Consolidating its Space Power, Enhancing its Military Might

Lawrence Cooper
Corinne Contant

China is one of the largest countries in the world, with the world's largest population and one of the fastest growing economies. Despite its immense size, and recent economic and technological growth, China's infrastructure, standard of living, and access to services continue to make it a third world country. Over the past several decades, China's communist government, the People's Republic of China (PRC) has struggled with economic liberalization, and halting steps toward partial democratization. During this period, the PRC has also been gradually modernizing its military, moving towards greater technological prowess, and seeking to expand its influence on the world stage. The PRC is incorporating high technology into its economy and military, and developing space capabilities that have established its status as one of a handful of space-faring nations. As in the United States, many of China's space systems are dual-use in nature, intended to strengthen China's economy as well as to support its military capabilities.

The People's Republic of China shares borders with 15 other nations, including India, Mongolia, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and Vietnam. At over 9.5 million sq. km, China is slightly smaller than the United States, and suffers from a shortage of arable land. China supports a population of more than 1.2 billion, making it the world's most populous nation. Despite significant numbers of ethnic minorities, Han Chinese make up almost 92% of the population. 1
The current communist government has evolved considerably since the Chinese Communists, under the leadership of Mao Tse Tung drove the Nationalist Party, or Goumindang, from the Mainland to the island of Taiwan in 1949. The period following the formation of the PRC was one of great turmoil. Women received more rights, agriculture and basic industries were collectivized, while, at the same time, many capitalists and suspected capitalists were fined, had their property confiscated, or were executed. The Great Leap Forward program, which began in the late 1950s, was intended to spur industrial, agricultural and educational development. 2 The period from 1966 to 1976 (when Mao died), the Cultural Revolution, was an era of dramatic and often violent change in China. 3 It was a period of "re-education" on communist principles, social upheaval, and mass terror, from which China is still recovering.
In the late 1970's, China embarked on the Four Modernizations championed by Deng Xiaoping. This program focused on developing agriculture, industry, scientific and technological capabilities, as well as defense enhancement. These steps were meant to transform China into a modern socialist country by the end of the century. 4 The overall goal of the Four Modernizations is the pursuit of what the Chinese call "comprehensive national power," that is, the enhancement of China's economic, military and political influence.
Following his rise to power, Deng Xiaoping engineered several reforms, starting China's recent economic reconstruction and expansion. In part as a result of these reforms, China's gross national product grew at a pace of 9.2% in 1979 and continues to see high growth rates today. 5 Reforms have included the relaxation of state controls over the lives of private citizens, the opening of China's economy to foreign investments, and the growth of the private sector. While these reforms are significant, they only allowed incremental increases in political freedoms. Advances in free speech and other forms of open political expression have occurred in short stages, and the government has retained the option to pullback in order to maintain control. The 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square, after a flirtation with more liberal political expression, is a prime illustration of the Chinese leadership's commitment to maintaining strict control over its people, and over the political shape of the nation. 6

In accordance with the dictates of the Four Modernizations, and its quest for Comprehensive National Power, the PRC announced its central principles for security, which are: 1) common security for all nations in the region, 2) cooperative security in which nations refrain from trying to impose any set of values on others and with no nation (China, Russia, Japan, or the United States) being permitted to play the role of regional policeman, and 3) comprehensive security that includes economic and military components. 7 Chinese national security doctrine favors a balance of power in the region, and holds that long-term stability requires an improvement in relations between regional powers. China generally Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), because ASEAN unites its members in a way that weakens US regional influence, allows its members to maintain a common front regarding human rights, and allows China to play a confident, flexible, and responsible role in the area. 8 China has worked to maximize its flexibility in dealing with regional issues, by conducting political dialogues either via multilateral forums or via direct country-to-country talks.
The South China Sea and the Spratly Islands–China has a major economic and strategic interest in the South China Sea. Its actions have contributed to considerable tensions in the region. These tensions are largely focused on the Spratly Islands, a collection of small islands, atolls, and coral reefs. China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei all claim partial or total ownership of these islets. 9 Because of the rich fishing grounds and the possibility of lucrative oil reserves, the islands' location in some of the world's busiest shipping lanes, and the use of the islands as defensive outposts, ownership is disputed. China has incrementally advanced its presence in the island chain by building fortified outposts, based on the claim that a Chinese Imperial Admiral visited the island chain in the 15th century. 10 In 1988 China seized six reefs claimed by Vietnam with military force. In subsequent clashes seventy-seven people were killed and three Vietnamese ships were sunk. 11 China has also established a fortified presence on Mischief Reef, only about one hundred kilometers from the Philippines, and well within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone claimed by the Philippines. China's Spratly encroachment appears to relate directly to its aim of developing comprehensive national power. Beijing's presence enables it to influence sea lines of trade and communications, access to oil reserves, and enhance its status as a regional power.
Taiwan–The disputed status of the island of Taiwan has led to one of the greatest tensions in East Asia, and is one of the most contentious issues between the United States and China. The PRC has a long-standing desire to reclaim Taiwan as an integral part of its One-China principle. The tension level has oscillated the years since Mao and his forces drove the Nationalist forces from the Mainland. From the mid-1990s on, tensions have been slowly building. Tempers ran high during the 1996 Taiwanese Presidential election. At this time, China fired long-range missiles near Taiwan, prompting the United States to send two carrier task forces to the Taiwan Strait, to demonstrate US interests in Taiwan.
While the United States recognizes the PRC, not Taiwan, as the nation of China, it still maintains defensive agreements with Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act. 12 De facto recognition by the United States of, and defense commitments to, Taiwan provoke China's ire, for China sees such actions as interference in an internal issue between it and its "renegade province." In February 2000, China issued a White Paper on the "One-China" Principle outlining its argument for sovereignty over Taiwan. While the Chinese government stresses its desire for peaceful reunification, it also lists the circumstances under which it would take action. If any circumstance separates Taiwan from China, a foreign power occupies Taiwan, or Taiwanese authorities refuse to negotiate, China states that it will be "forced to adopt all drastic measures possible, including the use of force..." 13 This is widely taken to imply the possible use of nuclear weapons.
China particularly wants to prevent the inclusion of Taiwan in a US-fielded Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TMD) system. TMD would potentially provide Taiwan with a defense against China's threat of missile bombardment. China sees this and the US Congress's Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, as serious infringements on China's sovereignty, and unwarranted interference in internal affairs. 14 Recent statements by US President Bush that that United States "would do whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself" against a Chinese attack have increased China's concerns about US interference in Taiwanese-Chinese relations, and heightened US-China tensions. 15
Taiwan's Presidential election in spring 2000 did little to ease tensions in the region. After the victory of President Chen Shui-bian and his political party, China initially refused to negotiate with the new government. China has tried to force the reunification issue by holding out on talks until Chen agrees to the One China-principle. Beijing adopted this stance despite Chen's efforts to tone down his pro-independence rhetoric and his offers to discuss reunification with the Mainland. 16 Since the election, President Chen Shui-bian has tried to lower tensions by adopting more conciliatory language related to the one-China principle. However, the PRC has so far rejected Taiwanese overtures, retaining a hard-line stance that demands total and unconditional Taiwanese acceptance of the One-China Principle.
The Korean Peninsula–Although the fate of the Koreas does not directly impact China, it has a vested interest in preventing the re-emergence of violence on the Korean Peninsula. Not only has China long maintained a security pact with Pyongyang, it has also, in recent years, garnered considerable economic investment from South Korea. In 1996, trade between China and South Korea totaled more than $20 billion and direct investment amounted to over $1.5 billion. 17 North Korea's 1998 launch of a rocket over Japan exacerbated tensions in the region, and renewed Japan's interest in obtaining TMD technology. 18
China shares the desire for peace and stability in the Koreas. However, it does not necessarily see the need for reunification of the Koreas, and does not foresee such a reunification occurring for several decades, if at all. A unified Korea could become a power rival to China, while a more belligerent or uncooperative North Korea could increase the US presence in the region, and assure TMD deployment there. Should reunification occur, Beijing would prefer the resultant Korea adopt a Chinese, rather than a Western (i.e., US) orientation.
Japan–China and Japan share a long and contentious history. Beijing's focus on Japan derives both from this history and from the current special Japanese-US security relationship. The Chinese are still mindful of Japan's military hegemony and brutal conduct during World War Two. As well, Japan's security relationship with the United States ensures an additional US presence close to China. This diminishes China's ability to influence events in the region. Recent developments in North Korea, including its development of nuclear and missile technologies, have caused Japan to take a more active military role in the region, and have revived Japanese interest in increasing the island's military capabilities, even to the point of potentially developing an offensive military force. Japan, for example, has recently taken the step to develop a dedicated reconnaissance satellite system.
China will carefully monitor Japanese response to such possible events as a Chinese attack on Taiwan, or a North Korean attack on South Korea. The PRC does not want to see either Japan's expansion of its military or the development of TMD. 19 Either Japanese military expansion or Japanese pursuit of a stronger US military presence would counter China's influence in the region and potentially affect its designs on Taiwan. China appreciates the economic gains possible through an expanded relationship with Japan, and recognizes that Japan may be in a better position that China to influence the US development and deployment of missile defense. Any missile defense system (either TMD or national Missile Defense) would degrade China's abilities to project power in the region.
Russia–Russia and China have a long-term on-again off-again relationship. After the birth of the People's Republic of China, the Soviet Union provided significant support, including Communist doctrine and direct economic aid for Chinese industrialization, and substantial military assistance. However, the failure of China's Great Leap Forward program, and the resultant doctrinal disputes, sparked Sino-Soviet tensions. China's rejection of Soviet methods irked Khrushchev and threatened the Soviet claim to leadership of worldwide socialism. 20 The Soviet Union cooled to China, and shortly thereafter refused to provide nuclear assistance. Later, the Soviets withdrew all technical support from China.
The rift between the two countries lasted until the mid-1980s. During this time, the Chinese even prepared for possible war against the Soviet Union. Early in the Chinese nuclear program (1955-1960), China received significant assistance from the USSR. However, after the Sino-Soviet split (China ceased receiving military and economic aid in 1960) Chinese nuclear weapons were developed in large part to deter the USSR. After the thaw in Sino-Soviet relations in the late-1980s, the Soviet Union (and later, Russia) provided China with more modern arms, including advanced ships and aircraft. Russia has also provided China with considerable support for the Chinese space program, including the manned spacecraft Shenzhou. "Chinese astronauts have trained in Russia, and the Russians are believed to have provided technical assistance to Chinese scientists building the Shenzhou." 21 China is believed to be developing a new, larger rocket that will be able to carry larger payloads into orbit. Both the Russian Federation and other former Soviet republics such as Ukraine have collaborated in space. Russia and Ukraine's financial situations "makes them amenable to selling technology which is otherwise not available to the Chinese." 22 Recently Russia and China have established even closer political ties, taking stances in the UN together against the United States, opposing US (and NATO) actions in Kosovo, opposing US plans for missile defense, and generally trying to counter US influence in international affairs.

THE CHINESE MILITARY - STRUCTURE, DOCTRINE AND TECHNOLOGIES Over the past decade and a half, China's military has received increased funding, developed more advanced weaponry, and began operating more assertively, as seen by its actions in the Spratly Islands and in the firing of rockets near Taiwan. 23 Chinese reports indicate that between 1986 and 1997 the military budget rose 150%. At the same time, China has carefully observed and analyzed US military operations, and begun to shape its own Revolution in Military Affairs, intended, in large part, to counter US military superiority.
Beijing's military doctrine has undergone numerous reforms. The PRC's first school of thought, the "People's War", dates to Mao's era. This doctrine focuses on the enemy is a major power such as the United States, Russia, or Japan, who will attempt to invade and conquer China. Under the assumptions of the People's War, armed conflict would last for many years, and the Chinese military and leadership would fall back to the interior of the country, at which point, Chinese forces would work to wear down the enemy through a protracted war. 24
The second school of thought, Local War, originated in the 1980s and applies to battles against a non-superpower opponent. These battles would consist of small-scale conflicts on or near China's border, and would require rapid reaction forces. The targets would be the local forces of countries such as Vietnam, India, Taiwan, or the Philippines. 25 Local war encompasses many scenarios and applies to anything smaller than a global scale, requiring more modern technologies.
The third school of Chinese military doctrine is that the Chinese military must undergo a Revolution in Military Affairs, and prepare for a conflict with nations who have also undergone such a revolution. "A Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is commonly described as a fundamental change in the nature of warfare...not solely dependent upon the exploitation of technology." 26 The Chinese emphasis on an RMA has been heavily influenced by recent conflicts, such as Desert Storm/Desert Shield and the Kosovo Conflict, in which a combination of high technology weapons and modernized strategies ensured a speedy victory.
An RMA conflict would pit China against a highly advanced opponent such as the United States. Countering such an opponent would require asymmetric warfare. The PLA must use new technologies or use its forces in innovative ways in order to offset any adversarial advantage. Lasers could be used to blind satellite sensors, missiles could engage enemy forces further out, and viruses could cripple command and control functions. All these tactics would be used to attempt to level the playing field or give China the advantage. PLA forces would degrade the adversary's ability to attack China's forces by targeting the enemy's command and control infrastructure, using computer viruses, anti-satellite technology, and directed energy weapons. 27 China's forces would be networked together, and would seek to pre-empt enemy attacks, prevent logistics build-up, and reduce the enemy to fighting without its technological edge.
China has gone to great lengths to prepare for fighting a war under the RMA school of thought. The production of obsolete equipment has been curtailed, while funds have been invested in the research and development of new weapons. Beijing has also purchased advanced Western military equipment. In the summer of 2000, China's attempts to purchase to the advanced Phalcon radar system from Israel fell through when Israel, bowing to US pressure, cancelled the deal. However, in November 2000, Russia entered into talks with China to sell its version of AWACs to China. 28 Advanced systems such as the Phalcon airborne radar system and AWACs are part of the ongoing Chinese efforts to "enhance its overall command control and communciations and intelligence capability." 29 China's military modernization also includes a missile buildup. At their current rate of production, the PLA will have over 500 hundred medium-range missiles fielded (mostly targeted on Taiwan) by 2005.
China's approach the RMA includes a substantial focus on space-based technologies. Enhancements of its space capabilities are essential for fighting a war under the RMA, and also, for modernizing and improving its domestic economy and infrastructure. In order to develop a modern command and control infrastructure, Beijing has been installing fiber optic phone networks, has acquired satellite communications, and has been developing cellular phone infrastructure across China. Such efforts have considerable civilian and commercial, as well as military, utility. The modernization of China's domestic telecommunications system is a prerequisite for the continued growth of its economy, and can be done in a shorter time frame, and for a lower price through the use of satellite-based telecommunications (rather than conventional ground-based telecommunications infrastructure). China considers space-based systems an essential component of its military, however due to economic constraints generally pursues dual-use systems. This is due to China's limited high technology sector, and the increasing dependence on the economic benefits stemming from satellite technologies. The necessity of making satellite systems dual-use in nature places certain design constraints on these systems, and may limit China's ability to exploit satellite information technologies for military purposes.
Despite the doctrinal reforms currently underway, the PLA force structure is still largely reflective of the years spent preparing for possible regional war against the United States, or the Soviet Union, with an emphasis on the size of the force, rather than technological advantage. Total personnel currently number well over two and a half million (see table 1), but Beijing has recently announced a reduction of over 500,000 troops. 30 The PLA's arsenal consists of mainly 1960s-era equipment. China's most recent purchases from Russia to upgrade its military technology have included squadrons of Su-27 fighters, three Kilo-class submarines, and two new destroyers. 31 Recent purchases and indigenous technology development have gone far towards improving the PLA's warfighting capability. However, the Chinese Army does not yet seem to have modernized its training, or completed its implementation of advanced technologies. As Beijing can only afford to modernize parts of its immense military, only small elite sections have received the most modern equipment and training.

Table 1: PLA Force Structure, 199832
Missiles IRBM 80
Forces SLBM 12
Bombers 120
Personnel 1,900,000
Army Tanks 14,000
Artillery 14,500
Personnel 260,000
Navy Destroyers and Frigates 56
Submarines 63
Personnel 470,000
Air Force Fighters 2,956
Bombers 470

The Chinese army is not as formidable as its force of nearly two million might suggest, for it has yet to complete the modernization of its weapons or doctrine. China's nuclear capability helps make it a world-class power despite its largely third-world economy. This gives the PRC great regional strength and provides deterrence against nuclear attacks. Nevertheless, China's strategic weapons remain limited in capacity and fall short of targeting the entire United States. CHINA'S SPACE TECHNOLOGIES AND APPLICATIONS
China is one of only three nations with an independent heavy spacelift capability. The PRC's space program, like those of the United States and the USSR, is closely related to its development of missile technology. China's military and civilian space launch vehicle development began in the 1950s, concurrent with its construction of long-range ballistic missiles. 32 China's early efforts were significantly advanced by technology and knowledge transferred from the Soviet Union. Since that time, China has developed a broad-based space program that includes a family of rockets, numerous satellites, and a telemetry, tracking, and control network. Tremendous efforts, and multiple failures, are now paying off, as China is now a significant space power. It offers international commercial launch services and is currently working on human spaceflight.

The Cultural Revolution slowed the development of China's space program in the 1960s, and the country did not achieve its first successful satellite launch until April 24, 1970, using a CSS-3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which was modified for space launch by adding a third stage. This new rocket, named the Long March 1, carried a 380-pound satellite named Dong Fang Hong-1 (East Is Red 1). The satellite orbited for approximately 26 days, transmitting to Earth the song "The East is Red." After China's second successful launch of a satellite on March 3, 1971 using the Long March 1, China set out to develop a more powerful rocket, the Long March 2.
China successfully launched the Long March 2C on July 26, 1975, placing its third satellite into orbit. During the balance of the 1970s, China launched nearly a dozen satellites on the Long March 2, many of which were undoubtedly for military purposes. However, nearly half of these launches were unsuccessful, resulting in the loss of several payloads. The Long March 2 and its derivatives are the primary launch vehicles used by China today, in both its military and civilian space programs. In order to meet space launch requirements for heavier payloads and higher orbits, China has over the years markedly improved the performance of the Long March rocket.
China recognizes the importance of outer space, not only for its utility to the military, but also for its commercial potential. China conducts nearly all of its own launches, using the Long March family of rockets, developed specifically for launching communications satellites into geosynchronous orbit. China is believed to be developing a new, larger rocket that will be able to carry heavier payloads into orbit. Such a rocket might depend on cryogenic liquid propellant engines, possibly the RD-120, one of which was acquired from Russia during the 1990s. 33 Difficulties with the development of the new engines for this rocket may have prompted China to focus on modernized versions of the Long March rocket that would utilize improved strap-on boosters to achieve greater payload-to-orbit capability.
While the Long March 4 was intended to launch geostationary communications satellites, flaws in its design have limited it to launching meteorological satellites, for military and civilian purposes, into sun-synchronous orbit. 34 China's attempts to modernize its Long March rockets have met with limited success, as the Long March 2E has suffered a series of in-flight failures. The December 1992 and January 1995 failures resulted in the destruction of two Hughes-manufactured satellites. Two years after the first successful launch of the Long March 2E, China successfully launched the Long March 3A, a cheaper higher performance rocket that would better meet both its military and commercial geosynchronous launch requirements. The Long March 3A was the first of a family of Long March 3A, 3B and 3C rockets.
China entered the commercial space launch market in the mid-1980's, when the lack of available U.S. commercial space launch capacity forced satellite manufacturers to seek alternative launch providers. Although the Soviet Union had the capacity to launch commercial satellites, U.S. policy at the time would not support the launch of U.S.-manufactured satellites on Soviet rockets. The European consortium, Arianespace, offered the Ariane 4 rocket, but had no extra capacity. This left China as the most likely alternative for US commercial interests seeking to launch geosynchronous communications satellites. The Reagan Administration also saw the opportunity to counterbalance Soviet influence in Asia. Thus, in 1988, President Reagan agreed to allow China to launch US-manufactured satellites on the condition that China sign three bilateral agreements on competitive pricing, liability, and the protection of US technology. 35 Despite export control and technology transfer provisions in early US-China agreement, there have been recurrent accusations of illegal technology transfer from the United States to China.
China's relative success in launching its own satellites not only led it into the commercial satellite launch market, but also shaped developments of China's launchers. To enhance the marketability of its launch services, as well as to develop its own space launch capabilities, China developed a rocket that could provide heavy-lift capabilities to low earth orbit (LEO). China was slow to successfully develop an indigenous Chinese kick motor to place heavy payloads into geosynchronous orbit; thus, early customers had to depend on Western-manufactured kick motors. This further complicated the export control issues linked to Chinese launches of Western (particularly US) satellites. China later developed its own family of kick motors.
China's first commercial launch of a US-manufactured communications satellite occurred on April 7, 1990. The Asiasat (a Hughes HS 376 model satellite) was launched into orbit aboard a Long March 3 rocket. Since then, in addition to their military launch schedule, China has attempted 28 launches of Western-manufactured satellites. Of these satellites, 27 were US-manufactured. The only successful launch by a non-U.S. manufacturer was the French-manufactured Sinosat, launched successfully on July 18, 1998. Twenty-three of China's attempts twenty-seven attempts to launch US satellites were successful. China's involvement in the commercial launch market has been marred both by the Long March's less-than-ideal reliability and by export control and technology transfer issues with the United States.


China is believed to be developing space and ground-based anti-satellite laser weapons. Such weapons would be of considerable value for the control of space and space-based information services. China also appears to have the technical capability to develop direct ascent anti-satellite weapons, especially given the assistance of Russian technicians and technology. Some experts believe that China "seems to have the requisite quantity and quality of launch and nuclear resources to produce an ASAT weapon in the near future." 36 With ASAT capabilities, China "could dominate space activities against military and commercial space satellites that might interfere with regional dispute on their borders. The development and visible operation of ASATs may serve as a source of national prestige to bolster the current government's position internationally and domestically." 37
China has developed a space-based anti-satellite weapon whose name translates as "parasitic satellite" or alternatively "piggyback satellite." Sources within the Chinese government have claimed that the Small Satellite Institute, part of the Chinese Academy of Science, has completed ground testing of a nanosatellite weapon. Supposedly this "parasitic satellite" can orbit close to an enemy satellite and then "lock onto it." 38 The satellite remains passive until needed and can disrupt or destroy the target satellite. The entire system consists of three components: several microsatellites, a mother ship, and the ground control system. China plans on carrying out on-orbit testing in the coming year or two. While China has developed microsatellite technology with the University of Surrey and has developed the ability to deploy multiple satellites from its Long March rockets, it is not clear that they have developed the technology to build satellites as small as they claim nor the command and control capability to rendezvous a parasitic satellite with a target.
China has its own photoreconnaissance and meteorological satellites, and may also possess some electronic intelligence satellites. China's photoreconnaissance satellite is called the Fanhui Shi Weixing (FSW) or Recoverable Test Satellite. The first version of the satellite was successfully launched on November 26, 1975, using a Long March 2C rocket. The current version of the Recoverable Test Satellite uses a recoverable capsule similar in concept to those used in the early US Corona program. These satellites have a short lifespan of several weeks. Their systems seem limited to optical, optical-electronic, and infrared sensors. 39 While the resolution of these satellites-on the order of 10 meters-is fairly low, it is sufficient for tracking ships at sea and detecting large military units. This satellite provides China with some limited ability to photograph US military installations, and to monitor Taiwanese activities. It is somewhat difficult to distinguish between FSW satellites flown for civilian, earth resources missions and FSW satellites flown for reconnaissance missions.
Interestingly, it was through these reconnaissance satellites that China achieved its first success in the commercial market. In 1987 the French company Matra contracted with China to place a scientific payload in orbit, using a Long March 2C rocket. The French scientific experiments were launched on August 5, 1987 aboard a converted FSW. The recoverable capsules of China's reconnaissance satellites made them an ideal platform for certain micro-gravity experiments.
The FSW-2 is China's current and enhanced version of this satellite. The FSW-2 is larger than the FSW-1 and has a longer on-orbit life. The FSW-2 military reconnaissance satellite has been launched three times since 1992, the most recent one in October 1996. China also announced that it is going to deploy a new, more capable military reconnaissance satellite. The most recent Feng Yun satellite was launched June 25, 2000. 40 In the near future (the first launch is predicted sometime in 2001), China is expected to introduce its third generation of imaging satellite, the FSW-3. This satellite "is expected to be a recoverable system with a one meter resolution. China's Academy of Space Technology (CAST) engineers have also conducted design work on a tactical imagery system and associated mobile ground receiving stations. The system is based on small satellite technology, uses a charged coupled device (CCD) array, and, when operating in a 700-kilometer sun synchronous orbit, is designed to have a five meter resolution." 41 When operational, these systems will represent a significant advance over current Chinese capabilities.
China has developed two different types of meteorological satellites for military and civil purposes, known as Feng Yun (Wind and Cloud). The FY-1 series of weather satellites, first launched in 1988, are polar-orbiting. However, these satellites have suffered a series of on-orbit failures. One of China's recent ventures in remote sensing has been the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS). This satellite focuses on environmental Imagery, and carries several sensors, including an infrared multi-spectral scanner. The first satellite, launched in 1999, is currently on-orbit, and both a second launch and imagery sale are planned. CBERS represents a technological advance for China because these satellites employ charge coupled devices, and transmit their imagery back to earth.


China has also, since the 1950s, conducted research into placing astronauts into orbit, and appears close to achieving that goal. Since the 1980s, China has begun to develop plans for space shuttle-like spacecraft, recoverable capsules, and a space station. China has signed inter-governmental agreements with Russia in 1992 and 1994 that established cooperative activities in human spaceflight. In 1996, two Chinese astronauts began training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, in Russia. "The Chinese have indicated that a Sino-Russian cosmonaut exchange is possible once they have a piloted spacecraft in orbit. Russian sources have said that it will be the Russians who build a controllable spaceship in China and provide active cooperation toward China's launching a 20-ton spacecraft into orbit." 42 In January 2001, China successfully orbited an unmanned version of their Shenzhou-2 capsule. Shenzhou-2 reportedly carried live animals, and represented an important step towards human space flight. There are speculations that "if Shenzhou-3 is as smooth a flight as Shenzhou-2 seems to have been, perhaps they will fly their first two 'Taikonauts' [Chinese astronauts] in Shenzhou-4 during 2002.'" 43 China is the only major space power not engaged in the International Space Station (ISS), however, future involvement is not out of the question. China's space-related activity level, actual or projected, is kept just high enough to position China for future consideration for inclusion on the ISS. Chinese leaders have indicated interest in ISS participation but have stressed that the time is not yet right, because of shortages in funds and still-limited technological ability.

For years China has relied on the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) navigation satellites. China has begun to reduce this dependence with the recent launch of own navigation satellite system, known as Twin Star or Beidou. It recently launched a two-satellite regional positioning satellite system called Beidou ("Northern Dipper"). These two geostationary satellites, launched in October and December 2001, are less capable than GPS or GLONASS, but give China its first autonomous satellite navigation capability. 44,45 Chinese officials have stated that China is working on a more complex, global navigation system using a larger number of satellites in various orbital planes. 46,47 The Twin Star/Beidou positioning system program uses two satellites in geosynchronous orbit for positioning, messaging, and timing services over China and nearby regions. The Twin Star system represents China's attempt to decrease its dependence on the United States' GPS and the Russian GLONASS navigation satellites. China has reportedly also recently approached Russia with an offer to buy or fund, the GLONASS system for approximately $1 Billion. 48 A fully operational GLONASS system requires 21 satellites with three on-orbit spares, but the financial crisis in Russia has reduced the number of operational satellites currently on orbit, thereby degrading the system's capability.

China's vast geographic expanse and mountainous terrain makes it difficult to field a conventional 20th century ground-based telephone system. Not only is it less expensive to develop a telecommunications system with space-based infrastructure than to lay ground lines, but doing so allows the development of militarily applicable technologies and expertise. The desire to improve domestic communications infrastructure, and overcome the challenges posed by China's terrain, led to the desire to place geostationary communications satellites into orbit.
China's first communications satellites program began in the early 1970s, and was based on Western technology. All of these satellites were designed for military purposes at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), but have been dual-use in nature. Until 1984, China relied mainly on Intersputnik and Intelsat satellites for its civil domestic and international communications. Today, three public satellite operators in China provide telecommunications: ChinaSat, Sino Satellite Communications, and China Orient Telecommunications Satellite (ChinaStar).
Since the beginning of its domestic communications satellite programs, China has suffered a string of problems with the performance of its communications satellites, as well as with the rockets designed to place those satellites into orbit. China's difficulties in building and placing reliable communications satellites into orbit has created serious gaps in its satellite communications capabilities, both for civilian and military purposes. China has addressed the greatest part of its satellite communications requirement by leasing communication channels on Western-manufactured communications satellites. Today, approximately 80% of China's communications satellites are derived from foreign sources. 49
China's second-generation communications satellites were the Dong Fang Hong-2 ("The East is Red") series. On April 8, 1984, the second launch attempt successfully placed a communications satellite into orbit. A third DFH-2 satellite was successfully launched in February 1986, capable of covering the entire country and used for transmitting TV programs to remote areas. In 1988, China launched an improved version of this satellite, known as the DFH-2A. These satellites were able to handle five television channels and 3,000 phone calls simultaneously. The first three of these satellites were later renamed "Chinasats" by China, and were successfully launched twice in 1988 and once in 1990. The DFH-2As were the first Chinese satellites equipped with full communications functionality.
The third generation of Chinese communications satellites (DFH-3) represents China's most modern communication satellites. The DFH-3 satellite is designed to have an 8-year on-orbit life. China's second attempt to launch a DFH-3 satellite, on May 11, 1997, successfully placed the satellite into a geosynchronous orbit. China has reportedly suffered problems with the satellite. China is reportedly developing a satellite direct broadcasting system, the DFH-4. This satellite, under development since the mid-1990s, would be able to which can transmit data to users without the need for ground station re-broadcasting. 50 Such a satellite would have both civilian and military uses, for it could broadcast television programs directly to users, and also "offer a capability for distributing information to the lowest echelon in a battlefield if this technology were adapted to military applications." 51
China is beginning to enhance its military communications systems, introducing data relay satellites which "will allow China's space sensing platforms to pass data to a ground station without being within line of sight of a ground station." 52 One militarily-important new satellite, the Feng Huo-1, launched in January 2000, is part of "the Qu Dian C4I system, China's first integrated command, control, communications, computer and intelligence system (C4I). The new Qu Dian system, gives the Chinese military new capabilities for coordinating and supporting its growing terrestrial forces..."53 While ensured military access to satellite communications is essential for China, the nation is likely to prefer dual-use satellites to dedicated military satellites.
As China had limited communications satellite construction capabilities, it has sought more reliable and technologically advanced Western components. Several US companies marketed their communications satellite technologies to China. In 1995, a Memorandum of Agreement between Loral and China Aerospace Corporation offered China direct broadcast satellites, regional mobile satellite services systems, and the joint development of an advanced high capacity communications satellite. Under this agreement, Loral would provide design and technical support, while the final integration of the satellite was to occur in Germany or China. Hughes and Loral competed for the Asia-Pacific Mobile Telecommunications (APMT) satellite. APMT is a Singapore-based, Chinese controlled company. At least 51% of APMT is owned by Chinese Government agencies. Because of its relatively limited technology and satellite failures, China has retained a certain dependence on Western-manufactured communications satellites.
China has acquired very small aperture communications terminals (VSATs) that can be used for military as well as civilian satellite communications. VSATs are used to transmit voice, data, video, fax, and computer-to-computer communications between multiple users. Their small size allows easy transportation between different locations and assembly in remote areas. VSAT networks could improve China's military command and control capabilities, by allowing mobile, reliable communications virtually anywhere.

History of China's Domestic Communications Satellite Launches:
Chinese Satellite Date Chinese Rocket Result
DFH-2 Jan. 29, 1984 Long March 3 Rocket Failure
DFH-2 Apr. 8, 1984 Long March 3 Success
DFH-2 Feb. 1, 1986 Long March 3 Success
DFH-2A Mar. 7, 1988 Long March 3 Success
DFH-2A Dec. 22, 1988 Long March 3 Success
DFH-2A Feb. 4, 1990 Long March 3 Success
DFH-2A Dec. 28, 1991 Long March 3 Rocket Failure
DFH-3 Nov. 29, 1994 Long March 3A Satellite Failure
DFH-3 May 11, 1997 Long March 3A Satellite Problem

China's growing familiarity with, and use of, space-based technologies have numerous applications and benefits. Such technologies will allow China to enhance domestic services and infrastructure, provide enhanced military capabilities to its armed forces, and gain greater prestige and influence in the Pacific Rim. The PRC's development of, or access to space technologies will strengthen it militarily, adding to China's ability to implement its Revolution in Military Affairs. This will enhance the PLA's ability to project military power and perform precision strike operations, and, thus, will strengthen China's regional hegemony.
The enhancement of China's space-based technologies and its ability to apply these technologies is likely to allow China to demonstrate its leadership and power, and position itself as a technologically advanced nation. China's development of human spaceflight would illustrate an impressive technological ability and contribute to a significant enhancement of its prestige. "China's ambition to place crews into space is spurred by a desire to be taken seriously as a major space power." 54 China's expansion of satellite communications ability enhances the services it provides its citizens, and allows it to improve command and control of its military forces. Increased satellite communications capabilities could also allow China to market telephony and data services to neighboring countries, thus maximizing the economic benefits of space technologies.
In the modern battlefield, space technologies, either solely military or dual-use, are essential to victory. Beijing's careful analysis of the Gulf War and the Kosovo conflict, have brought an awareness of how space-based technologies can enable precision attacks, command and control, and enhance battlefield intelligence. In order to minimize its economic burden and sidestep its technological limitations, China has incorporated dual-use technology, acquired on the open market, into its spacelift, meteorological, and communications programs. One example of the PRC's use of dual-use systems is China's incorporation of Global Positioning technology into its military structure and technology: troops, aircraft, and missiles now employ this US technology. China's remote-sensing and satellite communication systems depend heavily upon dual-use, commercially developed and/or available technologies. For example, cooperation with Brazil on the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) program has allowed the two countries to pool their resources and develop more advanced multi-spectral imaging. 55
China's RMA and its economic development goals necessitate access to advanced technologies. To achieve the RMA, and to field the futuristic forces this doctrine envisions, Beijing must acquire lasers, anti-satellite weapons, and better missile guidance systems. China is painfully aware of the limitations of its current technology and is willing to buy the technology it cannot master. While China cannot purchase all of the technologies it seeks, it has been able to purchase significant amounts of technology (or key components) and has been able to gain additional technology through different modes of technology transfer. Dual-use technologies are well suited to China's current level of development. Such technologies can be purchased openly until domestic capabilities are improved. As well, Chinese domestic pursuit of dual-use technologies will allow the enhancement of the military, without removing scarce resources from essential civil economic and infrastructure development.
China's technical deficits have led to a dependence on several forms of technology transfer. China, at once, wants independent, and maximally technically advanced capabilities. As it still lags in certain advanced militarily relevant technologies, China has developed other mechanisms for meeting its needs. China's technology transfer efforts represent an effort to maximize access to top-of-the-line technologies while minimizing dependency on any one foreign nation.
The first mode of technology transfer is the explicit purchase military hardware. China has purchased planes, munitions, and weapons components from Russia, Israel, European nations, as well as from several US defense contractors. The second mode of technology transfer has been the transfer of advanced civilian technologies from Europe, Israel, Russia, and so on (US transfers of this sort are grouped under the third category). China has begun to buy, or develop with significant foreign assistance, satellites, telecommunications equipment, and computer technology. A significant amount of technology has been transferred from Russia to China. In 1995 "China purchased upper-stage rocket engines" [from Russia]..."There are also unconfirmed reports from 1995 that Russia allowed China to recruit an entire cruise missile research and development team." 56 The legal transfer of technologies (civilian and military) significantly improves (1) China's current infrastructure and technological capabilities; (2) China's knowledge and ability to carry out similar future projects independently; and (3) China's ability to transfer aspects of civilian technologies to military uses.
A certain amount of advanced civilian and dual-use technology has been transferred from the United States to China. Some of this technology transfer occurred following the launch failures of several US made satellites on Chinese rockets. Specifically, the launch failures involve a 1995 Hughes satellite and a 1996 Loral satellite. Through consultations following the launch failures, "it is likely that the Chinese gained militarily applicable technical information and know-how." 57 The information transferred to China may have "improved the reliability of PRC rockets useful for civilian and military purposes. The illegally transmitted information is useful for the design and improved reliability of future PRC ballistic missiles, as well." 58 An example of this type of technology transfer is the PRC's alleged theft of "classified U.S. information about the neutron bomb from a US national weapons laboratory."59 While it is difficult to estimate exactly how much militarily relevant information China has actually obtained from US sources, it is likely that a certain amount of technology transfer has occurred, and has potentially bolstered China's military and space-based technologies.

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