Pentagon Official: China Working Toward 'Space Great Power Status'

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September 2, 2020

A top Pentagon official announced on Tuesday that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army is building its capacities toward "space great power status."

"When you listen to the Chinese Communist leadership—particularly Xi Jinping, who serves as the core of the party—he’s outlined very specific requirements and expectations," Chad Sbragia, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, told the Washington Free Beacon. "Xi's done the same in terms of having space great power status—and that’s being a space great power by every measurable yardstick that you can throw out there, not least of which is capacity for their military."

Sbragia's comments came at an American Enterprise Institute event rolling out the 2020 China Military Power Report. The report offers a bird’s-eye view assessment of China's military capacities, as well as its long-term strategy and trajectory. It also details Beijing’s development of a militarized space program. 

"The PRC’s space enterprise continues to mature rapidly. Beijing has devoted significant resources to growing all aspects of its space program, from military space applications to civil applications such as profit-generating launches, scientific endeavors, and space exploration," the report reads. "Its primary target is the United States."

Beijing is taking active steps toward achieving "space great power status." It now boasts the second-largest fleet of satellites, regularly works with Russia on weapons development, and has launched a series of rockets and rovers as it takes aim at Mars. 

The report also details China’s plans to have its own space station able to house astronauts by 2022 and a lunar research station by 2025. Significant portions of China’s missile warning and military communication networks are also planned to reside in space.

Such efforts have required the full thrust of Chinese Communist Party investment and commitment.

"They’ve chosen to make those investments, and they’ve chosen for a reason, which is that their aspirations are not small," Sbragia told the Free Beacon. "They have a very clear and definitive aspiration for becoming a global power preeminent by all measures, at least in terms of status, to any others. And space is not the least of that."

Washington has taken notice of Beijing's significant advancements in space and continues to fine-tune its measures against Chinese space supremacy. 

President Donald Trump’s 49-point agenda for a second term includes launching the Space Force in earnest, after approving its creation in the president's first term. Meanwhile, the landmark 2018 National Defense Strategy explicitly outlines space as a potential "warfighting domain," calling for extensive investment in space-facing defensive capabilities.