Space program and capabilities in China


  • Sandra Lindström
  • John Rydqvist

Publish date: 2019-03-12

Report number: FOI-R--4718--SE

Pages: 63

Written in: Swedish


  • China
  • space
  • satellite
  • capability
  • development
  • policy


The development in the space arena is rapid in terms of both policy and technology. The number of actors involved is expanding and the space arena offers more opportunities. This development also increases the risks and threats. In this report we present the parts of China's space program concerning both policy and technology development that are of interest to the Swedish Armed Forces. First, we describe the historical developments in China, the overall space policy, and its objectives. The technical development with a focus on the 21st century and the organisation of space issues in China then follows. The final section discusses China's international partnerships within the space arena and provides some examples of this. China's approach to the space arena has significantly evolved and expanded since the 1980s. China now has very high ambitions and strive to become a leading space nation. Its advances in the space sector has increased tremendously in the 21st century, especially during the past ten years. China's space strategy hinges on the consolidation of military space resources and extensive civil-military integration. The ambition is to strengthen the national brand, build capacity for space operations and strengthen the ability to independently develop and operate space systems. The ambition towards integration of civilian and military capabilities makes it hard to distinguish between civilian and military parts of the program. China has an autonomous capacity to launch and develop all types of satellites systems (military, civilian and commercial) needed to reach its stated goals. China has also opened up to Chinese private actors in various areas of the space domain to compete in the global arena. In future conflicts, China considers superior information and decision-making capability as crucial. Space resources are critical to achieving this. Superiority in space is therefore crucial. Their goal is to have a robust combination of defensive and offensive space capabilities. China is committed to expand the international cooperation and networking. At the same time, China's organization, financing and management structures in the space domain indicates a very strong military association.