Year of the Rocket

The Chinese have developed an impressive booster capability--but how?

18 min read
Year of the Rocket

The Chinese have the space capabilities of the most advanced industrialized countries. They build and launch long-range missiles, put satellites in orbit, and, as of late 2000, plan a national strategy for manned space flight. But detractors, suspicious of China's rapid progress, allege it leap-frogged years of R&D by spying on the West. Is there anything to these charges, or has China achieved success all on its own? The truth, it seems, is more complex than either extreme.

Perhaps the most sensational charges were in a May 1999 report by a Congressional commission headed by Representative Christopher Cox (R-Calif.). "The PRC [People's Republic of China] has stolen U.S. missile guidance technology that has direct applicability to the [Chinese army's] ballistic missiles," it stated. The commission had been organized the year before specifically to look into issues of possible espionage by China. But making charges is one thing, and proving them conclusively is another. In fact, the Cox Report also noted that China may have come by its knowledge in part the old-fashioned, dare it be said, cooperative way: through joint projects with other nations, by reading open publications and attending conferences, and through personal contacts. Indeed, China does appear to be hunting energetically for foreign space and missile secrets, but not only in the way the charges first read.

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This is a sponsored article brought to you by BAE Systems.

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