China is working on militarizing space and matching or exceeding US technology in the coming years, the US intelligence community said in its Global Risk Assessment report.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s report says that China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, is poised to become the US’ greatest rival in space, setting far-reaching and ambitious goals “to gain the military, economic, and prestige benefits that Washington has accrued from space leadership.”
The report, released last Friday, said Beijing “has counterspaceweapons capabilities” enabling it to target satellites belonging to the US and its allies.
“Beijing continues to train its military space elements and field new destructive and nondestructive ground- and space-based anti-satellite weapons,” the report said, adding that China already has ground-based anti-satellite missiles and lasers “probably intended to blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors” on US spacecraft.
It predicted that China will have an operational space station in low Earth orbit between 2022 and 2024, and will continue to conduct exploratory missions to the moon with the aim to establish a robotic research station on the lunar surface as a precursor to an “intermittently crewed” base.
The Communist Party-run government also plans to integrate its advancements in satellite reconnaissance, positioning, navigation and timing with satellite communications into weapons-based systems “to erode the US military’s information advantage.”
Those developments will be essential to the PLA’s potential military campaigns.
The Chinese Communist Party “will continue its whole-of-government efforts to spread China’s influence, undercut that of the United States, drive wedges between Washington and its allies and partners, and foster new international norms that favor the authoritarian Chinese system.”
“Chinese leaders probably will, however, seek tactical opportunities to reduce tensions with Washington when such opportunities suit their interests,” the intelligence report said.
While working on the space-based initiatives, China will maintain its “major innovation and industrial policies” to reduce reliance on foreign technologies, to develop military upgrades, to continue economic growth, with the goal of ensuring the country’s survival.
“Beijing sees increasingly competitive US-China relations as part of an epochal geopolitical shift and views Washington’s economic measures against Beijing since 2018 as part of a broader US effort to contain China’s rise,” the ODNI report said, referring to the tariffs former President Donald Trump placed on Chinese goods being sold in the US.
As part of its long-term goals, China is consolidating its military power with its economic, technological and diplomatic strengths to “secure what it views as its territory and regional preeminence, and pursue international cooperation at Washington’s expense.”
Beijing will tout its success responding to the coronavirus pandemic as “evidence of the superiority of its system” and will use “vaccine diplomacy” to its advantage.
China will also extend its influence in the region, including its claims of sovereignty over Taiwan and the bolstering of its naval presence in the South China Sea “to signal to Southeast Asian countries that China has effective control over contested areas.”
On nuclear weapons, the report said China is not interested in abiding by any arms control agreements that will hamper its future plans and will not engage in negotiations with Russia or the US that preserve their nuclear advantages.
Beijing intends to “at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile” in the next decade.
“China is building a larger and increasingly capable nuclear missile force that is more survivable, more diverse, and on higher alert than in the past, including nuclear missile systems designed to manage regional escalation and ensure an intercontinental second-strike capability,” the report said.