Most geopolitical analyzes are entirely on Earth. But don’t forget to look up: Chinese influence rises above the heavens.
On July 23, a long rocket was launched from the Wenchen Launch Center rocket on the Chinese island of Hainan on March 5. The Chinese spacecraft Tianwen-1, which is equipped with landing, orbital and rover equipment, has set the course for Mars to begin a comprehensive exploration of the Red Planet.
But the mission on Mars is not just about discovery. It is part of a comprehensive strategy to bring China into the hands of “fully developed, rich and powerful” nations by 2049.
As President Xi Jinping explained to Taikonaut on board the Tiangong-1, China’s first prototype space station in 2013, “the space dream is part of a dream to strengthen China.” Xi China no longer “hides capabilities and maintains a low profile,” “strives to achieve” , he said at the time.
Under Xi’s command, the People’s Republic launched two prototype space stations (Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2), as well as a cargo ship (Tianzhou), which is capable of refueling other spacecraft.
In 2018, it fired more rockets into space than any other nation. A year later, China made history when Chang’e 4 successfully landed its first rover on the dark side of the moon.
Closer to home, the BeiDou 2 navigation system recently launched its 35th satellite and completed its large-scale constellation, which promises to provide global coverage as an alternative to the US GPS and the European Galileo positioning system.
If Tianwen-1 successfully reaches Mars, China will join the United States and the former Soviet Union as the only nations to achieve such space performance.
Unlike NASA and other space agencies, whose stated objectives are to conduct space exploration for the development of science, China’s space program focuses more on economic gains, geostrategic positioning and the promotion of development goals.
According to a recent Bank of America report by Merrill Lynch, the space industry is expected to be worth $ 2.7 trillion by 2040. China clearly plans to use this projection.
While the most significant short- and medium-term opportunities may come from satellite broadband internet access, space mining is expected to emerge as a profitable industry in the future.
A small estimate of an asteroid about 200 meters long, which is rich in platinum, could be estimated at up to $ 30 billion, according to one projection. The moon has hundreds of billions of dollars of unused resources, including helium 3, titanium and other rare earth metals.
Chinese scientists such as Lin Mingtao are already working within the National Space Science Center to capture an asteroid near Earth and bring it back to China to check and obtain its resources.
Beijing also has big plans for the moon. According to the state news agency Xinhua, the Chinese National Space Administration (CNAS) intends to set up a research station on the lunar surface in the next decade.
If China manages to build a lunar base with industrial capacity, it could significantly reduce the cost of launching a spacecraft and serve as a gateway for future space exploration.
However, China’s space ambitions do not end there. China’s goal is to have a fully functional space station orbiting the Earth by 2022.
It is also planned to launch various solar plants in orbit with low ground, which are designed to supply electricity back to China. Beijing is also working to develop nuclear-powered spacecraft by 2040 that appear to allow space travel.
Everyone says China is building a space silk road. This new space corridor, as part of the signing of the Belt and Roads Initiative Xi (BRI), complements its terrestrial sea and land silk roads.
Following the formation of this galactic architecture, Beijing intends to offer the international community an alternative network of trusted infrastructures, competing for global leadership in space.
At the same time, the space program is linked to the “Made in China 2025” policy, which aims to catapult China to become a global leader in high-tech manufacturing.
The Space Silk Road represents a new way to improve China’s domestic innovation capabilities in areas such as quantum communication, robotics, artificial intelligence and aviation.
Accordingly, it also supports civil-military fusion and the development of dual-use technologies: while BeiDou can help navigate ships in stormy waters, it can also lead a missile.
“In modern wars, space capability can help achieve geopolitical advantage, military competitiveness and technological development,” said Michael Raska, an assistant professor at the Sajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. China is looking for all three as it embarks on a path to a state of “great space power,” he told the regional media.
Ye Peijian, head of the Chinese Lunar Survey program, provided some insight into how the Chinese Communist Party perceives the universe.
“The universe is the ocean, the moon is the Diaojus Islands, Mars is the Huangyan Island.” If we are not there now, even if we can do it, then we will be blamed by our descendants, “you informed the journalists in 2017.
“If others go there, they’ll take over and you won’t be able to go, even if you want to.” That is quite a reason. “
Dale Aluf is the Director of Research and Strategy at SIGNAL, a Sino-Israeli global network and academic leadership member of the Chinese Silk Road SRTA think-tank association.