Welcome to the Department of the Air Force's China Aerospace Studies Institute   

CASI Banner

Chinese military thinking on orbits beyond GEO

  • Published
  • China Aerospace Studies Institute

Written by CASI's Kristin Burke, originally published in The Space Review, available at: https://www.thespacereview.com/article/4387/1

It is impossible to unlink the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) military perspective on orbits beyond the geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) from the US and former USSR’s Cold War plans for military Moon bases. More recent statements like those above indicating that similar ambitions may persist, even after the Cold War, make it harder. Since the Chinese Communist Party founded the PRC at the opening of the Cold War, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) academic institutions writing on space were and continue to be directly responding to the US and Russia’s statements and activities. Additionally, as Japan emerged in the 1990s as a lunar actor, the PRC’s even deeper historical grievances were an equally strong driver to be prepared for military, economic, and diplomatic competition beyond GEO. Indeed, a Chinese history book covering Beijing’s early planning for the lunar program directly states that the successful launch of Japan’s lunar orbiter led Chinese technical experts to propose what would become Chang’e 1, more than a decade later. Below is an assessment of PRC military academic writings to include books designed for training military personnel written in Mandarin, and technical research papers published in English and Mandarin. This report analyzes what these documents say about orbits beyond GEO through the lens of what other nations have done. This is an integral perspective to remember. For example, the American authors of the above quote later became, and continue to be, top US leaders, highly likely leading the average Chinese analyst to determine that the US must be serious about expanding the theater of military operations to beyond GEO, and possibly the rest of the solar system, based on the authors’ later promotions.

Click here for the full PDF version