Is China’s Space Program A Threat? Yes And No.

China has managed to surge into a near peer status with the USA and Russia in space flight. Should we be worried? A little bit.

China has managed to surge into a near peer status with the USA and Russia in space flight.  They have an orbiter and lander on Mars.  They have a space station and three astronauts.  They have anti- satellite weapons.  We have all those things.  So, what makes US different than China when it comes to space flight? Our human space flight program, and our space exploration with probes are not done by an arm of our military.   We now have a Space Force, but it does not do that kind of mission, at least for now.  It might have to if China were to develop the capability to attack from space. 

Let me congratulate my colleagues in China who have dedicated their lives to space science, space flight, and the study of astronomy and physics.  Overall, the work they do, just as the work we do in the US will advance the cause of knowledge to the benefit of all mankind.  I look forward to working with all of them either directly or by reading their published work and building on their body of knowledge as they do on ours.   The most likely outcome of more nations exploring space is that humanity will retain a more robust space exploration capability.

The issue is that the China’s space program is ran by and exist to serve their military the Peoples Liberation Army.  The PLA swears allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party, their name for themselves.  The CCP has vowed to displace the united states as the sole superpower on Earth.  This makes the PRC quite different in space than the Soviet Union was.   For China to become the only superpower that requires the collapse, defeat, or destruction of the United States of America.  That would take a total war, a nuclear war.

Rods from God, The Nuclear Alternative.

These projectiles could be placed in orbit and would deliver damage equivalent to a nuclear attack without the complexity of nuclear weapons.  They would also have far less warning time than a nuclear attack. 

As you can see for a country that already has a full nuclear deterrent like the United States this weapons system would be an expensive option.  China on the other hand has 200 to 250 warheads.  They would need to catch up to the US to be a real threat.  Rods from God could be a cheaper easier solution than nuclear weapons for them. 

There are treaties that would forbid putting weapons in space, but the CCP has a history of doing things then daring other countries to risk war by undoing them.  They have built atolls into artificial islands with military bases on them, in the exclusive economic zones of other countries in the South China sea.  They have ceased land from India little by little.  Then they disregarded aspects of the Sino-British agreements regarding Hong Kong and stripped meaningful freedom from the Hong Kong people.  

Given that history it is naive to think they would follow the letter or the spirit of the Outer Space Treaty. 

So while I really feel for the people of China and want great things for them.  They live under an authoritarian government which brooks no dissent.  The average rank and file citizen of the PRC is not at fault for that.  That includes their scientist who like those of us in the west want to explore nature at the most extreme for the benefit of humanity.  That said, the obvious military and geopolitical implications cannot be ignored.