Beijing on Friday said it “firmly opposes” a Pentagon report that supported maintaining tight restrictions on exports of satellites and related equipment to China. The Foreign Ministry said the report slanders China by suggesting that the country achieved space exploration through “successful spying”.
“The report recommending the maintenance of restrictions on exports to China, which was a policy formulated more than 20 years ago, does not comply with the consensus reached by leaders of both countries to strengthen bilateral cooperation on space exploration,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement. He expressed the Chinese government’s deep disappointment over the US proposal, which was released on Wednesday.
Liu emphasized that China’s space accomplishments are due to the “pioneering, innovative and devoted work” of the Chinese people.
“All attempts to limit our space development or defame and abuse it are in vain,” the spokesman said, adding that China will firmly adhere to the road of peaceful development and continue to promote the peaceful exploration of space by working with other countries on an equal and mutually beneficial basis.
The report also suggested the removal of hundreds of thousands of items from the US Munitions List of articles, technologies and services used for defense and space. Licenses issued by the US government are required to export any item on the list.
The US National Defense Authorization Act in 1999 gave the US State Department export-licensing jurisdiction over commercial satellites and related components, said Fan Jishe, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“In 1999, the US gave the military control over certain commercial industries and now they have made a reversal,” Fan said, adding that the recommended changes of the rules governing US satellite exports appear to be a “relaxation”.
“The Obama administration hopes for increased cooperation with China on space exploration. But pressure from lawmakers is significant and some in the US Congress are always obstructing Sino-US space collaboration.”
For years, US lawmakers have been accusing China of obtaining US technology through commercial deals.
“It is crystal clear that over the past 10 years, while China has been making great progress in space exploration, there has been no tangible cooperation between the two countries,” Fan said.
The satellite industry in the United States urged and welcomed the relaxation.
“The strength of our industrial base is important to sustaining and advancing the strategic advantage we get from space,” Greg Schulte, US deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said at a news conference in Colorado.
He added that the changes, if approved by Congress, would help make the US industry more competitive internationally at a time when defense budgets are declining, Reuters cited him as saying.
However, Fan said he does not expect Washington to loosen the export restrictions targeting China in the near future.
“The tight restrictions have been implemented by some US lawmakers who feel threatened by China’s economic rise. They don’t want Washington’s dominance to be challenged. However, lofty words without action are of no benefit to strategic development in space exploration for China and the US,” Fan said.