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China’s Solution to the Military Problem of Space


As part of a series I wrote on how the nations of the Indo-Pacific are dealing with the military problem of space, I wrote two brief pieces profiling China’s approach. First on how China has conceptualized space in military terms:

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also came to appreciate the need to use space in order to facilitate the conduct of modern, high-intensity networked warfare. Wars waged by the United States in 1991, 1999, 2001, and 2003 awakened Chinese military authorities to the promise and threat of digitized, informationized warfare. Such warfare inherently requires tight collaboration across domains (termed “multidomain operations” in U.S. military jargon), which requires real-time communications and a detailed picture of the battlespace. Chinese authorities came to appreciate not merely the threats posed by U.S. dominance, but also how space could enable the PLA to fight in a more modern fashion. 

Consequently, China’s space doctrine has become similar to that of the United States; access to space enables military operations in other domains, while denying space to the enemy undercuts its ability to conduct coherent military ops.

And then on the institutional ramifications of that policy:

The PLASSF has responsibility for space, cyber, and electromagnetic spectrum domains, making it a genuinely joint organization in concept, at least. A RAND report on the reorganization argues that the PLASSF should be thought of as an organization intended to facilitate joint warfare, rather than as a “space force” or “cyber force” in U.S. terminology. Indeed, in some ways the cyber warfare organs of the PLASSF more closely resemble intelligence than military organizations in the U.S. system. If the lines between the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command remain blurry and uncertain, the PLASSF in some ways more closely resembles the now defunct Joint Forces Command, which worked to integrate existing U.S. military capabilities and to shepherd “transformation” in the Department of Defense. It also resembles a grown up version of DoD’s now-obsolete Air-Sea Battle Office, which focused on concentrating and deconflicting air and sea assets in the Western Pacific.

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