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  • Pavel Luzin

China's Space Policy in 2020s: Strategy, Challenges and International Relations

China’s space activity derives from its political, both foreign and domestic, and economic conditions and purposes. Despite the obvious progress in technologies and space missions like Chang’e-4 and Chang’e-5 to the Moon in 2019–2020 and Tianwen-1 to Mars in 2020 China still realizes the paradigm of the overtaking development in this field and still needs on access to knowledge and technologies of the developed states. It creates a paradoxical situation when China tries to challenge the Western powers in outer space but it is objectively incapable to surpass them there. However, China uses its space activity to establish its political leadership among the developing states and to modernize its armed forces.


Main conclusions:

1) China spending for its space programs, both civil and military, may be estimated as $8–8.5 billion annually. However it has to increase the spending in coming two decades in aim to realize overtaking development in competition with the West; 2) China will need to strengthen its foreign space cooperation ties in aim to compete successfully in manned flights and to share their costs among partner nations. Therefore, Chinese modular station will probably become a political tool for establishing close partner ties with developing industrial states of Asia, Africa and Latin America; 3) China will extend its exploration program towards other celestial bodies as it will need to extend space cooperation. The level of engagement of other nations into the Chinese civil space program will define how successful Beijing will be in converting the results of space exploration into the global leadership. At the same time China tries to avoid any interdependence in its foreign policy, so it realizes the same approach in outer space. That means Beijing will cooperate with the actors that will be capable to contribute into its space program, or it will “sell seats” onboard Chinese space exploration missions in exchange for political loyalty and some significant economic or even military opportunities and assets;


4) In military space activity, Beijing’s main priority is increasing the level of sustainability and flexibility of its military space assets for the future rather than the quantitative superiority over the United States and its allies; 5) China presumes that in case of conflict with equal or superior adversary, or coalition of adversaries whose armed forces rely on space systems, the cost of conflict should be increased for them. The estimated time when the PLA will be able to fight against the superior adversary or the coalition of adversaries should be also prolonged in aim to make the conflict politically unacceptable for them. Here, the counter-space electronic warfare systems are considered as measures of strategic deterrence rather than offensive capabilities


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Source of picture: China National Space Administration