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China Eyes Territorial Claim Of Outer Space

Chinese space scientists recognize that there is a fierce competition of space resources, but most nations do not currently have the capability to be a participant. Therefore China should not miss out the opportunity to be part of the "space civilization".
by Wei Long
Beijing - Jan 21, 2002
A group of Chinese space scientists urged the government to accelerate acceptance of the proposal to develop an infrastructure in space and regard developing the "space territory" as a national strategy, the Hong Kong Bureau of the China News Agency reported last Tuesday (Jan. 15). The group also suggested to claim access to space as China's "fourth territory".

In the recently submitted consultation report "Building of China's Space-based Infrastructure", space technology specialist Wang Xiji of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and three other Academy colleagues contended that conventional ground-based space facilities would no longer meet future requirements, so they proposed the construction of a space-based infrastructure.

The report said that "opening up of outer space would require infrastructure in space; much like development of land, sea and air which require ground facilities such as railroads, sea ports, power stations and airports."

Wang elaborated on the concept: "The so-called space-based infrastructure refers to the engineering system that will be built in space, and used in developing and exploiting space resources and expanding the habitation space of humankind.

"The system will consist of space vehicles and their ground supporting facilities which would provide long-term stable functions and services. In fact, it is an integration of space- and ground-based national development of strategic infrastructure."

The group of CAS space specialists also argued that by virtue of having "vehicles that take up positions in space and the ability to possess part of the space resources", a country would effectively extend its three territorial claims -- land, sea and air -- into space; thus the claim of the "fourth territory".

The 1967 United Nations "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies" declares that the benefits and interests in the exploration and use of outer space belongs to the "province of all mankind".

Chinese space scientists recognize that there is a fierce competition of space resources, but most nations do not currently have the capability to be a participant. Therefore China should not miss out the opportunity to be part of the "space civilization".

According to the authors of the consultation report, China has "in effect a substantial capacity to enter, develop and exploit space. One of the reasons that China has not utilized its full capacity is restricted by a lag in the consciousness of the people and the nation.

"For a long time China has not given a serious regard to its capability to develop, exploit as well as reap huge political, military and economic benefits from the 'fourth territory'. Speaking from this sense, the concept and perspective of 'space territory' needs vigorous promotion in China. Developing 'space territory' should be treated as a fundamental national strategy along with birth control planning and environment protection."

The report recommends eight areas of space-based infrastructure:

  • Discuss issues in building a high-speed information highway;
  • Increase steadily the level of performance in meteorology infrastructure;
  • Plan resource [Ziyuan series] satellites as part of the national earth-resource infrastructure;
  • Establish a 3-D navigation and positioning infrastructure based on the existing twin [Beidou series] navigation and positioning satellites foundation;
  • Establish a national geographic information infrastructure based on the survey satellite foundation;
  • Planned development of the ocean [Haiyang series] satellites into an ocean observation, monitoring and research infrastructure;
  • Develop as quickly as possible a disaster and environment monitoring infrastructure;
  • Develop a comprehensive civilian information network suitable for use during wartime.

To implement the proposed space-based infrastructure, the report suggests to take a three-stage approach:
  1. Use effectively satellites that are on-orbit and under development, and place them in the top tier of planning as a starting foundation. This stage would mark a change in the direction of Chinese space technology development: from primarily technology of entering space to technology of utilizing space functions.

  2. Build and effectively use an elementary comprehensive information network, which would provide effective support of the national development of the space-based infrastructure. This stage would mark the completion of an elementary space-based infrastructure. Chinese space technology development enters the phase of fulfilling urgent requirements and gradually adapting to national development.

  3. Develop sequentially the space-based infrastructure according to the blueprint. This stage would mark the initial achievement of the strategic development of China's "fourth territory". The space-based infrastructure would have formed a definite scale and continue to develop to perfection.

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Beijing - Jan 9, 2002
The third unmanned test flight of the Shenzhou ("Magic Vessel" or "Divine Vessel") spacecraft appears to be imminent as thousands of technicians worked through the New Year at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre (JSLC) in northwestern Gansu Province. People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily reported Dec. 31 that thousands of technicians and military personnel volunteered to cancel their holidays so that they could continue their duties at the "testing frontline" - a cryptic reference to the Shenzhou-3 (SZ-3) launch.

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