China’s Asia Pacific Dream – Towards a Space Silk Road?
Date of this Version
Hu Jintao’s 2004 New Historic Missions highlighted the importance for China to protect its interests in Outer Space. The recognition of the importance of the Space operational domain has been subsequently reinforced in declaratory biannual Chinese White Papers, the PLA Military Strategic Guidelines and in PLA doctrine as a key element of China’s military strategy for fighting and winning local wars under informationized conditions. China is rapidly building sophisticated dual-use (military and civilian) space capabilities, including advanced counter-space systems that have been tested by the PLA since January 2007. However, as China adopts a greater regional role and begins to operate its military forces in the Far Seas, particularly in the Indian Ocean in support of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, ensuring global C4ISR connectivity will demand the expansion of China’s dual-use space operations and capabilities. It will also reinforce a requirement for an expanded and more sophisticated PLA counter-space capability.
This paper argues that expanding Chinese space capabilities will generate intensifying competition in Space between China and some of its neighbours across Asia, as well as the United States. However it also explores the possibility that China is likely to exploit a ‘space dimension’ of its proposed Asia-Pacific Dream to reinforce regional integration with like-minded neighbours through provision of space capabilities including satellites, launch services, and support infrastructure, suggesting the potential for a ‘Space Silk Road’ to emerge in the future. In this regard, China can be a provider of ‘public goods’ within the Space global commons to states along its periphery. Yet at the same time it will build a capability to contest access to that commons to its likely adversaries in the event of a conflict. China’s role in Space may therefore generate increasing contradictions and dilemmas that will reinforce strategic uncertainty in Asia.
Journal, Book or Conference Title
East Asia Security Symposium and Conference 东亚安全座谈谈论会
This document has been peer reviewed.