Opinion: Dual-Use Space-Based Systems, Tracing China’s Strategy And Policy Behavior

By Saman Ayesha Kidwai*

For over a decade, Beijing has followed an asymmetric path to developing its space-based capabilities, targeting the US’s overwhelming dependence on space-based systems. This has much to do with the fact that the USused space primarily for military purposes. However, given China’s steady ascent to becoming a peer competitor in civilian uses of space, its interest in upsetting the status quo will be diminished. A case in point has been its opposition the EU Space Code of Conduct (EUSCOC). Although opposing the EUSCOC has so far been beneficial for China, Beijing’s increasing dependence on dual use space-based systems would mean it is likely to have greater interest in furthering rather than opposing the EUSCOC.

However, given its political trajectory, it is unlikely to simply abide by rules laid down by others. Instead, it seeks to be incorporated into the rules-making process and may just agree to terms considerably similar to those in the EUSCOC. Two Chinese satellite programmes highlight this movement from a primarily military space challenger, to a civilian applications peer competitor.

The Beidou System

The first is the Beidou GPS system. Increasing regional dependence on the Beidou system makes it impossible for adversaries to specifically target China if they target the Beidou system. It also makes China’s economy and international reach heavily dependent on protecting the Beidou system’s integrity from a range of threats including kinetic attacks, electronic warfare as well as intentional and unintentional space debris related threats.

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* Research Intern with the China Research Programme at IPCS.

Source: Eurasia Review