The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released its 2019 Annual Report to Congress on November 14, 2019.

This extensive report includes an informative chapter on China’s global ambitions. Flagged in the chapter’s section 3 is “China’s Ambitions in Space: Contesting the Final Frontier.”

Within that section, China’s “Space Dream” is highlighted, including a look at the country’s geopolitical and economic goals in space, as well as China’s view of space as the “Commanding Heights” of future military conflict and what are the implications for the United States.

Earth’s Moon and cislunar space looms large in our future.
Credit: ESA/NASA

Cislunar space

“Central to China’s economic and strategic goals in space is establishing a commanding position in cislunar space—the space within the Moon’s orbit of Earth,” the report notes. “Cislunar space will also play an important role in China’s plans for space-based solar power, a futuristic power source that China aims to fully deploy by 2050, which may have the potential to provide virtually unlimited power to the whole world.”

China’s goal to establish a leading position in the economic and military use of outer space, or what Beijing calls its “space dream,” the report states, “is a core component of its aim to realize the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Report: “The China Space Station positions Beijing to leverage its presence in space into diplomatic and scientific gains.”
Photo credit: CMSA

Key recommendations

Among the report’s key recommendations:

Congress direct the National Space Council to develop a strategy to ensure the United States remains the preeminent space power in the face of growing competition from China and Russia, including the production of an unclassified report with a classified annex including the following:

“A long-term economic space resource policy strategy, including an assessment of the viability of extraction of space-based precious minerals, onsite exploitation of space-based natural resources, and space-based solar power.” It would also include a comparative assessment of China’s programs related to these issues:

— An assessment of U.S. strategic interests in or relating to cislunar space.

— An assessment of the U.S. Department of Defense’s current ability to guarantee the protection of commercial communications and navigation in space from China’s growing counterspace capabilities, and any actions required to improve this capability.

— A plan to create a space commodities exchange to ensure the United States drives the creation of international standards for interoperable commercial space capabilities.

— A plan to streamline and strengthen U.S. cooperation with allies and partners in space.

— An interagency strategy to defend U.S. supply chains and manufacturing capacity critical to competitiveness in space.

Chinese Control room.
Credit: CCTV/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

Single-minded focus

The report explains that “China’s single-minded focus and national-level commitment to establishing itself as a global space leader harms other U.S. interests and threatens to undermine many of the advantages the United States has worked so long to establish.”

To review the entire report, go to:

https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-11/2019%20Annual%20Report%20to%20Congress.pdf

An executive summary is available at:

https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-11/2019%20Executive%20Summary.pdf

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