View Full Version : Be Wary Of China Space Ties

11-27-2009, 12:57 PM
"These ChiComs will Steal Us Blind And use our Technology to Attack Us in the Future !"

This autumn, China and the U.S. began moving toward greater cooperation in space. As China lifted a little more of the veil covering its space program, U.S. officials expressed a greater desire to work together in exploring space.

Presidential science adviser "Obama Czar "John Holdren floated the idea of increased cooperation in human spaceflight last spring. The Augustine committee raised the idea again, and Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao pledged to deepen space cooperation last week (see p. 33).

Unfortunately, there are ample reasons for the U.S. to keep its distance. While the U.S. explicitly decided to separate its space exploration activities from the military, China’s human spaceflight program is a subsidiary of the People’s Liberation Army. In that context, the risks of illicit technology transfer are considerable.

Closer relations create greater opportunities for China to acquire sensitive technology. In 2007, the U.S. launched the inter*agency National Export Enforcement Initiative, designed to combat illegal trafficking in sensitive technologies.

Within a year, charges were filed against 145 criminal defendants. Iran and China were the intended destinations for most of the known illegal exports. The Justice Dept. noted, “The illegal exports to China have involved rocket launch data, space shuttle technology, missile technology, naval warship data, [UAV] technology, thermal imaging systems, military night-vision systems and other materials.”

This is consistent with other Chinese activities, including a massive 2005 cyber-raid on NASA’s computers that exfiltrated data about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s propulsion system, solar panels and fuel tanks.

The U.S. should be concerned about such transfers for two reasons. First, they will aid Chinese military modernization, particularly in areas where the U.S. holds an advantage (see p. 29).

The Defense Dept.’s 2009 annual report on the Chinese military concludes, “The pace and scope of China’s military transformation have increased in recent years, fueled by acquisition of advanced foreign weapons, continued high rates of investment in its domestic defense and science and technology industries, and far-reaching organizational and doctrinal reforms of the armed forces.”

Second, China is a serial proliferator. Some technologies could make their way to countries of even greater concern, including Iran and North Korea. The deputy director of national intelligence for analysis submits an unclassified annual proliferation report to Congress, known as the “721 Report.”

The most recent report states, “Chinese companies have been associated with nuclear and missile programs in Pakistan and missile programs in Iran;

Chinese entities—which include private companies, individuals and state-owned military export firms continue to engage in [weapons of mass destruction]-related proliferation activities.”

Remaining wary of China’s intentions does not mean the U.S. should opt for isolation, but it does argue against close space cooperation.

Instead, the U.S. should seek to increase transparency about China’s intentions and capabilities through military channels, share scientific data about the solar system (but not the technology that collected the data), establish standards (such as limiting orbital debris creation) that serve mutual interests, and possibly coordinate some activities such as lunar or Earth science missions.

Existing international frameworks enable all of this, but China has resisted accepting the responsibilities that come with membership as a great space power.

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