China seeks to become an international leader in space, or what it terms a “space power in all respects.” In this role, Beijing aspires to lead international space-related innovation and exploration and establish an advanced system of infrastructure to serve its space sector. China has suffered some setbacks on projects crucial for the progression of program milestones, such as its heavy-lift launch vehicle program, and still lags behind the United States in its human spaceflight and space station program. Nevertheless, China’s space program is a source of national pride, and its consistent high level of political support and funding ensures progress toward establishing itself as a space power. In 2003, China joined the United States and Russia as a member of the exclusive group of countries to have conducted human spaceflight, and since then it has nearly completed a new, rival global navigation satellite system (GNSS)—set for completion in 2020—and demonstrated its willingness to undertake high-risk, high-reward missions, as reflected by its historic landing on the moon’s far side in 2019. China is likely to achieve future milestones in areas where it is lagging behind international standards on shorter timetables than when the United States accomplished similar missions.
This report examines China’s space goals and national space strategy; its progress toward those goals, including an examination of China’s progress in its advanced launch vehicle, long-term crewed space station, and lunar exploration programs; and the primary entities involved in setting and implementing its space policy. Finally, the report assesses the implications of China’s space program for the United States and its continued leadership in space.
The Trump Administration cited China as a major reason behind its decision to announce U.S. intentions to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia. China is not a party to the INF Treaty, which has allowed Beijing to rapidly expand its missile arsenal as part of a military strategy designed to counter U.S. and allied military power in Asia. China has consistently refused to accede to the accord and expressed its opposition to U.S. withdrawal, positions that implicitly recognize the advantages Beijing derives from being unconstrained by the treaty’s limits. This report explains the importance of China’s ground-launched missiles to Beijing’s overall military strategy; surveys Chinese reactions to the potential U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty; and assesses both the positive and negative implications of U.S. withdrawal for the military balance in Asia, global arms control regime, U.S. relations with Asian allies, and China-Russia ties.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission invites submission of proposals to provide a one-time unclassified report on China’s space and counterspace capabilities and activities. Electronic or hard-copy proposals must be submitted by 5:00PM (EST) on February 20, 2019.
China uses “United Front” work to co-opt and neutralize sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority of its ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD)—the agency responsible for coordinating these kinds of influence operations—mostly focuses on the management of potential opposition groups inside China, but it also has an important foreign influence mission. To carry out its influence activities abroad, the UFWD directs “overseas Chinese work,” which seeks to co-opt ethnic Chinese individuals and communities living outside China, while a number of other key affiliated organizations guided by China’s broader United Front strategy conduct influence operations targeting foreign actors and states. Some of these entities have clear connections to the CCP’s United Front strategy, while others’ linkage is less explicit. Today, United Front-related organizations are playing an increasingly important role in China’s broader foreign policy under Chinese President and General Secretary of the CCP Xi Jinping. It is precisely the nature of United Front work to seek influence through connections that are difficult to publically prove and to gain influence that is interwoven with sensitive issues such as ethnic, political, and national identity, making those who seek to identify the negative effects of such influence vulnerable to accusations of prejudice. Because of the complexities of this issue, it is crucial for the U.S. government to better understand Beijing’s United Front strategy, its goals, and the actors responsible for achieving them if it is to formulate an effective and comprehensive response.
Since President Xi took office in 2013, Beijing has significantly bolstered its involvement in the Pacific Islands region, which comprises three U.S. territories and three countries freely associated with the United States that are important for U.S. defense interests in the Indo-Pacific. Much of China’s engagement in the region has focused on expanding economic ties with the Pacific Islands, but it has also increased its footprint in the diplomatic and security realms. This report examines China’s interests in the region, its comprehensive engagement in the Pacific Islands, and the implications of its expanding presence and influence for the United States.
The report examines five categories of China’s advanced weapons systems (counter-space, unmanned systems, maneuverable reentry vehicles, directed energy and electromagnetic railguns) and artificial intelligence applications for national defense. The report also assesses the implications of China’s advanced weapons programs for the United States and its allies and provides recommendations.
In November and December 2017, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force conducted at least nine long-distance training flights over maritime areas along China’s periphery, continuing a trend that began in 2015. Since 2015, long-distance over-water training has become more frequent, featured a greater variety of aircraft, and extended into areas in which the air force had not previously operated. The long-distance over-water training is part of a broader PLA Air Force effort to transition from a service focused on territorial air defense to one capable of conducting offensive and defensive operations beyond China’s coast. These flight activities potentially challenge U.S. interests by (1) improving the PLA Air Force’s capability to execute maritime missions against the United States and U.S. allies and partners in the region; (2) gathering intelligence against the U.S. military and U.S. allies and partners; and (3) reinforcing claims in maritime disputes and pressuring Taiwan.
As space becomes more “congested, contested, and competitive,” as termed in the 2011 U.S. National Security Space Strategy, efforts by spacefaring nations to establish norms of behavior in space have become increasingly important. This issue brief examines China’s views on the Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities proposed by the European Union, finding that Beijing instead continues to support a binding treaty that would ban the deployment of weapons in space, which it has jointly proposed with Russia. This treaty would significantly limit U.S. activities in space while doing little to reduce actual threats to space assets. China’s actions in regards to codes of conduct in other areas indicate it sometimes uses negotiations to prolong the status quo, and does not always adhere to its agreements. Should China continue to place a high value on developing military counterspace capabilities, its position should be expected to remain unchanged.
China maintains a network of prison labor facilities that use forced labor to produce goods intended for export—a violation of U.S.-China trade agreements and U.S. law. The United States continues to face difficulty in preventing these products from entering its borders, but the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (TFTEA) of 2015 has strengthened its ability to do so by closing a major legal loophole. Chinese authorities remain uncooperative with their U.S. counterparts; they routinely deny that forced labor occurs, and they have not allowed U.S. officials to visit suspected sites in years. Due to insufficient oversight, the supply chains of many U.S. companies remain vulnerable to forced labor-derived products.
In July 2016, the United States and South Korea announced the alliance decision to deploy a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antimissile battery in South Korea to defend against the increasing North Korean missile threat. The move has angered Beijing, which perceives THAAD as mostly directed at China and a regional security concern, according to its official statements. In response, Beijing has used economic coercion, among other levers, to try to compel Seoul to abandon the THAAD deployment, but these efforts have proven unsuccessful. This report includes an overview of the THAAD system and its deployment, China’s stated concerns about THAAD, and China’s array of pressure directed against South Korea. It also examines the implications of China’s forceful response to the deployment for the United States and the geopolitical landscape in the Asia Pacific.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was created by the United States Congress in October 2000 with the legislative mandate to monitor, investigate, and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and to provide recommendations, where appropriate, to Congress for legislative and administrative action.