June 2, 2008

New Report Highlights China’s Efforts to Compete in Space

China experts warn that the United States' continuous efforts to dominate outer space is spurring Beijing and other powers into competition.

In a book issued by state-run China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, two People's Liberation Army experts said other national powers are seeking to counter U.S. ambitions in outer space.

"Strategic confrontation in outer space is difficult to avoid. The development of outer space forces shows signs that a space arms race to seize the commanding heights is emerging," wrote Wu Tianfu of the Second Artillery Corps Command College. The Corps controls China's nuclear arsenal.

"We can say that weaponization of outer space ... is already unstoppable."

The annual assessment of global trends was issued by the Chinese arms control association, and appeared in local bookstores recently.

The PLA analyses suggest that at least some in China's military take a bleak view of prospects for such efforts and believe their country must get ready for escalating rivalry.

"In the not too distant future, outer space will certainly become a stage for struggle between countries," wrote Xu Nengwu of China's National Defense Science and Technology University. He nonetheless called for urgent efforts to halt the weapon zing of space.

"The shared ideals or moral norms needed to bring about cooperation in outer space security are very difficult to form in a short time," Xu said.

The United States and other nations have criticized China's growing efforts to become a competitive force in outer space. Further cynicism grew when China flexed its military muscle by shooting down one of its aged satellites in January 2007.

Last month, Chinese President Hu Jintao publicly backed Russian opposition to U.S. plans to set up a missile defense system that would include bases in eastern Europe.

But Pentagon officials have justified their own efforts to strengthen U.S. space security by pointing to China's activities.

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Horne of the U.S. Strategic Command said the United States must "proactively protect our space capabilities".

Speaking before a Congressional panel last month, Horne said Beijing is "aggressively" seeking new ways to shoot down satellites and other space and counter-space capabilities.

Wu, the Chinese military expert, said his country was the victim, not the perpetrator, in the conflict.

"Dominated by the idea of absolute domination of outer space, a major power is making a big fuss about space domination, creating rivals and provoking confrontation," Wu wrote.