CHINA SEEKS TO DOMINATE SPACE WITH MISSION TO MOON
Living in the center of Tokyo, a bustling metropolis inhabited by 14 million people, I sometimes look up at the sky on a moon-lit night enchanted by the silent grace of the bright moon. Some 380,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) away from earth, the moon is beautiful whether full or eclipsed. And if you look long enough and closely enough, you just may see a rabbit—as we say in East Asia.
At this very moment, another type of rabbit—a man-made lunar rover by the name of “Yutu 2” (“Jade Rabbit 2”)—is crisscrossing the other side of the moon, collecting data and beaming it back to Earth.
On January 3, China succeeded in becoming the first country to land a lunar probe, the Chang’e 4, on the “dark side” of the moon, but frankly I did not see this as another “giant leap for mankind.” China launched Chang’e 1 in 2007 and Chang’e 2 in 2010, both orbiting around the moon as planned. These launches enabled the Chinese to prepare detailed maps of the moon’s front side, allowing Cheng’e 3 to land there three years later, in 2013. In early January this year, Chang’e 4 managed to soft-land on the backside of the moon, releasing the “Jade Rabbit” for around-the-clock exploration of its surface.
On June 21, 1969, Captain Neil Armstrong commanding Apollo 11 took mankind’s first step onto the moon. I was a student at that moment, watching the historic event live on television with my friend and her family in Alberta, Canada. None of us were Americans but we were glued to the TV, gripped by unspeakable awe, excitement, and admiration over the great achievement. I remember sharing the joy with my host family, feeling very much as if we were all part of this accomplishment.
This time, however, I felt no such elation with the Chang’e 4 landing. It actually had me gravely concerned instead about the possibility of China pulling ahead of the US in the space race. Looking back over the record of China’s space development of the past few decades, one can easily discern the sheer military ambitions of the Chinese. One definitely senses a lust for space domination on the part of the Chinese, far from any willingness to contribute to the peace and happiness of mankind.
Wars in the twenty-first century will start in cyberspace and outer space. We are aware that Russia waged a cyberwar against Georgia in August 2008 and against Ukraine in March 2014.
Former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, who was a guest of my regular “Genron” weekly Internet TV news show on January 18, said that when Russian troops invaded Ukraine, cellphones suddenly went dead, communication lines at radio and television stations were cut off next, and then public transportation came to a halt. As the Ukrainian troops were thrown into disorder, strangers poured in en masse out of nowhere and quickly occupied towns and cities. They were Russian troops, and that is how they easily occupied the Crimea Peninsula.
Shooting Down Weather Satellite with Missile
Russia has waged at least two cyberwars since the end of the Cold War, bringing down the opposing forces and wresting away their land.
China, now that it has reached the moon, will likely make similar aggressive moves going forward, although on a much bigger scale. Bonji Ohara, a foreign affairs and security expert well versed in Chinese affairs, asserted that China “raised the curtain on space war” a dozen years ago. Ohara was a guest on my news show last week.
In 2007, the same year in which the Chang’e 1 spacecraft orbited around the moon, China stunned the world by using a land-based anti-missile missile to shoot down its aging weather satellite at an altitude of 865 kilometers (537 miles). Commented Ohara:
“At the time, the world was not stunned because China had acquired the ability to destroy weather satellites. The world was shocked to realize that China dared do so outrageous a thing.”
Following the Cold War, Ohara noted, the US and the Soviet Union went on to reach a tacit understanding that they would each refrain from destroying the other’s satellites. Destroying the satellites of an adversary is tantamount to depriving it of its eyes and ears. It is then impossible to grasp what is going on, or communicate with the other side. Reconnaissance is seriously handicapped. Naturally, both sides get wrapped in a web of suspicion and caught up in fear.
How then would an adversary react when attacked after having had its satellites destroyed? Because a pinpoint counterattack would be next to impossible without satellites, the adversary would have slim chance of implementing an effective retaliation. So arises the temptation, said Ohara, to resort to weapons of mass destruction as a means of obliterating at one stroke as vast a range of targeted areas as possible. This inevitably would increase the motivation to use nuclear weapons, leading mankind to an irrevocable tragedy.
The US and the Soviet Union reached their understanding because they deemed such a scenario possible, Ohara explained, adding:
“China in effect ignored this understanding in 2007 when it shot down its weather satellite. The world was shocked, wondering if China was serious about starting a new war. China allegedly has since secured the ability to destroy geostationary satellites at altitudes of 30,000 to 50,000 kilometers (18,750 to 31,250 miles). In other words, the Chinese apparently have acquired the ability to shoot down virtually all of the satellites now orbiting around the earth, including geostationary satellites.”
The Chinese political journal QuiShi, published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCP), stressed in its December 2010 issue:
“Striking satellites is the most effective means of attacking the US. China must make every effort to develop space weapons as expeditiously as possible. The US will be made to belatedly realize it has no place to hide when China ultimately becomes able to launch missiles from its satellites.”
Clearly, China longs to target the US and bring it to its knees. Such an intention has already been announced under the CCP’s Central Military Commission, the “control tower” of China’s military strategies. Under China’s “space superpower” program, the decision has been made to launch a total of 35 “Beidou” navigation satellites (the Chinese version of the American GPS satellites) by the end of 2020, enabling China to keep a close check on the whole world.
Ability of People’s Liberation Army
China explains its global, all-weather earth observation system as comprising a network of satellites for civilian use. The position accuracy of a Beidou, said to be around 2.5 meters (about 8.2 feet), is inferior to its American counterpart’s. How should one interpret the Chinese announcement earlier referred to? Ohara has this to say:
“I believe we can view PLA satellites, which need to detect and identify small objects at great distances, as being much more powerful than Beidous, which are said to be for civilian use. The PLA claims the coverage of its satellites over the Pacific extends to 5 million square kilometers (1,930 miles). In other words, China is saying it has acquired the capability necessary to pinpoint American warships in that vast an area and attack them with precision with ballistic missiles.”
China is slated to complete the launch of the Beidou network by late 2020. By 2022 that network will be further strengthened by completion of a “uniquely Chinese” space station designed to accommodate astronauts for extended periods of time. It will be named Tiangong, or “Heavenly Palace.” While China is going all out with its space station project, the future of the International Space Station (ISS), jointly managed by 15 nations, including the US, Russia, and Japan, remains uncertain.
The Trump administration has proclaimed that America will withdraw funding for the ISS by 2025 and transfer its management to a private entity. Russia is toying with the idea of building a space station of its own, while the EU maintains it will stay committed to the current international space program.
In what manner the ISS will be maintained, if at all, or how the space programs of the nations involved will evolve is anyone’s guess at this juncture. The only thing certain is that every effort must be made to avoid a situation in which China alone will have its own space station and dominate outer space. This would be the worst scenario imaginable.
I strongly feel the threat of a China determined to dominate the world, both here on earth and in outer space. Japan, whose people detest anything that has to do with military matters, is in no position to defend itself. Such a country, one that is reluctant to take national defense seriously, can hardly call itself a true nation.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 838 in the February 7, 2019 issue of The Weekly Shincho)