Category Asian Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality?

Growth of Technology in Asia

Technological growth cannot be studied in isolation. Presence (or absence) of any form of growth is mainly controlled by various sociopolitical, geopolitical and economic factors. The growth of technology in any state could be the result of overall development process. There is no single, all-embracing formula explaining and evaluating the growth of technology in a particular state or a region. The same story holds good for the Asian region too.

It is said that, ‘the economic development directly translates into power’. Is the same true case in regards to technological development in Asian theatre? From consumer field to military, the technology dictates developments in every field of life. The technology spectrum with Asia is wide ranging from agricultural technologies to energy technologies to military technologies. In regard to West Asia mainly the oil factor has been the major factor for development, and also the USA influence over the region plays a vital role. The technological focus in Asia is more visible in East Asia and parts of SE Asia. Developed economies of Japan, China, Singapore and few other states in the region are the result of their technological achievements in electronics and consumer goods sector. In South Asia, India’s achievements are linked with their achievements in information technology sector.

Japan is the best example, where the Asian development suggests that absence of natural resources is unlikely to hinder growth. However, it is also important to note that the availability of technology alone does not guarantee the growth. China was technologically more advanced than Europe in many fields in the late medieval and early modern period. Yet Asia did not industrialise before the intervention of the West [10]. The growth with various Asian states is witnessed post-1980s particularly after the process of economic liberalisation begun. Also, the process of industrialisation became a reality partly because of the technology transfer within and outside the region.

Presently, Asian states understand that for the various investments in S&T is the key. They have also learnt few things from their Western experience. Unfortunately, for many decades Asia had fallen behind mainly from the Western nations, in the field of S&T. Luckily, the twenty-first century situation is looking much brighter, and Asians have started dominating the S&T turf. There are many PhD holding scientists and engineers residing in Asia, and significant amount of research is being undertaken by various Asian states [11]. States like China have more than doubled their earlier investments in this field. States like India have developed their own infrastructure in technology training (Institute Institutes of Technologies or IITs) which matches with the best in the world. Between 1980 and 2000, Asian states suffered from brain drain when many talented individuals had migrated to Western countries to the greener pastures. However, in the beginning of twenty-first century, the process of reverse brain drain has began for various reasons including economic crisis in the West and boosting opportunities in Asia. The quality of education in Asian states like China and India is of high standard particularly in subjects like physics and mathematics. This is giving Asian states an added advantage both for innovation as well as for adaption of new technologies.

In Asia, Japan[6] was the early starter in regard to developments in S&T and associated R&D issues. Japan’s technological skills have always drawn worldwide respect. In the 1970s, Japan started with ‘applied R&D’ activities with help from abroad. This was more of a catch-up policy. In 1980s, the policy shifted to focus on basic research with the realisation that an indigenous science base was needed to prepare for subsequent level technology life cycles. Over the years, they have succeeded to re-establish themselves as one of the world leaders in technological capability. Relative to its labour force size, Japan has more engineers than any

leading industrial nation, except Sweden. These are concentrated in the fields of electronics and electrical engineering and in computer science with over 70% are in industry, 13% in education and about 6% in government.

China is another Asian country with strong technological base. It caters for both civilian/commercial requirements and its military modernisation programme. China’s national security and economic competitiveness has been guided by four main principles: acquisition of foreign systems by technology transfer through joint ventures, licensing and co-production arrangements, promotion of commercial initiatives in scientific labs, creation of venture capital industry towards innovative technology start-ups and promotion of greater role for industries in R&D. As a result, its industrial growth has taken off almost simultaneously with technological growth. Its vast defence infrastructure has transformed itself into a strategic enterprise with close active cooperation with research institutes and universities.

China has understood the necessity of a sustainable S&T infrastructure for a rapid economic growth. It has launched in quick succession major programmes which would be the backbone of its technological growth. They are:

• National High-Tech R&D Development Program (National 863 Program), which aims at promoting the applied research and accelerating high-tech development. China’s high-tech priorities, including IT, biotechnology and advanced agricul­tural technology, advanced materials technology, advanced manufacturing and automation technology, energy technology as well as resource and environment technology

• National Basic Research Program of China (National 973 Program), for the development of comprehensive and multidisciplinary basic research and also in­volves important cutting-edge basic research and fostering outstanding scientists with creativity

• National Key Technologies R&D Program which works to provide technical support to industrial restructuring, the sustainable development of society and the enhancement of living standards by achieving breakthroughs in key technologies, introducing technical innovation and applying high and new technologies

• Program 211 which aimed at building about 100 higher education institutions and key disciplines as a national priority to greatly enhance the teaching quality, level of scientific research and administrative efficiency of higher education institutions8

These programmes laid the foundation of what is today a thriving S&T organi­sation which is paying rich dividends to all major spheres including defence.

In regard to development in technology, India has witnessed various ups and downs. Particularly, because of its nuclear policies (nuclear tests carried out during 1974 and 1998), India had to face technological apartheid for many years. Political establishment gave support for scientific progress in spite of financial constraints.

Till 1990s, India’s economic situation was not very healthy. Even by the year 2003, the expenditure on S&T in India was about US$5 per capita compared to US$240 for South Korea and US$705 for the USA. As per the global research report on science and engineering research currently in India, the government spending on science research is 0.9% of GDP which is expected to go up to 1.2% in 2012. However, the availability of qualified researchers has not kept pace with intended enhanced spending. A growth in scientific publications of 80% in 7 years, however, places India at only 3% of the world output, far below that of Japan. China which had slumbered through 1980s/1990s has shown a dramatic growth after 2003 [13]. India has done remarkable progress in the field of information technology sector. The country is also taking lead in the field of biotechnology.

South Korea is another country in Asia which is developing a broad technology base. Till 1980s, the state was the major contributor for R&D projects, but subsequently since 1990s, private industry is found involved in various technologies development arenas except core technologies. South Korea was assessed in 2007 to be about 6-7 in world ranking in terms of science competitiveness and technologies by the International Institute of Management Development. Presently, it has risen to 5 in science competitiveness while falling to 14th position in technology competi­tiveness. To regain the lost ground, they are following a model of outsourcing and technology integration as a means of boosting R&D capability.

Post-Iranian revolution in 1979 followed by the sanctions by the West forced Iran to pursue a path of self-sufficiency. This required Iran to develop its technological base mainly without any outside support. Particularly, under its second 5-year plan (1995-2000), S&T was declared as a top national goal with stress on infrastructure, research and education. The emphasis on R&D centres was on three key fundamen­tal areas—metallurgy, electronics and aerospace. The aim of state funded centres was to develop a scientific and professional technical community anchored within the country. At the same time support for S&T education was given a major boost with expansion in Iranian academia. All of this combined to give a major boost to S&T in Iran.

Pakistan’s focus on S&T achieved a 6.25 fold jump from 1965 to 1995 in terms of numbers of scientists and technologists in the workforce. About 47 universities and 237 R&D institutes are engaged in S&T. One important R&D unit is National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) which reportedly is a civilian controlled scientific and research organisation carrying out research in many engineering and scientific areas, with focus on the design and production of the defence systems.

Overall in Asian context, it has been viewed that historically every country was not very closely affiliated to the scientific pursuits. However, in recent past, such states are found making significant efforts to develop scientifically and technologically. As an example, Iran’s case could be considered. Historically, Iran was not a knowledge-oriented society. Naturally, issues related to science and technology had either political or economical patronage. There was not much motivation of inventions. Also, Iran’s role in the invention of science and technology at the international level was very low. There were no efficient national and legal

mechanisms for safeguarding the material and intellectual rights of scientists and technologists.9 However, this situation is changing. Particularly, post-1995 Iran is found making investments into various fields of existing and emerging technologies. Government and to certain extent private industry is also found supporting scientific research and development.

It is important to appreciate the fact that scientific research and technological progress always has a military dimension to it. Historically, it has been observed that many a time technologies are developed essentially for military purposes and subsequently they find their usefulness in the civilian field. Most commonly known examples of this are computer and internet. This pattern appears to be reversing in present times. Presently, market economics is pushing the technological development and various new inventions are getting introduced for their industrial and/or consumer project utility. Subsequently, military technologists are identifying their defence usefulness.

Post-World War II various discoveries in various fields like mathematics, physics, meteorology, material sciences, communication, electronics, aerodynamics and physical sciences have taken place. Particularly, nation-states have invested sig­nificant amount of resources towards development, testing and production of various missile systems for their armed forces. This overall development of various technologies has directly or indirectly helped the development of rocket science in few Asian states. Also, it is important to note that this technology growth need not have happened indigenously alone. Significant amount of help has been received from the Western states for such developments.


Taiwan has long conducted space-related activities using foreign space data and has developed international partnerships in various fields [10]. Development of rockets for launching satellites had not been their core area of research and investments at least during late 1980s and 1990s. They established the National Space Organization, NSPO, in 2005 (formerly known as the National Space Programme Office established in1991) which is the civilian space agency of Taiwan. It has developed a successful sounding rocket programme and has undertaken few launches of these rockets. Since 1998, the launch of Sounding Rocket No.1, NSPO has launched rockets six times. These launches were meant for the purposes of conducting the physical experiments on atmospheric airglow, ionosphere, etc. They also had relevance for flight validations of technologies such as GPS, magnetometer, etc. NSPO’s second-phased aerospace technology development programme aims at suborbital measurements. Such measurements are also expected to enhance the development of the aerospace technology’s civilian application.[90]

Taiwan is yet to develop a workable space launch booster (launcher). There are some indications that they have plans of testing its first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) to put around 50 kg payload into LEO.[91] No specific information is available in this regard. Probably, this could take few more years to happen. However, understanding China’s apprehensions about these issues, Taiwan may not be keen to divulge much information in this regard.

The first satellite for Taiwan, a low-Earth-orbit scientific experimental satellite called FORMOSAT-1(formerly known as ROCSAT-1), was launched by the USA on January 27,1999. The first remote sensing satellite developed by National Space Organization (NSPO), FORMOSAT-2, was successfully launched on May 21,2004. For its ‘FORMOSAT-3 Programme’, Taiwan has collaborated with the USA. This project is aimed at developing advanced technology for the real-time monitoring of the global climate. This project is also known as Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC). For this purpose, six micro-satellites are placed into six different orbits at 700-800 Km. These satellites orbit around the Earth and form a low-Earth-orbit constellation to receive signals transmitted by the 24 US GPS satellites. This project was successfully launched

during Apr 2006 and with this ended the First Phase Space Programme (1991-2006) devised by Taiwan. The Second Phase Space Programme (2004-2018) is about the Formosat-5 Programme, the first Remote Sensing Programme. Here the aim is on building up the capabilities for independent development of spacecraft and payload instruments.14

For almost two decades, Taiwan is systematically expanding its space programme and space industry. Probably, geopolitical compulsions are responsible for an overall slow growth of the Taiwan’s space agenda. China appears to be not keen for Taiwan to develop its own programme and influences foreign states not to coop­erate with Taiwan on this issue. However, in recent past, NASA is found interacting with Taiwan on various projects. Also, ESA and Japan have interest in collaborating with Taiwan on various issues including disaster warning and management. All this could help the growth of Taiwan’s space programme probably much faster than in the past.

Missile Defence

Missile defence systems are emerging as technologies that could change the nuclear deterrence calculus. Theoretically, this system engages the incoming ballistic mis­sile before it reaches the target. Ballistic missiles usually have a ballistic trajectory over most of its flight path. The missile (with payload) traverses a path through the upper atmosphere or into the space. Missile defence architecture is expected to destroy this ballistic missile much before it reaches the target. The major part of this system involves interceptors and radars. The interceptors usually engage the target in the re-entry phase.[180] The fundamental aim of missile defence system is to hit the target into the outer space. This challenges the global norms of keeping the space free from any military intervention. The space security policies which many states in the world are keen to develop are about preventing the weaponisation of space, and missile defence systems actually challenge this notion.

It is important to appreciate that missile defence is much beyond undertaking space launches to demonstrate the missile advancements made by the state. It amounts to the weaponisation of outer space (if the engagement of incoming missiles is done in space[181]). This technology also demonstrates (in a limited way) the ASAT capabilities of the state.

Origins of the concept of missile defence could be traced back to conceptu­alisation of Star Wars (Strategic Defence Initiative-SDI) programme by the then US President Roland Ragan in 1983. Over the years, the nomenclature of missile defence idea has witnessed certain changes mostly based on its categorisation. However, at places, names like national missile defence (NMD), theatre missile defence (TMD), ground-based midcourse defence (GMD) and strategic missile defence are found being used interchangeably.

Missile defence has been a top priority for various successive US adminis – trations.[182] Apart from the existing radar and interceptor structure, the USA is also working on futuristic technologies like the space-based lasers and kinetic kill (so-called hit-to-kill) vehicles for intercepting enemy missiles in their ‘boost-phase’, immediately after the launch.[183] The USA is aware that any treaty mechanism related

to space would curtail their freedom in space. This fear lead them to discredit the very own agreement signed by them few years back. The anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty (a bilateral agreement signed amongst the USA and erstwhile USSR in 1972) was always under threat because it was challenging the concept of ASAT. Missile interceptors threatened to erode the ABM treaty regime because of the similarities in ASAT and missile defence technologies [17]. During June 2002, the USA did the unilateral withdrawal from the ABM treaty, an act carried out to protect the US interests in the arena of missile defence. Over the years, the USA has been unwilling to be a part of any bilateral or multilateral arms control or disarmament mechanism which could limit their options both from missile defence and ASAT angle.

In missile defence, context most important Asian angle is the US notion of perceived threat from Iran. Israel also considers missile defence system as necessity in view of the threat from Iran. Israel has successfully tested its Arrow system by doing intercepts of a ballistic target missile.[184] India has also conducted a successful ballistic missile defence test during March 2011 (so far India has conducted six tests out of which four were successful). Indian ballistic missile defence programme involves of long-range tracking radar, command and control system and the interceptor.[185] It is implicit that for the purposes of nuclear dominance in the region and for achieving technological edge over the adversary, nuclear – capable states from the region would opt for missile defence systems. Also, states like India (and even China) which has a no-flrst-use policy (NFU) could justify investments into missile defence as a necessity to absorb the first strike.

China has been conducting on-and-off research into missile defence systems since the 1960s; however, it appears that they are increasing their emphasis now. On Jan 11, 2011, China had announced that it had successfully tested a land-based missile defence system. This test made China the only country after the USA to use a missile to destroy another in space. During the same period, the US agencies had also detected that two missiles had collided outside the Earth’s atmosphere. China’s investments in this arena basically emerge out of their Taiwan fears. They have concerns about the US sale of advanced Patriot missile defence systems to Taiwan.[186] On the other hand, they also understand that the USA will take the implicit message that such technology also could be modified to be used to attack the US space assets.

Probably, India is also looking at developing its ASAT architecture as a part of missile defence programme. India could develop their high-altitude interceptors into ASAT to damage low orbit satellites [18]. India’s future plans in regard to missile defence and ASAT capabilities were highlighted by Mr V K Saraswat, director general of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at the sidelines of 97th Indian Science Congress (2010).

In regard to Pakistan, it has been reported that the state may seek the help from China and could get the interceptor missile defence system by 2012. Pakistan is particularly looking to purchase a high-altitude missile air defence system. China could part with HQ-9/FD2000 system developed by the China Academy of Defence Technology. This system is claimed to be capable of hitting aircraft out to 125 km, air-launched cruise missiles out to 50 km and ballistic missiles out to 25 km— representing ABM capability equivalent to the Indian AAD and American PAC-3.[187]

Japan has been following a pacifist security policy post-World War II. However, their engagement with the USA to provide a missile defence cover to their state brings out the assertive aspect of this security policy. The US-Japanese cooperation in this field dates back to the 1980s since the period of Reagan initiative on SDI. But, Japan’s participation was more symbolic in nature then. The actual security efficacy of this system emerged to them after the Aug 1998 testing of Taepodong-1 ballistic missile by North Korea. The North Korean interests in developing nuclear weapons and their withdrawal from NPT in 2003 also made Japan more cautious. By end of 2003, Japanese cabinet took decision to introduce missile defence system as a part of its security architecture. It was argued that ‘BMD system is the only and purely defensive measure, without alternatives, to protect life and property of the citizens of Japan against ballistic missile attacks, and meets the principle of exclusively defence-oriented national defence policy’.[188] Presently, Japan has deployed a multilayered missile defence system having sea-based midcourse missile defence (the Aegis ballistic missile defence system) and ground-based terminal phase missile defence (Patriot Advanced Capabilities-3, or PAC-3) [19].

Deep Space Networks

Sending a satellite to the Moon is only one part of the story, and the other part is to establish a deep space network for tracking and communicating with the satellite when it is in lunar orbit.

China does not have an exclusive network to cater for their Moon mission. There are few networks available globally like the US network—consisting of sites in California, Australia and Spain. However, geopolitics plays a dominant role in this, and in case of China, this network is off limits for political reasons. So the mission relied on a combination of Chinese and European assets. European Space Agency (ESA) has offered China assistance with communications and tracking relays to

and from the probe using its deep space network ESTRACK. This support was mainly because the Chinese had promised to share the data gathered from the Chang’e-1 mission in return [10]. China has wisely avoided any overdependence on such agencies. For purpose of the Moon mission, they have modified their S-band aerospace Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT & C) network designed earlier for their manned space programme. The largest antennas for this network have an aperture of only 12 m. A series of technical measures were taken to ensure that such antennas could communicate with their Moon probe too [11].

India has installed a pair of giant antennas to monitor its Moon mission. The facility known as Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) consists of two powerful dish antennas, 32 and 18 m in diameter. This network will serve as the base station for future planetary missions like to Mars and would also be used to track the proposed space telescope, the astronomical satellite (Astrosat).[243] Apart from this, various ground stations within and outside India are available under the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) for providing ground support to Moon missions.

As per JAXA official website for the purposes of Kaguya mission, Japan is making use of the terrestrial station which is present at many places of the world, with Sagamihara in Japan as a centre. The deep space centre at Usuda and Uchinoura Space Center that operates two large antennas (20- and 34-m dishes) also form part of this telemetry tracking and command network.

China’s Soft (Space) Power Persuade

State’s interests are normally shaped by its power calculus. China is a rising power both economically and militarily. To a great extent, the much debated ‘rise of China’ has already taken place. At the same time, China suffers from an ‘image deficit’. The reasons for this could be many, from communism to human rights violations

to supporting states with dubious records to dismal arms control, disarmament policies, etc. In the arena of technology development, China is normally blamed for their covert policies of reverse engineering. However, since the last few years, China is gaining acceptance as a major, respected and even at times an envied actor in international arena. It is actively pursuing multilateral approaches for trade and investments. It is building up new security relationships. China as a state and society is in a position to influence foreign investments. China’s charm offensive in Asia, Africa and Latin America has resulted in providing major benefits to the state. At the same time, concerns have been expressed by few about the nature and manner in which China’s developmental plans are progressing. In general, various surveys conducted in many countries particularly after 2000 suggest that majority in most countries seem to have favourable view of growing China [14]. Such surveys are found offering similar results both in the Western world and amongst Asian states.

Analysts and thinker communities have provided various arguments (differing at times) about the future of the rising power. China is viewed by some as a threat to status quo power and regional peace and stability. It is important to note that just because the rise of China is a reality (peaceful or otherwise?), it does not qualify to emerge as a threat to international system. Any perception-based analysis in this regard could offer erroneous conclusions.

China’s official stance about its developmental policies is that of a peaceful growth and to avoid confrontation. However, Robert Kagan an American historian and foreign policy commentator argues that China will become a threat to the West because it is positioning itself as a ‘political power’ in the international arena. Such actions follow a pattern established by other states who have sought to challenge global powers throughout modern history [15]. Mostly, the rising powers have traditionally been considered as revisionist powers in realist international relations theories. However, it is not necessary that rising China’s foreign policy should hold such conventional wisdom [16]. For China to achieve the great power status, it is important to look beyond undertaking military modernisation and conducting economic offensive. If they have to ‘manage’ the maximum redistribution of power presently concentrated in the hands of few developed powers, then they have to make themselves more relevant globally. They will have to attempt for a new order by engaging various states. It could be done by engaging such powers on diplomatic, cultural and science and technology front. This is what soft power is all about.

The idea of soft power is not new to China; maybe the expressions used to describe it in the past were a bit different. Since the era of Sun Zi (544-496 BC) and Mo Zi (470-390 BC), idealism has provided a counterpoint to realism. Confucianism advocates that a state should obtain its leadership status by setting an example and by opposing imposition of one’s values on others. The idea of ‘culture winning over enemy’ and ‘winning a battle before it is fought’ does find references in ancient China’s strategic culture. In recent times after 1990s, with Joseph Nye’s formulation of soft power formulation and possibility at the backdrop of the global reaction to the Tiananmen crackdown 1989, Chinese scholars and policymakers are found engaged in studying the concept of soft power and identifying its relevance for the state [16, pp. 262-264] . Slowly, political and military leadership is found contextualising this concept under the Chinese settings. In his speech at the 17th CPC Congress (2007), President Hu Jintao called for enhancing culture as part of soft power [17]. While formulating the China’s International Status Report 2005, for the first time, the strengthening of soft power was used as one of the criteria to estimate China’s national power. It was observed that in the year 2004 China’s soft power had increased because of the new attempts at institutional building. The Chinese could be viewed to have started appreciating the importance of soft power theory in their framework particularly after the induction of the peaceful rise theory in 2003 and the Beijing Consensus in 2004.2

It’s important to note that at international level, there has been significant amount of debate in regard to China’s soft power potential. The 2007 World Economic Forum held in Dalian, a coastal city in China’s Liaoning Province, addressed the issue of China’s soft power. The then Australian Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd presented Joshua Kurlantzick’s book Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power is Transforming the World to the US President George W. Bush to remind him ‘why the US has been losing influence.’ The US Congressional Research Service (CRS) had conducted two comprehensive studies on China’s soft power influence in Asia, Africa and Latin America in the first half of 2008 [18].

The increasing Chinese influence in the region and also in various others of the world since the beginning of the twenty-first century is indicative of the fact that the Chinese policies have grown beyond coercion. Today, China is a state with considerable soft power resources. Its soft power is increasing in respect of its resources in areas of culture, political value and diplomacy. China is yet to fully translate these resources successfully in desired foreign-policy outcomes. Nevertheless, such resources are also growing simultaneously [19]. Technology is one such area. Interestingly, in the Chinese understating the realm of S&T is not strictly compartmentalised as soft power. Party Chief and President Hu Jintao, for instance, noted at the Central Foreign Affairs Leadership Group meeting on Jan 4, 2006, that the increase of China’s international status and influence depends both on hard power, such as the economy, S&T and defence, and on soft power, such as culture [18]. However, science and technology as a source could be viewed to have different tenets. When viewed with the prism of its importance of defence, it could be argued to have the shades of hard power, but when approach is to contrast [313] [314]

its importance as a tool in socioeconomic development, it could be viewed as an element of soft power, for example, any technological pursuit undertaken in the field of green technologies or disaster management technologies.

Post 2008, there has been a debate in regard to China’s hosting of Beijing Olympic Games as a strategy to increase its soft power status. This single event has contributed significantly towards the world forming a positive opinion about the contemporary China. Similarly, China’s investments in space arena and the significant success achieved by them particularly post 2000 have contributed significantly towards enhancing its prestige in the world. Olympic was the singular event while space is an area for continuous progression. Since the beginning of the space era in 1957, the USA and the erstwhile USSR (now Russia) have been viewed as the space superpowers. Now, China is making its presence felt in this field. Achievements like sending human missions to space, astronauts undertaking spacewalk and launching of a space station are unique acts only performed by the USA and Russia in the past but not any longer with China doing the same. Recently, China has also undertaken two Moon missions and has major plans of undertaking first unmanned and later manned Moon landings and also a mission to Mars. All these activities put China in a coveted category in space field.

China has identified investments in space technologies as one of the key areas of its focus. For China, such investment is important for various reasons in addition to technological and socioeconomical benefits. It offers strategic advantages and binds the people with the sense of nationalism. Over the years, China has earned a reputation of supplier of cheap technology lacking in quality and with a limited life span. A notion has emerged that they are the producers of low-technology and low-value items. It is important for China to change this image and make the correct projection of their success by displaying their space achievements. Such ‘image makeover’ is essential to attract business. Largely, it would also help them to ascertain their soft power credentials.

To contextualise the significance of space technologies from a soft power perspective, it’s important to identify the overall Chinese interests in various regions of the world. Knowledge of such interests could help appreciate the need for adopting soft power approach by China. This could further help for realising why space is being used as one of the sources for soft power wielding.

Chinese soft power is a relatively new concept in Chinese foreign policy [20]. Beijing has been promoting this idea at various levels and attempting to create an atmosphere to exhibit their interest in varying fields from culture, development and trade to energy and sports. As a key player on the world geopolitical vista, China is developing its ‘soft’ credentials in various parts of the world.

Chinese presence in Africa is illustrative of Beijing’s efforts to create a paradigm of globalisation in their favour. China’s political-economic bilateral goals and rela­tions in Africa are enumerated in an official 2006 document titled China’s African Policy.3 China proposes to develop a new type of strategic partnership with Africa. It [315] outlines need for high-level reciprocal leadership visits and economic collaboration. Economic assistant, technological cooperation and supporting agriculture are the key features of this relationship. Apart from various other issues like culture and health assistance, the document also seeks increased science and technology cooperation.[316] On geopolitical front, China has undertaken a diplomatic offensive to peruse one China policy and deny Taiwan any international recognition. Their international assistance and aid policies have a subtext of their Taiwan policies. For example, China’s deployment of 90 peacekeepers to Liberia in Dec 2003 occurred 2 months after Liberia switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China. It is important to note that Chinese technical aid to Africa is becoming increasingly important in building China’s influence in the region. Beijing prefers technical support over financial aid because such support has a chance at providing returns (sale-purchase of technology) than direct aid and loan programmes [21].

Latin America is another geographical region where China is found making investments. In recent past, China began the engagement policy with the Apr 2001 President Jiang Zemin’s 13-day tour of Latin America. Here the strategies are twofold: first is economic, to secure access to the primary materials that are required for its economic growth and to find a market for its manufactured goods. The second is a political strategy: to obtain diplomatic recognition from those countries still recognising Taiwan as the government of China. This region is important for China to gain greater access to resources—like various ores, soybeans, copper, iron and steel and oil—through increased trade and investment.[317]

The most successful Chinese investment in Latin America has been that of Brazil. Their engagement with Brazil has withstood the test of time. In 1988, the China – Brazil Earth Resources Satellites (CBERS) programme was conceptualised. Under this programme, three CBERS multispectral, high-resolution satellites have been launched from China. Here sensors are specifically designed from the point of view of gaining inputs for the management of the Earth resources, forests, geology and hydrology. The cooperation between the two countries has showed an authentic effort, from both sides, to break down the developed countries’ prejudice against advanced technology transfer [22].

China is also engaging states much closer to home. East Asia and North-east and Southeast Asia are the regions of (major) interest to China. China is employing a broadly peaceful strategy motivated by the domestic concerns and with a desire to project soft power characterised by a vague, subconscious, Confucian conception of

a Chinese world order. It has sought to project soft power by offering economic assistance to developing countries [23]. China’s growing influence (soft power) in Southeast Asia is largely economic (China is a major source of foreign aid), trade and investment.[318] It is also important to note that the region also constitutes of developed states like Japan and South Korea. Here economic assistance could not become a Chinese soft power trump card, and diplomacy has a larger role to play. Japan is a state which China has to deal more cautiously due to certain geopolitical compulsions. Also, in regard to technology transfer, not much of scope exits with Japan. Here S&T may not become a major factor for development of relationship, but initiatives like joint collaborations could help the improvement of relationship.

In all the regions discussed above, China is found making significant investments in space arena. The purpose over here is not to discuss the micro details of such investments but to flag them in order to make the larger point that space has become an instrument for China’s soft power projections. Presently, China is positioning itself as a space patron to the developing world—the same countries in some cases, whose natural resources China covets. China is helping Nigeria and Venezuela with their satellite programme. It is also developing an earth observation satellite system with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru and Thailand [24, 25].

Chinese investments in Nigeria’s space programme need critical analysis. During May 2007, China launched a US$300 million communications satellite for Nigeria called the NigComStat-1. This launch is an expression of how China is establishing itself as a space benefactor to the developing world. It is intelligently using outer space as an arena for spreading its influence. This satellite was designed and constructed by Chinese engineers. A space industry from China is monitoring the satellite from China and also training Nigerian engineers to operate a tracking station in Nigeria. Above all to help pay for the satellite, China has loaned Nigeria US$200 million in preferential buyer’s credits. It is important to note that China provides Africa with economic and financial assistance. It is involved in building of roads, hospitals and airports, and in return, Africa is happy to sell oil and other commodities to China. China is using space also as a component to enhance this assistance.[319]

Unfortunately, the NigComStat-1 project has not progressed as planned. China had to face a failure with the NigComStat-1 within 1 year after its launch. During Nov 2008, this satellite was switched off since it lost both of its solar arrays [26]. This satellite was meant to function of a minimum of 15 years. In order to keep its ongoing partnership with Nigeria intact, China had promised to

launch a replacement satellite.[320] China fulfilled its promise by launching Nigerian Communication Satellite-1R during Dec 2011. This is bound to strengthen the relationship between both the countries further. This would also help to project China as a reliable partner and also keep their space prestige intact.

Under an agreement signed in Nov 2005, a Chinese industry was to de­sign, manufacture, test and put into orbit the VENESAT-1 (DFH-4 satellite) for Venezuela. This satellite having utility for telecommunication and education needs was launched by China in 2008 and is reported to be in good health.[321] The exact pattern of investment is not known; however, the investment is expected to be around US$400 m. China has also agreed to build and launch a communications satellite for Laos and to build a satellite control centre. An agreement to this effect was signed during Sep 2009. The Dongfang Hong (The East is Red) model satellite would be launched by a Long March rocket. No date for this launch has been finalised yet.10 To improve communication in rural areas and boost indigenous pride, Bolivia has decided to take help from China for its first satellite launch, expected to take place by 2013. Bolivia hopes China will cover most of the estimated $300 m costs. It will also seek donations and loans from other countries [27]. Apart from such investments far away from the Chinese mainland, the state is also engaging island nations like Sri Lanka closer home. Sri Lanka is trying to put communications satellite in space since 2007 and now has finalised its plan for launching two satellites with the help from a British company. China has agreed to provide financial and technical assistance to Sri Lanka with their space ambitions [28].

The Chinese assistance to the space programmes of various states helps them to extend their technological footprint globally. This also enables them to establish intergovernmental cooperation in different regions of the world. Beijing’s space programme is found serving various practical interests like raising cash and making alliances. As per Mr. Dean Cheng of The Heritage Foundation, ‘it’s no accident that Venezuela and Nigeria… of course, both have oil. And Bolivia, interestingly, is one of the world’s largest sources of lithium, which if you think we’re all going to drive electric cars, is going to be a vital source’ [29].

China is found making an interesting mix of investments in various regions of the world in space arena. Every investment made by China should be viewed not only from a soft power perspective but also from a strategic angle. China’s assistance to the North Korean efforts for launcher development is known [30]. Similarly, China’s assistance to Pakistan in satellite technology arena has shades of commercial and strategic dimensions. On Aug 12, 2011, China launched Pakistan’s first communications satellite (PAKSAT-1R) on a Long March-3B carrier rocket. This event demonstrates the deepening technological cooperation between these two

states. Pakistan’s inadequacy in the space field offers China an opportunity to take their strategic partnership to a higher plane and also simultaneously maintain its own commercial interests [31]. China’s satellite navigation programme may also assist Pakistan in military realm.


In the overall global discourse on soft power, the focus of debate essentially revolves around the relevance of cultural, political and economic features. However, in the twenty-first century, the role of S&T is also gaining prominence as an additional basis for generating soft power influence. S&T is increasingly being viewed as a key instrument of soft power. States understand that the leadership in technology adds to their global prestige. Amongst the various stems of technologies, space technology emerges central to bestow the soft power status. This is not to argue that no other technology has similar capabilities. However, space technology could be viewed to have a greater say in this regard for various reasons. First, the enormity and visual manifestation (say human landing on moon) is almost unmatched. Second, expertise in rocket science puts the state at higher pedestal in comparison with others, and expertise in this science has significant strategic implications too. Third, the technology if viewed in isolation is more of an exclusive and costly technology; however, the output delivered by this technology has significant social relevance. Fourth, the economic relevance and significant growth potential of this technology is gargantuan. Fifth, it is a strategic technology with dual-use ability.

Many smaller states in the world are found rushing to develop space capabilities. Major spacefaring states in Asia have fastened the pace of their development with a view to capture the rapidly emerging space market. Asian spacefaring states have understood that space is a socioeconomic enabler and could also act as a catalyst for advancing state’s foreign policy vision in the digital age. They understand that a vast gap exists amongst space-haves and space have-nots. This gap is both economical and technological. They have sensed an opportunity over here which could offer them multiple benefits both in short and long term. This chapter has analysed one such ‘power’ for its space credentials to acquire soft power status. China’s policies are found distinctly showcasing their space endeavours to realise soft power.

China is found strategically locating itself as a focal point for various activities, from providing financial assistance to manufacturing of satellites, to helping in infrastructure development and training and to providing launching facilities for states in Asia, Africa and South America. This approach has multiple benefits including amassing soft power status. They are found developing a ‘web of space help’ to garner various economic, political and strategic advantages.

It is important to note that there are some limits to exercise this soft power. Particularly, for the state like China which suffers from ‘image deficit’, impressing other states is a challenging proposal. China’s inter – and intracontinental outreach is not believed by many as an entirely benign exercise. Also, China’s political system, their relationship with states having dubious image, opaque economical system, quality of technology and human rights record are problematic for many. Apart from such China-centric issues, there are certain general issues which highlight the limitations of soft power. Mainly the quantitative measurement of the sources of soft power is a difficult task, and understanding the actual effect of soft power would always remain in the realm of subjective assessment. Economic assistance made to other states does not guarantee their continuous support to the donor’s political actions. No effective deterrence mechanism exists with soft power to engage/dominate other powers. Most importantly, soft power is not an alternative to hard power.

In Asia, apart from China, space achievements of India and Japan are also noteworthy. These two states could also use their expertise in the field as a source for their soft power policies. In the case of Japan, most of their geopolitical policies have ‘invisible’ US bias. They could use their space pre-eminence as an instrument to engage friends in the region either alone or in collaboration with the USA.

India could take a leaf out of Chinese experience to expand its ‘soft power’ by using space technology as an instrument. India could be viewed to have already made humble beginning in this (soft) power projection game. However, there appears to be less hype about India’s efforts to engage other states in space diplomacy. India’s Antrix Corp, the commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, has made modest forays in the global space market for launch services, sale of satellite resources data and spacecraft hardware and components in addition to mission support service. So far, India has launched satellites for few states under a commercial arrangement. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered to make available Indian satellite resources data to Southeast Asian countries for managing natural disasters. He has also offered Indian help in launching small satellites built by them. India has developed a global market for sale of Indian remote sensing satellite (IRS) imageries [32]. But definitely India has to do much more to generate geopolitical returns from its space achievements.

The human quest for exploring the universe is unending. Space technologies have their own glamour. These technologies are frontier technologies and have also been responsible for development of various other technology sectors too. They have wider applicability and global acceptability. ‘Rocket science’ being a niche field, very few states in the world are in a position to exploit its fullest potential. Many states in the world are attracted towards these technologies because of their social, commercial and strategic utilities. All this offers the states in possession of these technologies a special status. Various possessors of space technologies are found shearing and selling these technologies to other states. The discussions in this chapter clearly elucidates that the space technology has a soft power potential. Various developing (Asian or otherwise) states are getting attracted towards the space technologies for their socioeconomic utilities. The case study (China) undertaken in this chapter suggests that space technologies have remarkable soft power potential. What is important is to correctly exploit this expertise to realise the state’s aims. The ‘soft power repute’ would come automatically.

Wild Card: Star Wars

Iran goes nuclear. Few other states within the region start showing signals that they have nuclear intentions (say Japan, Saudi Arabia). India successfully develops missile defence shield. Nuclear weapons lose their shine as weapons of deterrence. China claims that ultimate high ground is space and best deterrence is space weapons. It proposes a programme for space-based weapons and successfully demonstrates few weapons by testing. India and Japan demonstrates their capabil­ities in regard to satellite jamming technologies. Space becomes a vital factor in global military power balance.


This chapter carried out a short appraisal about few of the important drivers in regard to various spacefaring nations in Asia. For these nations, space has become a vital element for growth. Some parts of Asia have already witnessed the impact of space technology on the society. They have experienced its utility in various facets of life from weather forecasting to education to navigation to intelligence gathering. Both ‘space’ haves and have-nots in the region consider this technology as an instrument of change. For them, this technology also has a major military relevance.

However, even after two to three decades, many Asian states are predicted to remain earthbound. They would try to get maximum benefits of space technology by engaging spacefaring nations. Given the steady growth of various existing and emerging space programmes in the region, it is expected that coming years would witness a profound impact of this technology on Asia’s culture and commerce on one hand and society and security on other.

Relevance of Space Technologies for Asia

Space technologies are relevant to states in Asia for the similar reasons they are important to the other states outside the region. The only subtle difference could have been that most of the Asian states particularly during the first two to three decades of space era were not in a position to make investments in space from the point of view of catering exotic ideas like fulfilling the ‘human curiosity’, etc.

For Asia, the space technologies are relevant for remote sensing, communication, education, etc. Understanding the increasing significance of satellite technologies in various other fields for development Asian states have also started employing them in newer areas. Appreciating the need to address various new sets of challenges being encountered the Asian states are probing the realm of space technologies further to find its utility.

Economic prosperity appears to be the main goal of various states in the world [14] and same could be true for Asia too. However, states within Asia understand that economic prosperity alone is not a solution to the various challenges the world is facing today or likely to face in future. Various issues from rise in population, to food security to climate change to inappropriate distribution of natural resources demand attention. Space technologies have major relevance for all these fields. Good environmental research is possible only with the help from various space technologies. Also, space could offer a solution to the issue related to resources crunch on Earth. The real challenge is to get the resources from space (other planets) to the Earth. Few Asian states appear to have accepted this challenge and are found systematically working towards making such possibility a reality.

Some countries, including many in Asia, are effective adopters of technology while displaying little innovation. East Asia has been the most successful region in the developing world in adopting technologies from the innovating economies. For example, the electronics and semiconductor production throughout southeast Asia and coastal China is based on technology that came from the USA and Japan originally few decades before [15]. To their credit, some states within the region created institutional arrangements for transfer of technology, research and commercial production of these technologies which has helped them to become the key global centres for electronics industries. Some states with the region are found attempting the similar model in space arena too and also found depending on international assistance for future development. However, even though rocket science has got its intrinsic complexities, still its military relevance is undisputed; hence, few states with the region are making their own efforts to develop this technology. States within the region are in a process of transition from being a technological adopter to becoming a core centre for innovation. Presently, very few Asian states have achieved the status of spacefaring nations, but increasing number of states is found investing into space technologies, and some of them are also aiming to work towards gaining spacefaring status.

China’s Space Programme

China’s space programme has been one of the most debated programmes in the recent past. Various analysts and academicians have written extensively on different aspects of this programme. This chapter offers a broad overview of the China’s space agenda. China being the most significant space player in Asia, various specifics of their space agenda are being discussed in detail in some of the other chapters of this book too. This chapter only makes brief mention of such space activities to avoid duplication.

It has become practically a predictable wisdom that China is the post-Cold War world’s emerging great power that poses the most intricate questions for the future of international security [1]. The last decade (2000-2010) has shown a substantial growth in China’s global power status. This has essentially happened because of the current and ‘projected’ economic transformation of China. The economic growth in China has accelerated along with increased integration with the global economy [2]. The progression of economic liberalisation has shown the world the magnitude of China’s labour force, creativity, and purchasing power; its commitment to development; and its degree of national cohesion [3]. Today, ‘rise of China’ (the term coined in 2003 by China’s political establishment is peaceful rise of China[92]) has become a part of a lexicon, and the global community understands that China has ‘arrived’ and will increasingly shape the global future, not just its own.

To a large extent, this has become possible because of the correct strategic choices made by China regarding economic liberalisation. A number of factors lie behind this new global perception of China, and Chinese investments in the field of science and technology are one of them. Particularly, China’s various accomplish­ments in the space technology arena have contributed remarkably towards making ‘rise of China’ a reality.

The present Chinese space policy represents long tale of struggle, both do­mestically and internationally, as a historically great power sought to return to international prominence. Today, China could be viewed to be standing at the pinnacle of international space prestige hierarchy, alongside Russia and the USA [4]. The Chinese struggle is commendable because in limited time it has succeeded in at least selectively closing some gap two ‘space superpowers’. However, China’s space policies have been found bit opaque. Also, there appears to be less clarity about China’s actual intentions in regard to the weaponisation of space.

During 2006, China celebrated 50th anniversary of its space evolution. Their space programme is an extensive arrangement for lofting Earth-orbiting satellites for a large number of duties, expanding its human space flight abilities and carrying out a multistep programme of lunar exploration and mission to explore Mars. At this time, five of their different operational systems are in service, namely, telecommunications, meteorological, Earth remote sensing, as well as recoverable satellites and technology demonstration spacecraft.[93] China has various other plans in space arena from establishing a space station to having missions to Moon and Mars. The first phases of many of these plans have already been successfully completed. Also, the dual-use nature of space technology is fast influencing the development of their military thinking and China is founding making intelligent investments into technologies having strategic significance.

China’s space programme could be said to have began in the late 1950s when the State Council implemented the ‘12 year development plan of science and technology’, which included rocket programming, radio electronics, automatic control and computer and semiconductor technology [5]. Over last five decades, China has established a well-balanced and coordinated infrastructure of space – related institutions, including research and development centres, launching sites, tracking, telemetry and command stations and centres and manufacturing plants. For last decade or so, China is on a fast track into space. The achievements and announcements about launch timetables, space laboratories, shuttles, space stations, lunar bases and Mars mission have swiftly transformed the Chinese space programme [6, p. 51].

The China’s space programme initially began with an agenda to promote its Maoist ideology. It has transcended that ideology’s decline to become a major political symbol of Chinese nationalism, an important economic sector, and an effective dual-use technology collaborator with the Chinese military. In twenty-first century, the programme has become more important than ever before to China’s communist regime [7].

China’s civilian and military space programmes are tightly interwoven. The China National Space Administration (CNSA-established in June 1993) carries out the management and operation of China’s space activities [8]. The organisational structure and evolution of China’s space programme is complicated and constantly undergoing change. Probably, the dual-use potential of the Chinese space pro­gramme dictates such changes.

China Aerospace Corporation (CASC) a subordinate to CNSA, this state-owned corporation directs five primary divisions responsible for building military missiles and civilian rockets: the Academy of Launch Vehicles (ALV), which designs and manufactures the Long March rocket series; the Academy of Space Technology, which design and manufactures satellites; the Academy of Solid-Fuel Rockets (ASFR); the Academy of Tactical Missile Technology; and the Academy of Cruise Missile Technology [7].

China’s space programme has withstood stages of rough beginning, reform and revival and untrustworthy international cooperation. Over the years, the Chinese space industry has been developed almost from a non-existent industrial infrastruc­ture and scientific and technological level to a modern business. After a struggle of five decades, China today is ranked amongst the fastest advancing countries in fields such as communication, remote sending, reconnaissance and navigation. They have made considerable progress in arenas like manned spacecraft, satellite recovery, multi-satellite launch by a single rocket, cryogenic propulsion, strap-on boosters, geostationary satellites, satellite tracking and control, remote sensing, communications and navigation satellites and microgravity experiments.3

China’s technological and military leadership, understanding the socioeconomic and strategic relevance of space technologies, and simultaneously appreciating the technological challenges involved, has prepared a roadmap for the future outlining plans for research, investment and development in this field. The dynamic nature of technology and strategic considerations of the nation-state demand the regular updating of such plans. Till date, China has published three White Papers on space issues in 2000, 2006 and 2011. They have been published by the information office of the State Council in order to map the activities in space. They highlight the progress made so far, spell out plans for the following 5 years, discuss developmental policies and measures undertaken till then, proposals for future, and, finally, to underline international exchanges and cooperation.

The first official White Paper (2000) primarily describes Chinese achievements in space since 1956, thus filling an information gap regarding the development of the Chinese space programme during these 45 years. Detailing the various technologies and areas in which China has made progress, the paper highlights the fact that the PRC was confident enough about its progress in space to release a White Paper, making public its overall status. The 2006 White Paper also analyses the success of the Chinese space programme. The paper shows that the Chinese government managed to achieve a number of stated goals. It also enumerated the plan for the

Table 7.1 Projections made in the White Papers

White Paper (2000)

White Paper (2006)

White Paper (2011)

Achieve marketisation and

Improve the carrier

Improving ground facilities for

industrialisation of space


receiving, processing,



distributing and applying satellite data

Complete manned space flight

Develop Earth

Expand value-added business in

system and scientific research in the field



satellite communication

Exploration studies in outer space

Develop satellite remote sensing applications

Work on lunar surface landing

Upgrade the level and capacity of

Achieve spacecraft

Explore the properties of dark

the launch vehicles

rendezvous and docking

matter particles

Improving the performance and

Achieve lunar

Continue work on space debris

reliance of the ‘Long March group of rocket launchers

orbiting probe

monitoring and mitigation and spacecraft protection

Realise manned space flight

Original and important achievements in space

Promote satellite application industry

Establish coordinated and

Continue with

Work on strengthening the

complete national remote

manned space

national space law and

sensing applications


improve related laws

Develop the application

Continue with lunar

Work on space industrial policies

technology for satellite navigation and positioning Space explorations centring on the Moon


guiding and regulating space activities

next 5 years. The third White Paper (2011) highlights the Chinese desire to achieve a Moon landing and establishment of space station. It also sheds light on Chinese ambitions towards a manned mission to the Moon.

Table 7.1 shows the projections made by the Chinese government in the three White Papers.[94]

The White Papers have also been used to list achievements made so far. Table 7.2 offers some details.

It is important to appreciate that even though these White Papers communicate that China’s rise as a spacefaring nation has been visible since 2000, but its efforts

Подпись: White Paper (2006) White Paper (2011)Подпись: Xichang and Taiyuan made progress 6. Research into space environment and also observation, reduction and forecasting of Space debris; and has developed the capability 8. to forecast the Space environment 9. 7. Launched the first lunar probe Chang’e-2 10. 11. Подпись: China’s Space Programme

Table 7.2 Achievements

White Paper (2000)

1. China has developed four types of satellites: recoverable, remote sensing satellites Dongfanghong (DFH), telecommunications satellites Fengyun (FY), meteorological satellites, and Shijian (SJ) scientific research and technological experiments satellites

2. First man-made satellite Dongfanghong I was launched in April 1970

3. By the year 2000, China had launched 47 satellites of various types.

4. Developed the Long March rockets independently; China conducted 63 launches and 21 consecutive successful flights between 1996 and 2000

5. Launched and recovered the first unmanned experimental spacecraft ‘Shenzhou’ in 1999

6. China explored the upper atmosphere with the help of rockets and balloons from the 1960s

7. By the mid-1980s, China began to utilise domestic and foreign telecommunications satellites and developed related technologies. It also began using navigation satellites of other countries

China added Earth resource satellites, Ziyuan 1.

(ZY) and navigation and positioning satellites,

Beidou 2.

2. Developed and launched 22 different types of satellites

3. Long March rockets made 24 consecutive 3.

successful flights

4. Research and development of the 120-ton 4.

thrust liquid/kerosene engine, while the development of the 50-ton thrust 5.

hydrogen-oxygen engine is in progress

5. Construction of three launching sites at Jiquan, 6.

Long March series of rocket launchers undertook with 67 successful launches sending 79 spacecraft into planned orbit Developed the Fengyun (wind and cloud), Haiyang (ocean), Ziyuan (resource), Yaogan (remote sensing) and Tianhui (space mapping) satellites

Initiated the development of a high-resolution Earth observation system

Launched 10 satellites for the Beidou system and provided

services to the Asia-Pacific region

Launched and developed the Shijian (practice) satellites

and small as well as micro-satellites

Launched the manned spaceship and also achieved space

docking between Shenzhou 8 and Tiangong 1, paving the

way for the establishment of the space laboratory and space


Building a new launch site at Hainan

Monitored space debris and provided early warning against


Removed aging GEO satellites out of orbit

Working on protecting manned space flight from space


in this direction had began much earlier. Since the 1950s, it has made steady investments in space sciences and technologies. Interestingly, against the popular perception, no blind political support was available to the Chinese technological community and the PLA in space arena. Leaders like Deng Xiaoping had their own views with regard to making investments in the space arena; Deng was not particularly keen to develop the so-called high-profile projects. Unenthusiastic about ideas regarding manned space capsule and the two-stage-to-orbit horizontal takeoff and landing reusable space shuttle, he did not grant permission to develop these programmes. It is only after Deng resigned as the head of the Chinese Military Commission in 1989 that the Chinese military was able to refocus its interest in this area.[95] Incidentally, the first Chinese White Paper giving details of the proposals for the manned mission and Moon mission was published in 2000, 3 years after Deng’s demise.

Post 2000, China has made considerable (visible) investments in the manned space flight programme. The programme has its roots in an ambitious project that was formulated in early 1992 and initially known under code name 921 [8]. CASC has general authority over manned space flight and Long March series rockets. Ultimately, however, the military (specifically the Second Artillery Corps) controls the Chinese space programme. Although specific efforts have been made towards separating the military aspects from civil/commercial aspects, China like Russia did not initially bifurcate its programme as did the USA [6, p. 60]. CNSA is specifically designated as Chinese counterpart to work with other international space agencies. In reality, CNSA personnel have been dual-hated with the China Aerospace and Technology Corporation [9].

China is capable of launching various types of satellites. China has developed an impressive range of launch rockets to support its military and commercial space assets.[96] Launch vehicle technology is one of the foundations of China’s ambitions space programme. With its Long March (LM) series of launchers, it has achieved a great deal of launcher autonomy. Long March series includes 14 kinds of launch vehicles and 12 types of carrier rockets. The first launch (LM-1) vehicle had successfully launched the first Chinese satellite 173-kg Dongfanghong I into orbit in 1970.[97] On Feb 25, 2012 China has successfully launched the 11th satellite for its Beidou navigational network, and it was the 158th launch of the Long March carrier rockets. During the year 2011, China has launched 19 rockets and 21 satellites into space indicating that the country’s space exploration is ‘highly intensive’.[98] China is developing one of its most powerful rockets to date—Long March-5—that would sport engines with the thrust of 120 ton and is expected to be operational by 2014. When operational, Long March-5 is expected to deliver up to 25 ton of payload, in to the low Earth orbit, and up to 14 ton into the geostationary transfer orbit, where most communications satellites are released after launch [10].

By 2017 China expects to make significant development with its Long March technology. Long March-5, -6 and -7 would be developed as non-toxic, low-cost, highly reliable, adaptable and safe rockets. The Long March-6 would be a high­speed launch vehicle that can put 1 ton into a sun-synchronous orbit, while the Long March-7 would have a maximum low-Earth-orbit payload capacity of 13.5 and 5.5 ton of sun-synchronous orbit payloads.[99]

Communication satellites are a high priority for China because of its commercial utility. The development of China’s communications satellites started at the begin­ning of the 1970s. China’s first experimental geostationary orbit communications satellite was launched successfully in 1984.[100] [101] China is successfully using such satellites for the purposes of TV transmission, education, long-range telephone and telegraph, data transfer in finance and air and railway traffic. Their communication satellites have been launched our various programmes which include Apstar series, AsiaSat series, SinoSat series and Zhongxing series. One of their most useful programmes in recent times is the SinoSat series satellite. The first satellite in this series is SinoSat-1 which was launched in 1998. The SinoSat-2 satellite was launched in 2006 but malfunctioned because it failed to deploy its solar panels and communication antennae. SinoSat-6 satellite which was launched successfully on Sep 5, 2010 now serves as a substitute for SinoSat-3 launched on June 1, 2007.11 Next-generation communication satellites are expected to carry C, Ku, Ka and L band transponders.

Chinese leadership understands the importance of dual-use nature of space technology. Their leader Mr Jiang Zemin on June 7, 1991, issued the instructions that no necessity exists to use separate military systems for civil use and military use. Communication is one such area having dual-use capability. It is obvious that China would have used/would be using its communication-related space assesses for strategic purposes. China launched its first military communication satellite in January 2000. This is supposed to be China’s first advanced technology spy satellite.

China uses space technologies for gathering electronic intelligence (ELINT), communications intelligence (COMINT) and imagery intelligence (IMINT). Chi­nese military is exploiting the importance of remote sensing technologies towards building information superiority. In these areas of intelligence gathering and reconnaissance, China is depending both on indigenous space capabilities as well as on commercially available international space satellite constellations. In regard to signals intelligence (SIGNT) China’s major investments are in modern aircraft platforms and not satellites.

It is interesting to note that China started with FSW (Fanhui Shei Weixing, Recoverable Test Satellite) satellite series initially more from the point of view of using it for military reconnaissance purposes. But, in the late 1980s, the design was employed for Earth resource photography and experiments in crystal and protein growth, cell cultivation and crop breeding. These satellites were also used in the role of recoverable satellites. Mastering and testing of this technology during early years of its space journey should have helped China for designing its manned space programme. It may be noted that China is the third country in the world to master the technology of satellite recovery. Between 1974 and 2006, a total of 24 FSW satellites in 6 variants were launched, of which 22 were recovered successfully. The programme ended in 2006 with the introduction of the new-generation data – transmission type remote sensing satellites, but the FSW satellite is still being presented as a platform for commercial and scientific payloads.[102] Currently, China is working towards developing new-generation photoreconnaissance satellite FSW series (1 m or less resolution).

Building satellites for the purpose of reconnaissance has been a key area of focus for the Chinese establishment particularly post 2000. It appears that the Chinese government has intentionally avoided publicity in this regard. From April 2006 to May 2012, 16 satellites in the remote sensing satellite (Yaogan) series[103] were launched by China. Officially, these satellites are meant for scientific, land survey and disaster management purposes. However, it is generally believed that since these satellites have either optical or synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors and hence a definite military utility. Some of the previously launched satellites in this series have been retired, and presently operational satellites are known to have a resolution of 1.5-1.0 m, almost matching the best in the world.

Navigational satellite system is another area where China has major plans for the future both commercial and military purposes. In early 1980s, China began to utilise other countries navigational satellites. It also developed an application technology of satellite navigation and positioning, which is now used for land survey and ship and aircraft navigation. China’s navigational programme has been discussed in detail elsewhere in this book.

Micro-satellite is one arena where the Chinese scientific community has got major interests. Since early 2000, China appears to be giving major emphasis to this technology. A Russian booster launched the first satellite in this category, Tsinghua 1, on Jun 28, 2000.[104] It was a joint project of Tsinghua University of Beijing and

Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, UK. It is a 50-kg bird, and its launch put China into the selected bracket of countries, which can design and operate micro and nano sized satellites. This success has implications for both China’s scientific programmes as well as for enhanced military satellite capabilities. It is equipped with CCD camera that can image objects up to 39 m in three spectral bands.

It is important to note that small satellites are capable of avoiding detection; they also have the potential to be used as ASAT (antisatellite) space mines. In April 2004, China had launched two new indigenously developed research satellites, including a nano-satellite (Experiment Satellite I and Nanosatellite I) weighing 25 kg. What the capabilities of these satellites are, however, and how much they are constrained by size, remain questions to be answered [9].

It has been reported that Experiment Satellite I transmits remote sensing data for mapping and Nanosatellite I was designed to perform unidentified technology experiments. Such small, cheap satellites could provide China with an easier path to attaining some space capabilities and provide the potential for asymmetric warfare in space. The cost advantage of micro-satellites could, if properly handled, allow China to compete at some levels with larger and more expensive US systems without having to match the US dollar for dollar [11].

China has developed a new generation of small satellite launch vehicles, Explorer I, which uses solid fuel. It has been designed to take small or micro – satellites into space and complement Long March group, the country’s large-scale liquid fuel space launchers. Explorer I will be able to carry loads weighing less than 100 kg. The low costs and high thrusts of solid fuel rockets make them an important factor in the commercialisation of the space industry [12].

China’s successful spacewalk was conducted during the Shenzhou 7 (SH-7) mission launched on 25 September 2008 (it was China’s third human space flight mission). A micro-satellite was released during this mission called the BX-1. This companion sat was a very small cube approximately 40 cm on a side and weighing around 40 kg. Technically, this satellite was to provide images of the Shenzhou seven capsule and demonstrate the ability to inspect the orbital module and conduct some limited proximity operations. It also carried out a data relay experiment. However, some observers have concluded that this satellite was meant to test some of the capabilities required for a co-orbital ASAT attack [13].

China had started preliminary work on advanced manned space flight in July 1985. The decision came against a background of vigorous international space activity the then US President Regean’s pet project ‘Strategic Defense Initiative’. The erstwhile USSR had programmes like Buran shuttle system and Mir and Mir-2 space station. Europe was developing the Hermes spaceplane. All this probably had motivated China to undertake projects like human space mission and building of space station.

In early spring 1986, a proposal for seven projects under Project 863 plans to accelerate Chinese technical development was made. Astronautics plan 863-2 included section 863-204 space transportation system, which would service the 863­205 space station. It was estimated that 2 years would be needed for concept studies. An expert group was established for the 863-204 shuttle. The final 863-204 Expert Commission report in July 1989 advocated building the manned capsule, with a first flight date of 2000. However, the report failed to impress the Chinese government. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping rejected this plan. Deng stepped down as Chairman of the Central Military Commission in 1989. In his absence, the Chinese military decided it could safely lend its critical support to a manned space programme. In January 1991, the Air Ministry established a manned space programme office. The final plan was approved on September 21, 1992, and Project 921 to create a Chinese manned space capability began in earnest.[105]

It took a decade’s preparation for China to realise its dream of Chinese visiting the space. By Oct 2003, China successfully launched and recovered its first manned space mission. China is the only third country in the world to send the man into the space. In its report on China’s military power, the U. S. Department of Defense has stated, ‘While one of the strongest immediate motivations for China’s manned space programme appears to be political prestige, China’s efforts will contribute to improve military space systems in [the] 2010-2020 timeframe’ [6, p. 52]. Various details about the Chinese human space programme and space shuttle programme are discussed in detail in another chapter. It is important to note that China has major interest in pursuing manned space technology, and this one arena is expected to remain their principal programme for the future.

Because of the closed political system, various actions by China are sometimes viewed with military bias. China’s first manned space flight might have been imaging reconnaissance mission. However, it is important to note that carrying out operations like imaging reconnaissance either by manned or unmanned space, vehicle is not is a good option. Even a simple satellite could do this job in a better fashion. Hence, it could incorrect to assume that such missions are carried out only for the purposes of imaging reconnaissance, and at the same time, indirect military benefits (spin-off technologies) of such programme cannot be ruled out.

China’s Shenzhou design is a replica of Russian design (Soyuz) but has some more additional features, which has more military relevance. Chinese craft consists of an orbital module, a re-entry vehicle that carries crew back to Earth, and a service module for propulsion and for performing retrofire sequence. But, unlike Soyuz, the Chinese module could detach from the re-entry capsule and remain in orbit for several months, acting as robotic mini space station, using its solar panels to power instruments and experiments. However, the unit is not a re-entry vehicle and burns up while entering the atmosphere [14].

PLA strictly controls the Shenzhou programme. One indication of Shenzhou military operations was likely electronics carried on nose of the Shenzhou 3 orbital module that functioned autonomously in space for 6 months following the return to Earth of the decent module after 7 days aloft in March 2002. As per few analysts, Shenzhou 3 mission could also have carried a significant electronic intelligence eavesdropping payload. The system could have recorded UHF and radar emissions applicable to a variety of military uses including ocean surveillance [15].

The extent to which this manned activity will translate into a military advantage for China remains debatable. Most benefits to the military from the manned programme will be indirect or a function of improved Chinese technical abilities, generally in an area such as computational analysis, systems integration, and miniaturisation [10]. It also could be argued that notwithstanding that both the US and Soviet militaries have been unable to identify important advantages of a man in space over unmanned systems, the Chinese seem determined to explore that premise for themselves, likely through the use of orbital module at some later date.

It is believed that the ultimate ambition for any nation-state could be to put a human on a different planet. One of the key (undeclared) agenda for China appears to be to challenge the US supremacy of undertaking manned Moon/Mars mission. The USA could be downplaying this idea since, during late 1960s, they have already succeeded in putting man on the Moon. However, the process of putting human on other planet still has significant ‘shocking’ potential, and China believes that this could increase their global status. A single act like this could bring them unparalleled prestige and even raise their stature to a ‘superpower’.

Understanding the difficulties (financial as well as economic) involved into embarking on challenging missions like Mars mission, China is looking for inter­national collaboration. On Mar 26, 2007 China and Russia had signed a landmark space cooperation accord, entitled the ‘Cooperative Agreement between the China National Space Administration and the Russian Space Agency on joint Chinese – Russian exploration of Mars’. One stipulation of the agreement was the construction and launch of the Yinghuo probe (a Chinese Mars exploration space probe) and its Russian counterpart, Fobos-Grunt. These probes were launched in space on Nov 8, 2011, by Russia. The 115-kg Chinese probe was to orbit Mars for around 2 years and carry out a study of the planet’s surface, atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetic field. However, this Russia mission failed, and China has decelerated the loss of probe on Nov 18, 2011.[106] Overall, China’s Mars plan is not expected to remain restricted to a single probe. The speculations are that the first uncrewed Mars exploration programme could take place around 2015-2030 and could be followed by a crewed phase in 2040-2060.

China has drafted a multistep programme for lunar exploration. By 2013, China space planners will be landing a rover on the Moon surface. In 2017, China’s lunar exploration plans call for robotic lunar sample return missions.[107] It is also expected that by 2020-2025, China could plan a manned Moon mission. China has successfully completed its first lunar mission which was launched on Oct 24, 2007 (Chang’e-1), and the mission got completed on Mar 1,2009. On Oct 01,2010, China has launched of its second lunar probe Chang’e-2. Various details of the Moon programme are discussed elsewhere in the book.

Most of the space missions are dual-use in nature, but there are few missions with only military applicability, and antisatellite (ASAT) mission is one of them. For many years, speculations were ripe in regard to China’s plan for space weaponisation. According to a 2005 Pentagon report, ‘PLA is building lasers to destroy satellites and already has beam weapons capable of damaging sensors on space based reconnaissance and intelligence systems. Consequently, China could blind the US intelligence and military space equipment systems vital for deploying US military forces in current and future warfare’.[108]

All known and unknown Chinese interests and speculations by many analysts for many years were put to the rest on Jan 11,2007 when China destroyed its own aging weather satellite (FY-1C) by firing a rocket towards it. The details about this and few other Chinese agendas indirectly implying their interests in space weaponisation are discussed elsewhere in this book. It is important to appreciate China’s ‘beliefs’ and ‘attitude’ in this regard. It is said that China is a keen follower of the President John F. Kennedy view that ‘whoever controls space [the universe] can control the earth’.[109] Space operations and warfare in space are important elements of what the PLA warfare strategy. PLA strategists are convinced that space is likely to be one of the natural domains of war and that war in space would become an integral part of other military operations in years to come. They expect that space would become the primary battlefield in future high-technology war. To do this, Chinese research institutes are advocating research into various types of laser weapons, particle beam weapons and other forms of directed energy and electromagnetic systems [16]. Hence, Chinese leadership (military or otherwise) is keen to remain prepared in this field and is making all overt and covert preparations to that effect.

Alternatively, China understand that the issues related to security of space assets, freedom of utilisation of space for civilian and military purposes and issues which are rapidly gaining importance like space debris removal constitute an important part of global debate on space security. They are not keen to be treated as an outcast in the emerging global space order. They understand as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, they need to remain engaged. China feels that their active engagement with international space community indirectly reflects their views on outer space issues. They are making efforts to remain engaged with the various UN mechanisms on multiple space-related issues. Their all three space White Papers resonate that they are keen to support multilateral international cooperative mechanisms on the peaceful use of outer space within the framework of the United Nations.

China is making all efforts to demonstrate that they are an active member of the international space community. They are participating in various outer space activities and cooperative ventures. In June of 2002, China, together with the Russian Federation, submitted to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva a working paper entitled ‘Possible Elements for a Future International Legal Agreement on the Prevention of the Deployment of Weapons in Outer Space, and the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Objects’ (CD/1679).20 In Feb 2008, China and Russia jointly submitted to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) a draft: Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT). In August 2009, China and Russia jointly submitted their working paper responding to the questions and comments raised by the CD members on the draft treaty.21 China is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), an intergovernmental organisation (a non-profit independent) with full international legal status with its headquarter at Beijing.

China’s commercial interests in space area are being looked after by China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) which was established in 1980. This company is mandated to provide satellites and offer commercial launch services. It is also expected to carry out international space cooperation and has some responsibility towards developing China’s space industry. CGWIC enjoys good reputation in the international aerospace industry, the financial community and the insurance circle. The company is actively involved in the international marketing of civilian products and services utilising space technology [17].


A multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology is a set of nuclear weapons carried on a single missile (intercontinental or submarine-launched ballistic missile). MIRV or multiple re-entry vehicles (MRV)[189] allow striking several targets in a single launch. This system is designed in such a fashion that the damage caused by several small warheads amounts much more than the damage caused by a single warhead. During the launch, the main rocket of this system pushes the set of warheads up in the atmosphere at different intervals. Each warhead can engage a separate target. Such missiles are multistage missiles where during its ballistic path every stage gets separated at a predetermined time after the launch. Along with every stage, one or more warheads get fired. A four-stage missile could fire eight to ten warheads on the targets. The post-boost vehicle which separates from the missile prepares for re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. During all these manoeuvres, warheads get fired after a gap of few seconds at pre-identified targets. The exact technology of firing sequence and how it actually happens has, for obvious reasons, always been kept a secret by states possessing this technology.

MIRV technology is not a new technology. Rather it is a technology of the 1960s and was first developed by the USA, followed by the USSR. It is not the purpose over here to discuss the details of MRIV technology. The idea is to bring to the fore its impact on the space domain. Here, parallels could be drawn with the technology developed and demonstrated by few Asian states when a single SLV is used for undertaking multiple satellite launches. There have been cases where a state has launched around eight to ten satellites in one go. The satellites launched by single SLV are positioned in different orbits in space, while in case of MIRV, the warheads re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and fire on the target. The other major difference is that a missile requires far greater accuracy. An SLV could afford putting a satellite into the orbit a kilometre higher or lower than planned. However, each warhead in MIRV should impact within 40 m of its target [20]. Hence, in overall analysis, the capability to undertake multiple satellite launches with a single rocket indirectly demonstrates a partial MIRV capabilities.

In Asia, China is believed to have achieved significant MIRV connected capa­bilities. In an attempt to safeguard its second strike capability, China is expected to have a programme to develop MRV/MIRV technology.

China has probably started its work towards development of MRV/MIRV technology in the early 1980s. During Sep 1981, China successfully delivered three satellites with one launch vehicle: two satellites were delivered in the nose cone and one was delivered during stage separation. This event may have been China’s first foray into the area of MRV/MIRV development. China’s MIRV development is further supported by a classified 1996 Air Force National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC) report which states that China has designed an upper rocket stage called the ‘Smart Dispenser’ (SD) for a new space launch vehicle ‘for the purpose of accurate and simultaneous deployment in orbit of two US-made iridium mobile telecommunications satellites’. The report concluded that ‘a minimally modified SD stage could be used to deploy multiple re-entry vehicles (RVs)’ and that ‘the SD stage can be considered a ‘technology bridge’ to a viable post-boost vehicle (PBV)’. The SD could be modified for use on DF-4 and DF-5.[190] They are known to have tested this technology during Dec 2002. However, it may be noted that China need not take a satellite launch route to test and demonstrated its MIRV capabilities.

Some unconfirmed reports have stated that as per a Japanese source probably China has successfully conducted the MIRV test on December 2002 using Dong-Feng 31 missile. This is apparently the first Chinese success of the MIRV missile test.

India appears to have interest in MIRV technology too. There have been statements from the DRDO during 2008 to that effect. Agni-III and its future variants, with a diameter of 2 m, will be the first Indian missiles having the potential to be equipped with MIRV.[191] Over the last few years, India has also undertaken few single SLV multiple satellite launches. One such significant launch was carried out by the four-stage vehicle PSLV-C9 on Apr 28, 2008. In this single launch, total ten satellites were successfully released. The total weight was about 820 kg with two main satellites weighing 690 and 83 kg, respectively. Rest eight were nano satellites.[192] Japan also has launch vehicles like H-II (a two-stage rocket) which could launch simultaneously two geostationary satellites weighing about 1 ton each.[193] However, since the state has no interests in the nuclear arena (till date!), developing such launch vehicle technologies could not be viewed as counterfeit to MIRV intentions.


Reaching outer space by launching satellites has got direct military connotations because the launch technology in regard to satellites could be easily translated into ballistic missile technology. And this is one of the reasons for limited international cooperation in this field. Various arms control regimes and other legal structures like Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in regard to transfer of technology have influenced the international space technology cooperation for many years. The concerns in regard to the attempts of satellite launch by Iran and North Korea have originated because of the ‘ballistic missile DNA’ of the satellite launch technology.

SLVs have linkages with missile delivery systems which are natural extensions of nuclear weapon programmes. All NWSs outside NPT are from Asia. For many years, this region has been the centre of gravity of global nuclear discourse. For all these years, issues related to space security have mostly remained subservient to nuclear policies. Few states in Asia are using space activities as a cover to demonstrate their nuclear/missile intentions. All such activities make nuclear and missile issues play a central role in various multilateral space deliberations.

Unfortunately, there is no globally accepted multilateral regime in missiles arena; hence, missile testing could go unchallenged if a state decides to do so. MTCR has been not able to prevent covert missile trade. In the past, big powers were successful to stall the genuine space aspirations of state like India by denying the cryogenic technologies by using the MTCR boggy, while on the other hand, the proliferation did take place in case of Pakistan and North Korea.

Space also plays a fundamental role in the multilateral missile defence debate because of its unique legal status. Missile defence capability also allows the state to develop/strengthen their ASAT capability. The Indian investments in this field and their goal to accommodate ASAT under this architecture will have regional implications. Also, various claims made by states like North Korea and Iran should be checked for authenticity, and cases of self-glorification needs be verified. At the same time, missile development should not be viewed as the only reason for states like North Korea and Iran to invest in space technologies. Doing a satellite launch would help them to expand their scientific trajectory, bring socioeconomic advantages and enhance prestige. Particularly, Iran’s space programme demon­strates a will to do more in this field and hence should not be bracketed as a rouge programme.

In years to come, the process of establishment of any international space regime would have to muddle through the nuclear and missile realities. The real challenge would be to establish a balance and realise strong and globally accepted space security architecture.

Mission Output

All these three states have already finished their first phase of experimentation, and few results are available in public domain. Japan has released a global lunar topographic map with a spatial resolution finer than 0.5° derived using data from the laser altimeter (LALT) onboard the Japanese lunar explorer Kaguya. India has also released many pictures taken by its craft of the surface of the Moon from various angles. All these images indicate that in comparison with the previous information available, this new set of information reveals unbiased lunar topography for scales finer than a few hundred kilometres. Also, the Japanese mission has revealed few interesting details about the volcanic activity on the Moon and new revelations about the far-side gravity field of the Moon.[244]

One of the greatest contributions of Chandrayaan-1 mission was the role it played towards discovering the water signature on the Moon surface in collaboration with NASA. Chandrayaan-1 also confirmed presence of iron in the lunar soil. The mission has successfully gathered data for a total of 30 solar flares apart from helping the manning of three-dimensional topography of the Moon.[245]

These three states have perhaps released the selective information to the outside world so far. Also, it would take some time to decipher the data received. In certain cases, they are also probably waiting for the confirmation of their assessment from the experts. It is difficult to judge at this point in time as to how much information would be made available for public consumption by these three states.