Xi Jinping said space security should be in the forefront of national priorities
China’s satellite launch has sparked fears of growing military use of space and concerns that the Chinese regime is on a path to orbiting weapons that could target US and other nations’ satellites, at long range.
A Chinese military aerospace corporation launched a new communications satellite into space on Saturday with an indigenous Long March 4B rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi desert.
“Xi Jinping, since he took office, has been saying that space security should be in the forefront of our national priorities,” Liu Yang, a member of the advisory body to the national parliament, told the Guardian.
Xi has declared that space should be a national priority, and a leader in both civil and military space programs.
The Chinese leadership is building new types of space weapons that “should be within the grasp of China, able to attack its enemies in space and perhaps on Earth, and to do such things as prevent any other country from gaining the upper hand in a face-off in space”, Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit research organization, said.
China has said it is not engaged in nuclear warfare, but Weeden said it is a signatory to the 1968 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which forbids nations from building or deploying any anti-satellite weapons.
“This nuclear-gift that China now has is far more powerful than anything it could have dreamed about when it started the space program,” Weeden said. “China is definitely going to be spending a lot of money on space, but it’s unclear if the money will actually help it with its space program or if it will be used for something else.”
The Global Times reported that the launch sent an important signal for the modernisation of China’s military technology.
But Seng Yee, a visiting scholar at Sichuan University’s Institute of Space Studies and a former director of China’s space science national research centre, said the launch only marked one of the first steps in a 15-year plan to improve China’s space program. “The China military is a small part of this,” he said.
China says it has invested heavily in its space programme since 2008, despite the fiscal strain put on the country’s military-exposed economy. In October, Xi announced plans to develop a space station by 2020, and to launch its first manned space mission by 2025.