Rong Du (SJD 2017)
Introduction: The concept “space sustainability” came to the landscape of international space community in response to the increasing concerns over the safety and security of outer space in recent years, especially the risk posed by long-lived space debris. By far, there is no agreed definition on space sustainability. It often appears in association with space safety and space security or encompasses the meaning of safety and security in outer space, with an emphasis on the long-term impact of current space activities and due considerations deserved by future generations.1 The threats to space assets may come from the collision risk posed by orbital debris and asteroid or interferences from hazardous space weather.2 Space debris is the most serious issue. States have been dealing with space debris from two perspectives, debris mitigation and removal, and monitoring space debris through space situational awareness (SSA) capability. China started to develop the space industry since the 1950s and has carried out various space programs. After efforts of several decades, it has become autonomous in the construction and launch of satellite. By far, it possesses almost 150 satellites in orbit. It also has made remarkable progress in the exploratory and scientific missions, such as human space flight and lunar exploration. It will continue to give a high priority to the space sector for the purpose of boosting economic growth and safeguarding national security. Yet, due to the lack of national space policy, there have always been concerns on how China will carry out space activities in a responsible and sustainable way. The previous researches discussed China's performance in tackling space debris from the legal perspective. But they overlooked the policy aspect and did not address the implications of the civil-military relationship for the space sector. Among the external observers, there are different understandings toward China's strategy in outer space. The 2007 anti-satellite (ASAT) test is often cited as an evidence of China's ignorance to the sustainability of outer space environment. Yet the underlying causes should be carefully studied, other than widely speculated. Meanwhile, China has become more proactive in the multilateral efforts aiming to create new norms for space sustainability. Its participation carries substantial weight in the conclusion of the agreements. These instruments, once adopted, will contribute to shape China's behaviors in outer space. This paper examines the parameters that are affecting China's approach to space sustainability and suggests how China could make systematic efforts toward space sustainability, with a major focus on the civil-military interaction. Part 2 reviews the space governance structure and the progress made by China by far. Part 3 examines the 2007 ASAT test from the perspectives of the civil-military gap, the US's responses, and the military sector's narratives on space strategy. Part 4 further discusses to what extent the newly created Central National Security Commission (CNSC) and the military reform will fill the civil-military gap and facilitate the deliberation of space policy. Part 5 draws the correlation between ASAT capability and the Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) and discusses the political factors pertaining to the prospect of the PPWT. It also discusses how far China is from the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (ICoC), taking into account the interactions between the PPWT and the ICoC.
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