Most geopolitical analysis is quite down to earth. But don’t forget to watch: China’s influence is going up from heaven.
On July 23, a long March 5 rocket exploded from the Wenchen Launch Center on Hainan Island, China. Equipped with a lander, an orbiter and a rover, the Chinese Tianwen-1 spacecraft has set the course for Mars to begin a comprehensive survey of the red planet.
The Mars mission, however, is not solely about discovery. It is part of a broader strategy designed to bring China into the category of “fully developed, prosperous and powerful” nations by the year 2049.
As President Xi Jinping explained to Tikonats living in China’s first prototype space station Tiangong-1 back in 2013, “the space dream is part of the dream to make China more strong.” He said that Xi’s China is now striving for the achievement of “concealment ability and keeping a low profile”. ”
Under Xi’s command, the People’s Republic has launched two prototype space stations (Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2), as well as a cargo ship (Tianzhou) capable of refueling other spacecraft.
In 2018, it fired more rockets into the universe than any other nation. A year later, China made history when Chang 4 successfully landed the first rover in the dark side of the moon.
Closer to home, the BeiDou 2 navigation system recently launched its 35th satellite, which complements its dispersed constellation that promises to provide global coverage as an alternative to the US GPS and Europe’s Galileo positioning system is.
If Tianwen-1 successfully reaches Mars, China will join the US and the former Soviet Union, as the only nations to achieve such space achievement.
Unlike NASA and other space agencies whose stated goals are to undertake space exploration for the advancement of science, China’s space program is more concerned with economic gains, geospatial positioning and supporting development goals.
According to a recent report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the space industry is estimated to be $ 2.7 trillion by 2040. China is clearly planning to capitalize on this launch.
Although the most important short and medium term opportunities may come from satellite broadband Internet usage, the future is poised to see space mining emerging as a profitable industry.
A small asteroid that is approximately 200 meters in length that is rich in platinum can receive up to $ 30 billion by one estimate. The moon has hundreds of billions of dollars of untapped resources, including helium-3, titanium, and other rare earth metals.
Chinese researchers such as Lin Mingtao are already working under the National Space Science Center to capture a near-Earth asteroid and bring it to China to inspect and bring back its resources.
Beijing also has big plans for the moon. According to the state’s news agency Xinhua, The China National Space Administration (CNAS) intends to establish a research station on the lunar surface within the next decade.
If China succeeds in building a Moon base with industrial capacity, it could significantly reduce the cost of launching spacecraft and serve as a gateway for future space exploration.
But China’s space ambitions do not stop there. By 2022, China aims to have a fully operational space orbiting the Earth.
There are also plans to bring several types of solar power plants to low-earth orbit to generate electricity back in China. Beijing is also working to develop a nuclear-powered spacecraft by 2040, which will enable deep space travel.
All told, China is building a space silk road. This new cosmic corridor complements its earthly marine and land silk road within the framework of Xi’s signature belt and road initiative (BRI).
As this galactic architecture evolves, Beijing intends to offer the international community an alternative reliable infrastructure network, leading to global leadership competition in the space.
At the same time, the space program has also been linked with “Made in China 2025”, a policy to prepare China to become a global leader in high-tech manufacturing.
The Space Silk Road provides a new path to enhance China’s indigenous innovation capabilities in areas such as quantum communications, robotics, artificial intelligence and aviation.
Accordingly, it also promotes the development of civil-military fusion and dual-use technologies: for example, while Beadoo can help navigate a ship through stormy waters, it can also guide a missile. .
“In modern warfare, space capability can help achieve a geopolitical edge, military competition, and technological development,” said Michael Raska, assistant professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. China has demanded the trio go on a trip to the status of “great space power”, they told regional media.
Ye Peijian, head of the Chinese lunar exploration program, provided some insight into how China’s Communist Party views the space.
“The universe is an ocean, the moon is Diaoyu island, Mars is Huangyan island. If we are not able to do that now, we will be blamed by our descendants,” Ye told reporters in 2017.
“If other people go there, they will take over, and you won’t be able to go even if you want. That’s enough.”
Dale Alouf is the director of research and strategy at the Sign Global, Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership – a member of SRTA – China’s Silk Road think tank association.