China has been extensively investing resources towards its space strategy along with traditional arenas, including cyber, electronic, and psychological warfare. The Pentagon 2020 report to the Congress on ‘Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China’, warned that Beijing’s major target is the United States.
In recent developments, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) that works under the wing of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced last month that the first module of China’s space station, the ‘Tianhe’ module, has passed the final review.
Moreover, CMSA has selected 18 new astronauts to participate in the country’s upcoming space station project, said a SPACENEWS report.
Out of 2,500 candidates, 18 were selected consisting of seven pilots, seven spaceflight engineers, and four payload specialists. It includes only one woman. This is the first time that the selection process was open for civilians.
Earlier in 1998 and 2010, only air force pilots were eligible to participate in the process, said the report.
With both the US and China racing to militarise space, the analysts believe is increasing the risk of war between the two global powers. “China is not the Soviet Union,” said Qiao Liang, a major general in the Chinese air force, in an interview with SCMP.
“If the United States thinks it can also drag China into an arms race and takedown China as it did with the Soviets … in the end, probably it would not be China who is down on the ground.”
Beijing’s stated defense policy is to safeguard China’s security interests in outer space, electromagnetic space, and cyberspace. “Beijing has devoted significant resources to growing all aspects of its space program, from military space applications to civil applications such as profit-generating launches, scientific endeavors, and space exploration,” stated the Pentagon 2020 report.
China who is currently trailing Russia and the US is set to become a space power by 2030. It has been expanding its network of military intelligence satellites. Last year, it conducted 32 successful rocket launches as per the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.
This puts China on top for the second year in a row, exceeding the 21 launches in the US in 2019.
With the new Tianhe space station, Beijing is set to create another battleground. It would be the first crewed space station. Reportedly, the launch of its core module on a Long March 5B will be in 2021. The space station will orbit at an altitude of around 380 kilometers with an inclination of between 41 and 43 degrees.
The China Task Force, consisting of 15 members representing 11 committees in the US House of Representatives, released a policy blueprint to counter the increasing threat of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“If the PRC [People’s Republic of China] succeeds in its efforts to launch its first long-term space station module in 2022, it will have matched the U.S.’ nearly 40-year progression from first human spaceflight to first space station module in less than 20 years.
The CCP is vocal about plans to establish a human base on the Moon. The US should be concerned about the technological innovations and leadership role for the CCP that could come from missions crewed by PRC-nationals to the Moon,” the report said.
“China has little choice but to enhance its own capabilities. China’s purpose to develop space capabilities, firstly, is we do not want to be blackmailed by others. Second, we hope to use space peacefully.
But if others want to oppress us by occupying the heights of space and opening up a fourth battlefield, China will certainly not accept it,” said General Qiao in the SCMP interview. China’s space capabilities may provide a strong counter to the US Space Force and may considerably reduce the risk of war if tensions escalate any further.
China and the US have been at loggerheads and have seen a military escalation in the South China Sea where Washington has deployed several warships along with the B-52 Bomber. Beijing has mirrored these actions and has threatened to take action against US provocations.