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China Military Space Projects

Jiang Zemin indicated, in a December 2002 speech to the expanded Central Military Commission (CMC), that space would be of growing importance in the context of the ongoing revolution in military affairs. There are at least three ways to describe spacepower: space activity sectors (civil, commercial, intelligence, and defense); military space mission areas (space support, force enhancement, space control, and force application); and military space doctrines (sanctuary, survivability, control, and high ground).

The 1997 PLA Military Encyclopedia’s entry on “space warfare stated that space was not a decisive battlefield — the key to wartime victory would remain in the traditional land, sea, and air realms. “It is impossible for it [space warfare] to be of decisive effect. The key determinant of victory and defeat in war remains the nature of the conflict and the human factor.” Within a few years, the tone had changed. The 2002 supplement to the PLA Encyclopedia provides a very different assessment. In a discussion of the “space battlefield” the entry concludes that the impact of the space battlefield on land, sea, and air battlefields will become ever greater and the space battlefield “will be a major component of future conflict.”

China's declaratory policy is that China explores and develops technology in outer space for peaceful purpose only. China always maintains that the outer space should be free of any weapon and that to prevent arms race in outer space confirms with interests of all countries. China is willing to have cooperation with other countries in this regard. China's declaratory policy is that China has never and it will not participate in arms race in outer space in any form.

Outer space belongs to mankind. It is not only beneficial to enhancing international security and stability but also in the common interests of all states to ensure the peaceful uses of outer space and to prevent the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space. In recent years, with the development of military space technologies and the evolution of relevant policies, the possibility of the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space is increasing. All states bear the responsibility to attach importance to this issue and take concrete preventive measures in this regard.

China has always stood against the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space, and maintains that the security concerns in outer space should be addressed by means of international cooperation. To this end, China has been actively pressing for the negotiation and conclusion of relevant international legal instruments and put forward a joint working paper on the envisaged outer space treaty with relevant states at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. We call on the Conference on Disarmament to start substantive work on the issue at an early date. China is ready to enhance communication and cooperation with all parties to make unremitting efforts to promote the peaceful uses of outer space and to prevent an arms race in outer space.

China does not have the ambition to enter a space weapons race. During the Cold War, faced with a threat of nuclear war, China did not join in the nuclear weapons race between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Today, China's space program is pointed in the direction of peaceful development. The new political and diplomatic doctrines---a harmonious society and world---also curb China's entry into a space weapons race.

Second, China does not have the ability to enter a space weapons race. Although China has ambitious plans in space, the technical gap, especially in the military area, vis-à-vis the United States is difficult if not impossible to fill. China will not and cannot expend significant budgetary resources pursuing space weapons, but will instead focus on civilian and commercial space assets. So, if China owns space weapons, their number and quality will be limited in their capacity to act as an effective defense mechanism and will not be a threat to other countries. China has every interest in avoiding triggering a confrontation in outer space and it will never be a deliberate choice for China. Equally important, however, is that China will not shrink from defending its core national interests.

In 2010 the volume of Military Space Technology which is organized by the General Armaments Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and compiled in 5 years by 160-plus experts from 10-odd military and civilian units in the space field all over China passed the censorship of the Compilation and Censorship Office of the Chinese Military Encyclopedia and published by the Publishing House of the Encyclopedia of China. It was the first specialized encyclopedia all-roundly introducing China’s military space technology and military space equipment.

As for military space program, China has merely embarked on modernizing its defense potential, i.e. updating it to meet the current needs. That includes telecommunications, intelligence and navigation. And that is the path that China is taking. China’s military use of space is increasingly dependent and interlinked with civilian and commercial space activities, infrastructure, and human capital. Its space launch vehicles (SLVs) can be used for satellites with a range of applications – including communications, weather, observation, and navigation – which may significantly enhance the effectiveness of China’s military space operations and systems. While ballistic missiles have generally different rocket engines, basing profiles, and launch methods, their guidance and control systems may use similar components, and SLVs may use stage components based on ballistic missiles.

China's ambitious space program was born in extremely poor national conditions in 1956. By 15 October 2003, with the successful return of the Shenzhou-4 manned space flight, it had developed dramatically. While this flight is a milestone in China's space capabilities, the Shenzhou-4 mission should be considered not as an end, but as the entry ticket to the space power club of the USA and Russia. China may now be a space power, but it is not yet a military space superpower in the way of the latter two countries.

Dean Cheng noted in 2009 that "Among PLA writers it seems that there is general acceptance of the idea that only by establishing dominance of space is it possible to fully leverage the capabilities of modern command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems. This, in turn, is necessary if one is to implement the command and control functions necessary to wage Local Wars under Informationalized Conditions."

Chinese military space achievements in the eleventh five period include: anti-satellite weapons test in January 2010; the missile defense test, and many satellite launches. James Clapper, US director of National Intelligence, presented a document to the US Senate Intelligence Committee on 12 March 2013, defining China as the top threat posed to the U.S. in space in the coming decade. The report stated that China would try to limit the US leadership or altogether block its access to space.

China is planning to beef up its combat capability by increasing resources in a "new-type combat force," which includes integrating air and space capability in reaction to the international development of space weapons. Visiting the People's Liberation Army Air Force headquarters in Beijing on 14 April 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that the air force plays a decisive role in national security as well as military strategy, stating that it should have balanced strength in defensive and offensive operations.

Xi ordered the allocation of more resources in a "new-type combat force" to make sure the country’s army can "swiftly and effectively" deal with possible emergencies. "The United States has paid considerable attention and resources to the integration of capabilities in both air and space, and other powers have also moved progressively toward space militarization," Xi said. "Though China has stated that it sticks to the peaceful use of space, we must make sure that we have the ability to cope with others' operations in space.”

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Page last modified: 17-04-2014 18:21:36 ZULU