While the U.S. is believed to use such devices, officials have said the balloon shot down off the South Carolina coast this weekend is part of a broader global surveillance program rolled out by Beijing. It highlights the escalating intelligence battle between the U.S. and China, utilizing everything from geostationary satellites and signals intercepts to old-fashioned spy craft. Now balloons have suddenly been thrust back to the fore as a key part of that arsenal.

Officials in Beijing conceded that the balloon that drifted across the U.S. mainland last week came from China, but they rejected the Pentagon’s claim that it was intended for spying, instead suggesting it was a purely meteorological instrument that drifted off track, and accusing Washington of hyping the incident.