SWF Testifies on U.S.-China Perspectives on International Law and Norms of Behavior in Space

Thursday, April 25, 2019

SWF Director of Program Planning Dr. Brian Weeden testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) as part of a hearing on “China in Space: A Strategic Competition?” Dr. Weeden’s testimony discussed China’s views on space law, norms of behavior, and security-related topics such as the weaponization of space. It focused on China’s own views and interests in the multilateral space diplomacy fora, discussed whether those views conflict with the interests of the United States, and provided policy recommendations for Congress to address these issues.

Dr. Weeden testified that China has complied with the existing legal principles and norms stemming from all four main space treaties, at least to the same extent that the United States and other major powers have. While it is possible that China may choose to break from those legal principles and norms in the future, we do not see strong evidence to support that conclusion and doing so would contradict the diplomatic positions China has established over the last few decades. 

Dr. Weeden’s main policy proposal is to urge the United States to take a stronger leadership role in space governance discussions and help shape their development in a way that suits U.S. national interests. To become an active leader in space diplomacy, the United States needs to be willing to make substantive proposals on current space governance challenges and mobilize support among its allies to push the proposals within international fora. Retaking this leadership role would create an opportunity for the United States to help shape the future direction of space governance to suit its interests and those of its allies and private sector. The United States should also be willing to engage in dialogue with both allies and competitors - including China - to better understand the context for the competition and avoid direct military conflict. 

A video recording of the hearing and testimony from all of the participants can be found on the USCC website



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Last updated on April 25, 2019