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China to become global space power by advancing its ‘Space silk road’ strategy to back its belt and road plan

Over the past year, China has made efforts to push forward the development of space science. China’s Chang’e-4 probe, which landed on the far side of the moon  in  2019  is in good condition, and has made a large number of scientific discoveries, said Ge Xiaochun, chief engineer of the CNSA, and Yutu-2 has become the longest-working lunar rover on the moon. China promotes aerospace technological innovation, and its largest carrier rocket Long March-5 made a new flight at the end of 2019. China has successfully launched a carrier rocket at sea, and also pushes forward the development of lunar exploration and the construction of a high-resolution Earth-observation system, Ge said.


The Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that took place April 2019  saw 37 world leaders gather in Beijing to discuss more bilateral project opportunities with China. On the sidelines, however, the emerging Digital Silk Road was featured during the “Belt and Road CEO Conference” — a first, which brought representation by global Fortune 500 companies and other Chinese firms as a sign of their interest.


China has more than 110 artificial satellites in orbit around the Earth, and is pushing ahead with a program to build a space-based “Silk Road,” said an official with the China International Satellite Service Association (CISSA). The 110 satellites include communications satellites, remote sensing satellites and navigation satellites, and the first two types of satellites have achieved global coverage, said Wang Zhongguo, executive vice president of the CISSA, during an interview with China News Service.


China is using its space advances to become a dominant economic and military power. China is offering space services to its partner countries of its belt and road initiative, being dubbed the ‘Space Silk Road‘.  The idea was introduced in 2014 by the International Alliance of Satellite Application Services (ASAS), and aims at utilizing the satellites, launch services, and ground infrastructure for supporting related industries and service providers globally.


Since 2013, Beijing has inked 173 deals with 125 countries and 29 international organizations under the massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Boosting connectivity has been the overarching concept of the BRI. So far, the bulk of Chinese investments have been crowded around physical infrastructure projects in BRI host countries. The space-based Silk Road will use dozens of these satellites to meet the communication and remote-sensing application demand for the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, according to Wang Zhongguo, executive vice-president of the ASAS. “The space-based Silk Road will help Chinese companies and governments involved in the program to exchange information, especially for projects in regions with limited communication and transportation capacity,” Wang told the Global Times. The services offered by the satellites are applicable in multiple fields. They are used for communication, surveying, weather monitoring, mapping, disaster mitigation and relief, emergency search and rescue, and many more. BDS even forms the backbone of the Chinese autonomous driving industry.


China shared the data of its Gaofen Earth-observation satellites with other countries and provided services for countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative. The CNSA invited scientists around the world to participate in the Chang’e-6 lunar exploration mission and asteroid exploration mission. The China-Brazil Earth Resource Satellite-4A was launched at the end of 2019, setting a good example for space cooperation among developing countries. The China-France Oceanography Satellite, sent into space in 2018, has been put into use, Ge said.


China is racing towards an advantage in space that could lead to the regime “dominating the world,” a top European Union official warned in June 2019. “Look for instance at what China is doing, launching … a lot of satellites,” Pierre Delsaux, a deputy director general at the European Commission, said at a defense forum in Washington. “It’s something that we need to take into account because again dominating space will mean dominating the world.”


Delsaux’s comments acknowledged a large-scale threat in space. “Our economy is more and more dependent upon space,” he said. “And, of course, who controls space at the end of the day will be able to control the world economy.” “In the world in which we live, war can take other forms,” Delsaux told an assembly of U.S. and European officials at the EU & Foreign Policy Defense Forum 2019. “You can destroy a country by an economic dimension, not necessarily by invading a country.”


The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission called out China’s aim to replace the United States as the premier power in space in its annual report released Nov. 2019. “China’s government and military are determined to meet ambitious goals for space leadership, if not dominance, and China has connected its space program with its broader ambitions to become a terrestrial leader in political, economic, and military power,” the report said. “Beijing aims to establish a leading position in the future space-based economy and capture important sectors of the global commercial space industry, including promoting its space industry through partnerships under what it has termed the ‘Space Silk Road.’” The commission calls for Congress to direct the National Space Council to develop a strategy to counter efforts by China and Russia and ensure the United States remains the preeminent space power. The commission also recommends that the space domain be more fully integrated into all policy, training and exercises.


China is also working to degrade one of the United State’s primary advantages in space — its international partnerships. China has worked to promote its international leadership in space and plans to build its own space station to replace the International Space Station, replacing the United States as the go to partner for human spaceflight. Because of this, the report asks Congress to push the Trump administration to actively participate in international space governance institutions and strengthen partnerships in the space domain.


China’s space programs also have dual use. In today’s warfighting environment, the need for information is critical and smart phones and mobile communication satellites can provide PLA with global beyond line of sight (BLOS), secure voice, video and data communications to ground, naval, and air tactical warfighters on-the-move. It shall enable small units of special operators performing missions in isolated locations to maintain contact with each other and with headquarters.

China space based silk road strategy

Confronted with slower growth rates, industrial overcapacity, and an ageing society, China is placing its bets on the future of the digital economy to sustain stable levels of growth. By investing financial resources into ambitious national initiatives such as “Made in China 2025” and Internet Plus, China not only wants to technologically upgrade and digitize its economic base, but also deploy “national players” in telecommunications, e-commerce, and information technology to secure access to untapped markets abroad – and there is no better way to achieve this objective than to marry state-led infrastructure development projects with digital connectivity.


The broad policy outline for today’s Digital Silk Road can be traced to a joint white paper released in 2015 by China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce. The white paper notes: [China] should jointly advance the construction of cross-border optical cables and other communications trunk line networks, improve international communications connectivity, and create an information Silk Road. We should build bilateral cross-border optical cable networks at a quicker pace, plan transcontinental submarine optical cable projects, and improve spatial (satellite) information passageways to expand information exchanges and cooperation.


China’s space strategy is closely tied to BRI, which is a global development strategy involving strategic and infrastructure investments in nations around the world designed to closely tie them to the Chinese economy and enhance the country’s global leadership. The BRI Space Information Corridor — also known as the Space Silk Road — would use communications, remote sensing, and Beidou navigation satellites to connect the countries involved when completed in the late 2020’s.


“The project is further intended to improve China’s industrial high-tech cooperation with BRI countries, accelerate the ‘going out’ of China’s space industry and increase the competitiveness of Chinese space firms, promote the image of China as a responsible big country by facilitating humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and increase the level of marketization and internationalization of China’s space information industry,” the report stated.


China has been signing an increasing number of cooperative agreements with developed and developing nations across the globe. “As of April 2018, China claimed it had signed 121 space cooperation agreements with 37 countries and four international organizations, which it uses to help promote BRI and develop China’s space leadership in the Indo-Pacific,” the document added.


Moreover, in 2016, China’s State Council issued the “13th Five Year Plan, which dedicates a specific section on improving internet and telecommunications links across BRI countries. In particular, the five year plan emphasizes the creation of land and sea cable infrastructure, an Internet Silk Road between China and Arab States, and the creation of a China-ASEAN information harbor.


In late 2017, Chinese company Huawei Marine partnered with the Pakistani authorities to start constructing the Pakistan East Africa Cable Express, which will connect Pakistan to Kenya and Djibouti. Huawei Marine also oversaw the completion of submarine cable projects in Indonesia and the Philippines, and previously planned to build a submarine cable route from the Solomon Islands to Sydney, Australia before its bid was dropped in favour of Australian government funding.


China founded the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO) in 2008 as its primary vehicle for space cooperation in the region. Members include Bangladesh, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, Thailand, and Turkey. The CISSA, made up of enterprises, institutions and scholars in the aerospace field, was set up in 2014, with the aim of helping expand Chinese satellite service to the world. Based on the China-proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (Road and Belt) initiatives, the CISSA plans to build a space-based “Silk Road” to provide better services to the Road and Belt region.


Wang said the new system will be made up of an extensive communications satellite network, several virtual remote sensing satellite constellations, and ground facilities. China will also promote the system’s connection and interaction with the world’s major navigation systems, and seek cooperation with them on building space-based and ground-based navigation augmentation systems, he adds. Upon completion, the system will be capable of offering more accurate and qualified satellite navigation services to the Road and Belt region, as well as conducting stable long-term comprehensive monitoring of the land, ocean, air and environment in the region.


China has launched Sudan’s first-ever satellite for conducting research in military, economic and space technology, the northeast African country’s ruling body said in Nov 2019. “The satellite aims to develop research in space technology, acquire data as well as discover natural resources for the country’s military needs,” a statement issued by the council said. Wang said technology is not a problem in building the space-based “Silk Road,” and that the key is knowing the needs of countries and regions along the Road and Belt. So far, his association has developed relationships with Malaysia and Indonesia regarding satellite and ground station cooperation projects.


The China Space Station positions Beijing to leverage its presence in space into diplomatic and scientific gains and further its space silk road strategy. China has Planned a Launch of a New Space Station in April 2020. China’s  first space station, the one-room Tiangong-1 was launched in 2011. This burned up in Earth’s atmosphere seven years later. The vehicle helped China master the technologies and procedures needed to build bigger stations.  A successor, Tiangong-2, was launched in 15 Sep 2016 to support longer-duration missions. Later in Oct 2016, China’s sent two taikonauts to Tiangong-2 for 33 days, a record for consecutive time spent in space for China. Now, China is planning a launch in April 2020 to prepare for building the country’s next space station.


Mr. Harrison contended that China might offer other countries the opportunity to conduct crewed missions to the China Space Station and later to the moon or even Mars as incentives to cooperate with China’s priorities on Earth. According to Bleddyn Bowen, a space expert at the University of Leicester, opening the China Space Station to international participants is part of China’s effort to establish itself as a U.S. rival in space and to demonstrate that countries can stimulate their space technology sectors without relying on the United States.


In June 2019, the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs and the China Manned Space Agency announced six experiments from institutions in 17 countries had received approval for inclusion on the China Space Station and three others had received conditional approval, and the two organizations confirmed they would invite applications for a second group of experiments.


BeiDou: Chinese global satellite navigation system part of Digital Silk Road

China has added two more satellites to its BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) which rivals the US Global Positioning System (GPS). The satellites entered a medium earth orbit  and will work with 17 other BDS-3 satellites already in space, state run Xinhua news agency reported. With the successful launch, the basic BDS constellation deployment is complete, the report said. China plans to provide navigation services with the BDS-3 to the Belt and Road partner countries by the end of this year, marking a key step toward a global navigation service, it said.


Chinese industries have also been actively promoting the development of BeiDou-2, a Chinese-constructed and operated global satellite navigation system set to consist of 35 satellites by 2020. The China Satellite Navigation Office intends for the BeiDou navigation satellite system to be commercially used worldwide as an alternative to the Global Positioning System (GPS) owned by the U.S government. Already a number of Asian countries — including Pakistan, Laos, Brunei, and Thailand — have adopted BeiDou.


As part of the Digital Silk Road, China aims to extend coverage of its home-grown satellite-navigation system to the 60-plus countries along the belt and road. By 2020, China hopes to achieve global coverage with a constellation of 35 satellites – allowing China to end its reliance on US GPS; increase its diplomatic clout in regional and international forums on Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) related affairs; and provide the People’s Liberation Army’s sensor-equipped platforms and missiles with enhanced guidance capabilities.


The BDS satellites function in three categories, with the BDS-1 system providing positioning, navigation, and timing services throughout China, followed by the BDS-2 offering the same across the Asia-Pacific region. The BDS-3 will cover countries connected by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).


Currently, there is a booming market of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) in space, comprising of products and services based on positioning. This is particularly due to the growth of smart technology like wearables, IoT devices, drones, and autonomous vehicles. According to the GNSS market report published in 2017, the primary growth in this market is expected to happen in the Asia-Pacific region where the number of GNSS devices – mainly smartphones – is expected to grow from 1.9 billion in 2015 to 4.3 billion devices by 2025. This is greater than the numbers for EU and North America combined.


In 2016, the output value of the GNSS and location-based services market in China reached $33.24 billion. This is expected to grow to about $62 billion by 2020 thanks to roles played by satellites like the BDS.


China and Arab states promote BeiDou via Space Silk Road

The second China-Arab States BDS Cooperation Forum, held April 2019 in Tunis, Tunisia, covered measures and initiatives that will increase the use of China’s Beidou navigation satellite system (BDS) in the Arab world. The aim is to establish a Space Silk Road that elevates cooperation in high-technology between China and the Middle East and North Africa, reports spacewatch global.


The forum concluded that increased BDS use in the Arab world, as well as technological cooperation with China, could be achieved by establishing the Space Silk Road. By formally establishing a Silk Road conceptual theme, forum participants believe that Arab countries will step up their use of BDS for everything ranging from precision agriculture and maritime domain awareness to disaster management and telecommunications.


“The BDS cooperation is the best example for the strategic cooperation between China and Arab states, as satellite navigation integrates many high-tech areas, including telecommunication and space technologies,” said Slim Khalbous, Tunisia’s minister for higher education and scientific research in an address to the forum. “This is an important opportunity for Tunisia, while the BDS cooperation also means the further upgrade of the China-Arab relations.”


“Satellite navigation has provided many conveniences and benefits for us, and we are determined to push forward with our cooperation,” said Mohamed Ben Amor, secretary-general of the Arab Information and Communication Technologies Organization (AICTO), in the forum’s opening speech. Amor added that the establishment of the China-Arab States BDS/GNNS Centre in Tunis in 2018 is an important step in increasing Sino-Arab cooperation in satellite positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) applications through BDS.


Kamal Hassen Ali, assistant secretary general of the Arab League in charge of economic affairs, celebrated the burgeoning cooperation between China and Arab states. “The size of our cooperation will grow bigger, as the China-Tunisia cooperation has borne many fruits, and it will achieve greater progress in other countries in the region too.,” Ali said.


The China-Arab States BDS Cooperation Forum is a multilateral initiative for promoting cooperation and exchanges between China and Arab states in the field of satellite navigation within the framework of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum. The first forum was held in Shanghai, China, in May 2017.


China’s first mobile telecom satellite successfully launched

China sent a mobile communications satellite the Tiantong 1 into orbit on top of a Long March 3B rocket,on Aug 2016 from the Xichang launch base in southwest China’s Sichuan province. The Xinhua news agency said Tiantong 1 “is the first satellite of China’s home-made satellite mobile telecom system, and a key part of the country’s space information infrastructure.” More satellites will be launched to expand the mobile telecom network, Chinese state media reported.


Designed by the China Academy of Space Technology, Tiantong 1 will connect users on the move who are not equipped with large antennas. Similar mobile satellite network, such as the commercial Inmarsat system, include hand-held terminals for subscribers to connect from remote locales. Xinhua reported the Tiantong system will reach users in China, the Middle East, Africa and other regions. The network’s ground service will be operated by China Telecom, official news reports said.


China unveils first smartphone for satellite communications network

China’s aerospace technology company has unveiled the first satellite smartphone designed for use with the country’s first mobile communications satellite, Tiantong-1 (TT-1), media reports said. CASC launched TT-1 into an equator-hugging, geostationary orbit about 35,000km above the earth on August 6, this year. “The TT-1 smartphone is so far capable of covering the territory of China and the whole of South China Sea. We are going to expand our coverage to the whole world by launching a network of TT satellites in the next five years,” said an engineer from CASC.


Satellite experts said the new satellite smartphone was a product of the ‘space-based Silk Road’, a long-term strategy proposed by Chinese aerospace companies, institutions and scholars to support the country’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. The space-based Silk Road initiative was proposed in 2014 by the International Alliance of Satellite Application Service (ASAS), a China-based organization of aerospace companies, institutions and scholars that promotes Chinese satellite services around the world.


The new smartphone, developed by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), is scheduled to go on sale in two-to-three months, South China Morning Post reported on Sunday. According to the report, the smartphone was specially designed for emergency communication by field geologists or relief workers in remote areas, or when ground telecommunication networks were interrupted by natural disaster or accidents.


Besides satellite coverage, the smartphone is compatible with multiple ground-based cellular networks, including 4G LTE and 3G, supports SMS, WeChat, video and data transmission, and allows free switching between satellite and ground communication. The smartphone will retail from around 10,000 yuan ($1,480), with communication fees starting from around 1 yuan a minute — a tenth of the price charged by Inmarsat.



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International Defense Security & Technology (September 29, 2022) China to become global space power by advancing its ‘Space silk road’ strategy to back its belt and road plan. Retrieved from
"China to become global space power by advancing its ‘Space silk road’ strategy to back its belt and road plan." International Defense Security & Technology - September 29, 2022,
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"China to become global space power by advancing its ‘Space silk road’ strategy to back its belt and road plan." International Defense Security & Technology - Accessed September 29, 2022.
"China to become global space power by advancing its ‘Space silk road’ strategy to back its belt and road plan." International Defense Security & Technology [Online]. Available: [Accessed: September 29, 2022]

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