EASSC Publications


China’s Asia Pacific Dream – Towards a Space Silk Road?

Date of this Version


Document Type

Conference Paper


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

Publication Details

Author Information:

Senior Analyst, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Dr. Malcolm Davis joined ASPI as a Senior Analyst in Defence Strategy and Capability in January 2016. Prior to this he was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in China-Western Relations with the Faculty of Society and Design at Bond University from March 2012 to January 2016, and he currently retains an Honorary Assistant Professor position in the Faculty. He has worked with the Department of Defence, both in Navy Headquarters in the Strategy and Force Structure area, and with Strategic Policy Division in the Strategic Policy Guidance and Strategic External Relations and Education sections from November 2007 to March 2012. Prior to this appointment he was a Lecturer in Defence Studies with Kings College London at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, in Shrivenham, UK, from June 2000 to October 2007. He holds a PhD in Strategic Studies from the University of Hull as well as two Masters degrees in Strategic Studies, including from the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. His main research focus is on defence strategy and capability development, military technology, and the future of warfare.

Area of expertise: Strategy and capability development, future warfare and military technology, Chinese military modernisation and Asian security


@Dr_M_Davis on Twitter


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This document has been peer reviewed.