China's Satellite Advances

 
 

China is in the process of developing sophisticated reconnaissance satellites that will allow it to support tactical military operations, a new analysis to be published by the Journal of Strategic Studies says.

‘China may already be able to match the United States' ability to image a known, stationary target and will likely surpass it in the flurry of launches planned for the next two years,’ notes Reuters, which gained an advance copy of the report.

‘The most immediate and strategically disquieting application is a targeting and tracking capability in support of the anti-ship ballistic missile, which could hit US carrier groups…With space as the backbone, China will be able to expand the range of its ability to apply force while preserving its policy of not establishing foreign military bases.’

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The timing of the report is interesting – and slightly awkward for Gen. Chen Bingde, the chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army. The same day Reuters reported news of the analysis, Chen was lecturing the United States over its military spending.

During a news conference with his US counterpart, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, Chen said: ‘I know the United States is still recovering from the financial crisis, and still has some difficulties in its economy. …It would be a better thing if the United States did not spend so much money on the military.’

China has, of course, been boosting defence spending at double-digit pace for a decade, but Chen was quick to argue that this was only a case of China making up for underinvestment. China's estimated military spending for this year is expected to come in at less than $100 billion, compared with the United States' about $550 billion.

Still, Mullen expressed concern over ‘some very specific capabilities…that are very focused on the United States’ capability.’

‘What I have spoken with my counterpart about before and certainly seek to discuss again,’ Mullen told reporters, ‘is a better understanding of what the strategic intent and the strategic thrust is.’

Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief