China’s activities in space have caught the attention of U.S. and other countries’ officials, altering how personnel must consider the domain. The importance of the area outside of Earth to military operations makes the location critical for any nation looking to put itself into a terrestrial position of power. During 2012, China conducted 18 space launches and upgraded various constellations for purposes such as communications and navigation. China’s recent expansion into the realm presents new concerns for civilian programs and defense assets there.
In the U.S. National Military Strategy, officials discuss their concern about China’s military modernization and assertiveness in space, also stating that the “enabling and warfighting domains of space and cyberspace are simultaneously more critical for our operations yet more vulnerable to malicious actions.” The United States has released several pieces of guidance on its approach to the domain such as the National Space Policy and the Defense Department’s National Security Space Strategy. The military defines the latter as a “pragmatic approach to maintain the advantages derived from space while confronting the challenges of an evolving space strategic environment. It is the first such strategy jointly signed by the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence.”
Unlike the 1960s-era space race when Soviets and Americans competed to be first, China approaches space with a different set of goals. Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who focuses on Chinese political and social affairs, explains that the Sino perspective asks, “What do we want to do in space? What can space do for us?”