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AEI: The Chinese People's Liberation Army and Space Warfare

Emerging United States-China Military Competition

Author: Larry Wortzel
October 17, 2007

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The United States has taken a course with China far different from the isolationist and confrontational approach it took with the Soviet Union. The United States is heavily involved in trade and economic and political engagement with China. Nonetheless, each country is wary of the potential for conflict with the other, and they have some fundamental differences of national interest.

Whether one is a proponent of arms control agreements or not, the dialogue between the United States and the Soviet Union over arms control and treaties produced a body of mutual understanding that holds up today. Both countries seemed to realize that it is potentially destabilizing to define the upper limits of sovereignty. Thus, neither country interfered with the other's free passage in space. Both countries also agreed that the ability to conduct strategic verification from space stabilized the nuclear balance.

No such dialogue has taken place with China. Indeed, the PLA has either ignored or rebuffed American efforts at such a dialogue. Often, senior military or Communist Party leaders have told Americans that to engage in such a dialogue is an example of a "cold war mentality."[96] I believe that discussions on these issues will help clarify the rationale for U.S. space policy and help reduce the threat of space warfare.

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