Friday, January 19, 2007

A View from Inside the PLA on China's Anti-Satellite Test

Correction: Commenter "Nicholas Brady" registered on the 9link website and advised that the "recommended articles" linked to on the user's page are selected by the site, not the user. Therefore, the fact that "Future Warrior"'s post is linked to from General Peng's user page, that should not be construed as an endorsement by Peng of "Future Warrior"'s views. China Matters apologizes for the error and thanks "Nicholas Brady" for his clarification.

Though Chinese official media appears to be largely silent on the destruction of the FY-1c weather satellite, the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao did run a prominent story on the topic.

Most of it was recycled from western news services, but the final paragraph did say that the Global Daily (part of the People’s Daily media group) had a quote from Major General Peng Guangqian:

Peng indicated the report should be treated with skepticism. He also stated directly that America ‘seems a bit jumpy’ and that there were no grounds for such speculation concerning China’s activities in space. He said: ‘China already possesses the capability to send an astronaut into space and bring him back. With the possession of such capabilities for precisely operated and controlled aeronautical devices, from a technological perspective, destroying a satellite in space is the most ordinary technology. However, what should be especially emphasized is, historically China has advocated that space be demilitarized and has never conducted any space military activities to this day.’

中國《環球時報》就有關報道向彭光謙少將查詢,彭表示報道值得懷疑,又直言美國「現在有點神經質」,對中國在外太空活動的這種猜測是沒有根據的。他說﹕「中國已有能力把太空人送到太空,還能把人接回來,有了這種精確操控飛行器的能力,從技術上講,擊一枚太空裏的衛星是很一般的技術。但要特別強調的是,中國歷來主張太空非軍事化,迄今中國沒有進行任何太空軍事行動。」

General Peng is a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Military Science, and has a high media profile. He is frequently interviewed on Taiwan, Chinese military doctrine, and the modernization of Chinese forces.

He is perhaps one of the first people that the Chinese media turns to for quotemongering on military matters and I think his statement reflects more his desire to maintain his pundit status with a juicy but meaningless quote than an authoritative representation of government policy.

But he may have other ways of getting a message out.

Amazingly, General Peng has a webpage on a PLA version of MySpace called 9Link. You get to see his picture, read his profile and resume, even (if you're registered) click on a button to become his buddy.

He offers links to other posts on the site that interest him and two of them concern the ASAT test.

One of them is a CNN article in the original English with a brief Chinese summary.

The other, more interesting one, is a post by "Future Warrior", who describes himself as a soldier in Beijing. Judging from his enormous oeuvre of fire-eating posts, he may very well be a "future warrior" because he is spending a lot more time at the keyboard than he is drilling on the parade ground.

The post that interests us today, entitled The Significance of the Destruction of a Satellite by a Chinese Ballistic Missile, offers an utterly unvarnished Chinese military perspective on the background of the test.

It is a pretty clear indication that strategic concerns about militarization of space and (by extension, at least to me) the credibility of China's nuclear deterrent are driving this issue, and not the desire to do the dirty on Taiwan in the near future, as some reflexively alarmist pundits are claiming.

Future Warrior writes:

The most exciting event of 2007 so far has been China's successful destruction of an obsolete weather satellite in orbit 500 miles up with a ballistic missile.

As one might gather from the use of English units instead of kilometers, the author is probably drawing on published Western sources instead of internal Chinese information. But the editorializing is pure Chinese--and pure gold.

...at the same time [the United States] had achieved absolute information supremacy on the global battlefield with the continual improvement of its global aerial positioning and sensing systems, it blatantly pursued global capabilities in precision attack.

What is interesting is that this overweening country [the USA] began to regard space as its own back yard. The national space policy it announced in 2006 nonchalantly regarded space as its private property. At the same time, when China at the United Nations proposed a special international organization to resolve the actual problems of a space arms race that were being faced, the United States, acting as a country far in the lead in space, vehemently opposed, saying that there was no arms race in space.

He concludes:

We hope that at the same time that this Chinese ballistic missile destroys that old satellite, it will smack the American carnivores back to reason. History shows us that if you don't hit Americans, they aren't willing to sit down at the negotiation table.

Presumably the good general knows that our spooks check his blog and click on his links. And, at least as far as the missile test is concerned, "Future Warrior" is there to say the words that General Peng might have in his heart but is too constrained by his position to utter.

For me, the most puzzling and interesting part of the story has been "the dog that didn't bark" or, in this case, the government spokesman that didn't spin.

I don't attach a lot of credence to the idea that some guy at Xichang got it into his head to bust up a satellite, and the Chinese government can't figure out what to say about it.

It looks to me that the Chinese are probably keeping mum on purpose, to see what kind of international reaction the test elicits and, especially, to note how President Bush does or does not respond to this pretty unambiguous shot across his bow.

As to what the Chinese really want, well, I think it's pretty clear.

Below is the original Chinese text of the excerpts of "Future Warrior"'s post that I translated above:

2007年才几天,最具刺激性的事就是,中国于1月11日成功地用一枚弹道导弹摧毁了一颗500英里高的轨道上的老化气象卫星。

...

但是,尽管苏联衰弱并瓦解,美国独大并不影响其继续发展其空间优势,不仅藉由其精益求精的全球导航和观测空间系统,获得全球性战场的绝对信息优势,同时也毫不隐讳地追求全球性精确定位打击能力。有意思的是,这个自大的国家开始把太空看作自家的后花园,其在2006年发表的太空国家政策当然地把太空视为私有领地,同时,当中国在联合国发起倡议成立一个专门的国际组织,以解决实际面临的太空武备竞赛问题时,美国作为在太空领域遥遥领先的国家,却强烈反对,说太空不存在武器竞赛,所谓掩耳盗铃,其意昭然,就是我的私家领地,不容有国际协议进行监管,他不想在他自认为拥有绝对优势的领域受到国际公共利益的约束。

...

 因此,我们希望中国的这颗导弹在摧毁了那颗旧卫星的同时,也能够把美国食肉者打回现实,历史告诉我们,美国人不打他是不愿意坐到谈判桌边来的。

9 comments:

Nicholas Brady said...

When you say General Peng "offers links to other posts on the site that interest him and two of them concern the ASAT test", are you referring to the section marked 推荐文章?

Because all the other blogs have the same section. I even registered my own:

http://www.9link.cn/user/582

And I can't change them. Assuming Peng is really Peng, and not some nationalist youngblood desperately seeking legitimacy, he still didn't pick any of those links, and therefore we can't claim "Future Warrior" is some sort of proxy voice. Especially since 9link is not like MySpace, as you say, but more like MySpace - if designed by the editors of Soldier of Fortune. The entire platform is dedicated to Chinese war porn.

Unless you're talking about links on some other part of the blog. In which case, lemme know where to put them. Maybe I can stir the pot a bit with my new blog.

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