China ‘Not Yet’ a major space power


China is not ‘a major space power’ yet, says a leading Chinese rocket expert, who also urges the United States to “be fair-minded and unprejudiced” toward China’s space missions.

In a recent interview with the Global Times in Zhuhai, southern China’s Guangdong Province, Yang Yiqiang, the first commander-in-chief of the Long March 11 solid-fuel carrier rockets project, said the US “still takes a jaundiced view” of China’s space missions, even 20 years after the Cox Report was published.

The Report of the Select Committee on US National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China, commonly known as the Cox Report after Representative Christopher Cox, is a classified US government document reporting on the China’s covert operations within the US during the 1980s and 1990s.

96210b5c-2628-4448-aa5d-41229117732fYang also said “the main obstacle” to Chinese space program’s overseas outreach is the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), under which some chip products or even some unimportant items are banned from being carried by Chinese rockets.

The ITAR mechanism also stipulates that some of the equipment used in rocket research and manufacturing is not allowed to be sold to China.

“It is hoped that China and the US could hold high-level talks regarding the issue,” Yang said.

His comments came just a few days ahead before China made a huge leap forward in space exploration last week by successfully landing an unmanned probe on the Moon’s far side.

On Thursday China landed a robotic spacecraft called Chang’e 4 on the dark side of the Moon in a space exploration world first, touching down at 10.26am local time (2.26am GMT). It became the first country to do so.

The achievement has sparked wide international concern, with some western politicians, media pundits and experts even predict the unveiling of a new “space race” between China and the US.

But for Yang, “China is yet to become a major space power”, especially in terms of space commercialization, an area in which China is only “among the second-tier countries”, while the US “is among the top tier.

The gap lies in lifting capacity, among other parameters indicating the comprehensive functionality of a rocket, and the lift span and functionally of satellites.

Global Foothold ‘Inevitable’

Yang also said China’s space missions are integrated into the Belt & Road Initiative to reaching out to the global market, noting the country has launched telecommunications satellites for developing countries such as the Laos, Bolivia and Belarus.

“It’s inevitable that China’s space program would gain a global foothold,” Yang said. “I hope the US industry peers and government can be fair-minded and unprejudiced toward China’s space missions.”

“It is believed that China and the US will compete to lead the next phase of space commercialization, especially the commercialization of low-earth orbit,” Yang added.

While commercialization has become a common noun in a world that’s being propelled by business innovation, its usage in the space sector remains something new, which is especially true with China’s space missions.

Yang calls for the two countries to have more cooperation in commercializing the space sector, and said he “understands” that both NASA and US companies are willing to get in touch with the Chinese side.

“But US regulations such as ITAR still serve as barriers to bilateral cooperation in this regard, although space, like other industries, is being globalized,” Yang noted.


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