China science

China says it opposes space arms race but missions ‘must help protect national security’

Policies on space exploration outlined in white paper issued on Tuesday, amid concerns expressed by the US Defence Department about its aims

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 December, 2016, 1:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 December, 2016, 1:12pm

China’s space programme must help protect its national security, but the nation is dedicated to the peaceful use of space and opposes a space arms race, the government said in a policy paper issued on Tuesday.

President Xi Jinping has called for China to establish itself as a space power and it has tested anti-satellite missiles, in addition to pursuing its civilian aims.

China has repeatedly said its space programme is for peaceful purposes, but the US Defence Department has highlighted its increasing capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.

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In its policy paper, the government said the space programme was an important part of the country’s overall development strategy.

“China always adheres to the principle of the use of outer space for peaceful purposes and opposes the weaponisation of or an arms race in outer space,” it said.

The programme must also “meet the demands of economic, scientific and technological development, national security and social progress”, the paper added, without elaborating on the security part.

However it included past weapons tests as part of the history of its space programme, in which the military has all along been deeply involved with.

“Over the past 60 years of remarkable development since its space industry was established in 1956, China has made great achievements in this sphere, including the development of atomic and hydrogen bombs, missiles, man-made satellites, manned space flight and lunar probes,” it said.

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China completed its longest manned space mission to date last month when two astronauts spent 30 days aboard the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, or “Heavenly Palace 2”, which China is using to carry out experiments ahead of a longer-range plan to have a permanent manned space station around 2022.

The white paper also repeated a plan to launch its first Mars probe by 2020 and to land the first probe ever on the dark side of the moon in 2018, but gave no details about a previously mooted goal of landing a Chinese person on the moon by 2036.