Brian Weeden Publishes Brief on the U.S.-China Relationship in Space

Friday, September 18, 2015

SWF Technical Advisor Brian Weeden has published a brief on the U.S.-China relationship in space. Mr. Weeden argues that the United States and China have an opportunity to use the space domain to help create a stronger overall relationship between the two countries. 

Space is a critical domain to the security of the United States, but also undergoing a period of dramatic change. At the same time, China is rapidly developing its capabilities across the entire spectrum of space activities, some of which have created significant concern within the U.S. national security community. The combination of the massive and China's growing capabilities have impacted the U.S.-China relationship in space. There is growing mistrust between the two countries, fueled in part by their development and testing of dual-use technologies and compounded by a misalignment in political and strategic priorities.

Despite these challenges and concerns, there are concrete steps that the United States and China can take to manage tensions and possibly even work toward positive engagement. These steps include having substantive bilateral discussions on space security, and discussing specific ideas for cooperation in civil and scientific space activities and the use of space for peaceful applications on earth. At the same time, the United States should get serious about making U.S. space capabilities more resilient, and continue to bolster the transparency of space activities by increasing the amount of space situational awareness (SSA) data available to satellite operators and the public. Taken together, the initial steps outlined here could help stabilize the U.S.-China strategic relationship in space, mitigate the threat of the worst-case scenario of a conflict in space, and work toward a more positive outcome that benefits all.

The brief is part of a 24-month joint project between the National Bureau for Asian Research (NBR), the Institute for China-US People-to-People Exchange, and the Institute of International and Strategic Studies, both at Peking University. The project brings together a study team of U.S. and Chinese scholars in the strategic domains of space, cyber, maritime, and nuclear to produce pragmatic recommendations for U.S. and Chinese policymakers in order to strengthen the most important bilateral relationship in the Asia-Pacific.

Last updated on August 24, 2017