China’s Scary Space Ambitions

Posted on January 23, 2010 

China’s Scary Space Ambitions

China’s Jan. 11 test of exoatmospheric missile interception is worth paying attention to—especially in Washington. It isn’t just an early step toward development of a missile-defense system; it’s also a signal of a radical change in the country’s stance on the militarization of space. The United States should take this as a wake-up call that in the long term, China intends to challenge its strategic superiority in aerospace.

The People’s Liberation Army publicly unveiled its new strategy as part of the Air Force’s 60th anniversary in November last year. It appears that this strategy was formulated in 2004, but the world did not learn about it until PLA Air Force Commander General Xu Qiliang summarized it as “effecting air and space integration, possessing capabilities for both offensive and defensive operations.”

Meanwhile, Chinese diplomats continued to hew to the line set down in 1985 by the late leader Deng Xiaoping, when he told former U.S. President Richard Nixon that China “is against whoever goes in for development of outer space weapons.” China started an intensive diplomatic and propaganda campaign against American missile defense programs. Most recently Beijing added its vocal assistance to Vladimir Putin’s intimidation campaign, which succeeded in helping to convince current U.S. President Barack Obama to reverse his predecessor’s commitment to build ground-based defenses in Europe against Iran’s Chinese-aided nuclear missile threat.

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