China’s Weaponization of Space

  • Space satellites have become strategic assets and therefore valuable military targets.
  • “Beijing is working to match or exceed US capabilities in space to gain the military, economic, and prestige benefits that Washington has accrued from space leadership.” — 2021 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.
  • China’s 2015 defense white paper had already formally designated space as a new domain of warfare. Also in 2015, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) established the Strategic Support Force (SSF), which brought together outer space, electromagnetic space and cyberspace under one command, indicating “the PLA’s prioritization of these critical areas of warfare.”
  • “The PLA continues to acquire and develop a range of…technologies, including kinetic-kill missiles, ground-based lasers, and orbiting space robots, as well as expanding space surveillance capabilities, which can monitor objects in space within their field of view and enable counterspace actions.” — U.S. Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress, 2020.
  • Communist China, according to China Daily, has vowed to become the world’s leading space power by 2045.
  • “The space battlefield is not science fiction and anti-satellite weapons are going to be a reality in future armed conflicts, Shaw said.” — SpaceNews, reporting on a talk given by Lt. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander of U.S. Space Command on August 23, 2021.

“China has moved aggressively to weaponize space…” These were the words of U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall at the 36th Space Symposium on August 24.

"Both conventional deterrence and conventional operations depend on access to communications, intelligence, and other services provided by space-based systems. As a result, our strategic competitors have pursued and fielded a number of weapons systems in space designed to defeat or destroy America's space-based military weapons systems and our ability to project power."

Space has become crucial: so much of what happens there now affects life on earth. There are more than 3,000 active satellites orbiting earth today and their services have become indispensable. Among these are US military-operated GPS satellites for positioning, navigation and timing, serving both military and civilian needs — think Uber, Lyft, Waze, grocery delivery services — and earth monitoring, including weather and communications, to name just a few. Space satellites have become strategic assets and therefore valuable military targets. “It is impossible to overstate the importance of space-based systems to national security,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said.

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About the author

Judith Bergman

Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

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