Misperceptions about misperceptions on Chinese space development

Recently, I was made aware of an editorial in The Diplomat entitled “Are China and the US Set for a Showdown?”


After you guys read that, come back to my commentary here….

Okay. The article focuses primarily on resource utilization and “space property rights”. The goal of this article is to highlight “ground truth” within China and to counter some “mis-conceptions” of US views.

However, before the readers of this article think that we have been getting it all wrong, take a breath…this article lacks considerable amount of context necessary to properly inform the readership of The Diplomat on how China organizes itself for space development and other space activities. As I have written in other forums and journals, China does not have the same framework of government, university and commercial sector divisions that we have in the West, especially the United States.

Look at who they conducted interviews for “ground truth” on how China views space, resource development, and “international cooperation.” They conducted interviews with “Chinese experts from a number of respected Chinese research institutions: Tsinghua-Carnegie Center; Peking University; Pangoal Institution; China Reform Forum; China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations; Beijing Technology Institute, in Beijing and Shanghai Institutes of International Studies; Tongji University, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences; and Fudan University in Shanghai.”  Research insitutions, universities mostly. Why should readers step back? The comments and views of these institutions do not reflect the views of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the government. These are the people who control everything from the military to business plans for the economic and political system. if you want to do something and the CCP does not approve, it goes nowhere.

In China,  according to Le Wang, from  the Chinese Academy of Sciences, that the research centers and universities are at the bottom of the organizational chart that begins with The Central Committee and State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Between universities and the State Council, are party leaders and departments/ministries, that serve to guide and direct the policies and directives of the CCP.

This article makes it sound like the Chinese are interested in cooperation and global governance of space development and resource utilization from a bottoms up approach. If you look into the government ran entities such as China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) going back years, space development has been a part of their plan to support government strategy. Space resource utilization continues their pursuit of Earth based resource utilization (such as rare earths and other metals) and movement of this activity to space for the benefit of the Chinese people. This includes mining and space solar power stations (see my old article below)


So while it seems that they are so open to new ideas and working with other nations for global work, needs to be framed in the guise of Chinese viewpoints. It does not matter if the lower level scientists want to engage more with the US and other nation states, but if it does not match with the strategy of the CCP and its overall China Dream push, don’t expect it to be a bottoms up approach. The Chinese space efforts are about “national strategy” and not international togetherness.

One other bit that has been a common theme in my research into Chinese space efforts, is their lack of transparency and their use of deception to competition. I find it very strange that all of a sudden, the Chinese are completely open to their policy and strategy is for resource utilization other than what is published in white papers and five year plans. Transparency is counter to Chinese strategic culture. Its a sign of weakness to highlight strengths or plans that could create advantage.

So I encourage readers to do a little homework on how the Chinese society and government are structured, please take this few examples into consideration.


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