China's Space Program: A New Tool for PRC "Soft Power" in International Relations?
NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA
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When China launched an anti-satellite ASAT weapon in January 2007 to destroy one of its aging weather satellites, most reactions from academics and U.S. space experts focused on a potential military space race between the United States and China. Overlooked, however, is Chinas growing role as global competitor on the non-military side of space. Chinas space program goes far beyond military counterspace applications and manifests manned space aspirations, including lunar exploration. Its pursuit of both commercial and scientific international space ventures constitutes a small, yet growing, percentage of the global space launch and related satellite service industry. It also highlights Chinas willingness to cooperate with nations far away from Asia for political and strategic purposes. These partnerships may constitute a challenge to the United States and enhance Chinas soft power among key American allies and even in some regions traditionally dominated by U.S. influence e.g., Latin America and Africa. Thus, an appropriate U.S. response may not lie in a hard power counterspace effort but instead in a revival of U.S. space outreach of the past, as well as implementation of more business-friendly export control policies.
- Government and Political Science