China Space Program Ramping Up Capabilities, Pentagon Says

To ‘blind and deafen’ the enemy would be to use what the Chinese call ‘shashou jiang’, or what we’d call in English: ‘assassin’s mace‘ — something America today loves to complacently ignore.

China’s growing space prowess shows no signs of slowing, the U.S. Department of Defense said in its annual report to Congress on military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China.

The Pentagon has been carefully monitoring China’s space activities, and pointed out that last year, the country conducted a total of 18 space launches and expanded its space-based intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation, meteorological and communications satellite constellations. 

“At the same time, China continues to invest in a multidimensional program to deny others access to and use of space,” said David Helvey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, during a Pentagon news conference on May 6 that highlighted the report.

The report explains that China is keen on improving its capabilities “to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by adversaries during times of crisis or conflict.”

China is pursuing a variety of air, sea, undersea, space, counterspace and information warfare systems, as well as operational concepts, moving toward an array of overlapping, multilayered offensive capabilities extending from China’s coast into the western Pacific.

China’s 2008 Defense White Paper asserts that one of the priorities for the development of China’s armed forces is to “increase the country’s capabilities to maintain maritime, space and electromagnetic space security.”

Further, China continues to develop the Long March 5 rocket, which is intended to lift heavy payloads into space. LM-5 will more than double the size of the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO) payloads China is capable of placing into orbit.

“What is clear, from other Chinese writings and the DOD’s report, is that the ‘new historic missions’ — which lay out the roles and missions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) — continue to be in force,” said Dean Cheng, a research fellow on Chinese political and security affairs at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public-policy think tank in Washington, D.C.

Those “new historic missions,” Cheng told, “include the need to establish space dominance and information dominance. The latter includes space dominance as part of its tool kit.”

‘Blind and deafen the enemy’

One item in the Pentagon report points to PLA writings that emphasize the necessity of “destroying, damaging and interfering with the enemy’s reconnaissance…and communications satellites,” suggesting that such systems, as well as navigation and early warning satellites, could be among the targets of attacks designed to “blind and deafen the enemy.”

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