Joseph R. Biden’s space advisors have urged him to cooperate with the People’s Republic of China on space exploration. Doing so would be catastrophic for NASA and America’s national security.
Biden’s team argues that normalizing space relations with China will make the authoritarian regime less hostile to the United States’ interests. This line of thinking ignores history and China’s predatory space ambitions. It would fast-track Chinese espionage and militarization of Earth’s low orbit, diminishing America’s space exploration for future generations.
For the past 20 years, the Chinese government has become laser-focused on surpassing the United States as the global leader, both economically and militarily. Its efforts to secure domination have culminated in a policy that the country calls Military-Civil Fusion. This policy mandates businesses hand over any innovations that the Communist Party deems beneficial to its global militarization interests. It has been so successful that even the Pentagon has expressed shock at the speed with which it has expanded the country’s defense capabilities.
Aerospace technology is one of the key innovation groups that China targets under MCF. That’s not surprising considering that weaponizing and restricting access to space for competing nations remains one of the country’s top priorities.
America has worked to build up a counterforce to slow China’s growth, but China has succeeded in finding other routes to continue stealing our secrets and closing the present space advantage gap.
Among other tactics, the People’s Republic nationals act as spies, stealing secrets from employers and universities here in the United States. It has orchestrated wide-scale cyber espionage operations that have targeted some of the nation’s largest federal agencies, including NASA. The country now even seemingly conspires to take technology from U.S. companies that operate within the communist regime’s borders. For example, it stole autopilot technology from SpaceX that doubles as rocket guidance software and then proceeded to bait CEO Elon Musk to bring his car operations to China with a billion-dollar loan.
Congress has continued to pass restrictions on China’s access to our space program and innovations. For instance, former Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), placed two amendments in the NASA Authorization Act requiring background checks to ensure private U.S. space contractors don’t have any security vulnerabilities that China can capitalize on to advance its predatory ambitions.
Biden’s team, however, is of the school of thought that Congress’ approach is isolationist and that a space partnership will produce a more liberalized China. This idea may sound sensible in theory, but America already tried this strategy for decades and watched it fail. The result was trillions of dollars lost from IP theft, millions of jobs lost due to degraded global labor standards, countless human rights abuses, and a more emboldened and authoritarian rival on the global stage.
Supporters of this “collaborationist” strategy point to American relations with the Soviet Union as an example of space partnerships working; however, the partnership didn’t produce better relations or a more liberalized Russia. In fact, the partnership has degraded since the heyday of the Cold War because of our eastern “comrade’s” continued bad behavior.
After Russia annexed Crimea, American lawmakers went so far as to modify our national launch agreement in response and stop using Russian-made rockets. It became clear that by partnering with a nation that didn’t share our interests, our national security became even more vulnerable, and geopolitical tensions got even worse. The response wasn’t to continue doing more of the same then, and it shouldn’t be now.
Biden will need to act fast in setting the direction of his administration. He’s made speeches recently in which he’s promised to get tough on China, but early signs are not hopeful.
He has revoked Trump Administration actions restricting the use of Chinese-made bulk power equipment in America’s electrical power grid. He also delayed a ban on American investment in Chinese firms with ties to the military.
We can hope Mr. Biden will dismiss his team’s space advice and proceed with caution when dealing with the regime.
But Biden has favored appeasement in the past, and it’s clear that this strategy has failed. If he wants to get tough on China, partnering with them in space isn’t the way to go. Biden needs to strengthen our defense against further espionage and put the needs of Americans first. Our nation’s security depends on it.