Should China follow the US to build "Space Force"?

China Military Online
Yao Jianing

By Liu Meiwu and Jun Lan

The US President Donald Trump, who has the habit of making sensational remarks, announced on June 18, 2018 that he would direct the Department of Defense (DoD) to "immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force" when addressed a meeting of the US National Space Council. "It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Mr. Trump said.

If Trump's fantasy comes true, the "US Space Force" will become a sixth military branch, adding to the US Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force. It will be the first newly-created branch in over 50 years since 1947.

Is this another "empty promise" by Trump, his version of "space race", or a beforehand layout for the space war in the future?

In response to Trump's announcement of building the US "space force", Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said “the outer space is the property of all humanity. China always advocates the peaceful use of outer space and opposes the placement of weapons and the arms race in outer space. China particularly opposes turning outer space into a battlefield. We hope that all parties could work together to ensure that outer space will forever be peaceful and tranquil.”

Hope is a good thing. The US “space force” plan proposes a topic worth for China to discuss about the enhancement of its integrated air and space capability.

How should China respond to America's "space force"?

American congressman Mike Rogers told the media that "the future war will take place in the space. We should remain diligent and get a head-start over other countries for our national security." What he said is applicable to China too.

Considering Trump's aggressive space militarization, China should take actions in the air-space field too.

As a matter of fact, China already has a clear development guideline in place and does not need to shift according to what America does.

China's anti-satellite technology is an example. It launched a missile to destroy an obsolete meteorological satellite FY-1C in 2007. Although it was just an application in a peaceful region, it ensured China's air-space defense capability.

Another example is the building of orbital maneuvering space platform. According to Wang Yanan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge, China should seek to enhance its capability to quickly enter orbital space. Once this space capability is available, China will be able to counteract the enemy's military operations in the aerospace field.

"The technological equipment and capability building will actually ensure China's space security," Wang pointed out.

Meanwhile, from the perspective of the peaceful development of outer space, China should implement the active defense strategy on the one hand and criticize US’s behaviour in seeking space militarisation on the other hand.

An anonymous expert said that either in response to America's ambition of space militarization or in consideration of the great importance of space control power for war forms in the future, it is imperative for China to develop space forces, which will exert significant impact on many aspects.

America's Rand Corporation released a report titled The Creation of the PLA Strategic Support Force and Its Implications for Chinese Military Space Operations on November 10, 2017, stating that “China's Strategic Support Force (SSF) is tasked with developing and employing most of the PLA's space capabilities and is responsible for better integrating space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities into the PLA operations”.

The creation of the SSF signified a higher priority for the PLA's space cause and an increased role of the PLA’s space capabilities. The SSF is a unique organization shouldering the inherently joint mission of supporting all services' operations with its space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities, and it stands at the forefront for the PLA to develop combined capabilities to win "information-based local war".

According to Rand's report, China's purpose of establishing the SSF is to form an organization responsible for developing the PLA's space and information warfare forces in order to better integrate those capabilities into the joint force.

Another report Foreign Space Capabilities released by American think tank National Institute for Public Policy (ANIPP) emphasized, with its ever stronger anti-satellite capability, China may be able to precisely destroy or damage low-earth-orbit (LEO) reconnaissance satellite, medium-earth-orbit (MEO) GPS navigational satellite and geosynchronous-orbit (GEO) ballistic missile early-warning satellite.

China's space force development will be of immense significance and have a profound impact. Some experts believe that effective integrated air and space combat capability can improve the systematic combat capability of the Chinese military while deterring the US from doing on impulse anything detrimental to the China-US security relations, as the US is usually rational when in face of a powerful rival.

The experts also expressed that China never wishes to point the space sword to others, but it should have the capability and means to fend off this sword. It would be a misfortune for all human beings if nearly 1.4 billion people were under the threat of space security.

China will act according to how things proceed. If the US really established its "Space Force", it might not be long before China formed a similar force too.

Disclaimer: The authors are is By Liu Meiwu and Jun Lan. The article is published on It is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. If the article carries photographs or images, we do not vouch for their authenticity.


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