Despite how easy it is to prevent, China continues to allow launch debris to rain down on rural towns and threaten people’s safety.

MIT Technology Review
Date: Nov 27, 2019
By: Neel V. Patel

Last Saturday, China launched a pair of satellites into orbit from its Xichang Satellite Launch Center. On social media, however, the main event was what happened on Earth: a booster from the launch smashed right into a building in the country’s rural south-central region. No one was injured, but videos and photos of the incident showed wreckage left in the booster’s wake, with toxic rocket fuel evaporating.

It’s the latest incident in China’s long history with falling rocket parts causing destruction below. The most infamous crash occurred in 1996, when the first Long March 3B launch saw the rocket veer off course and crash into a village, killing an unknown number of people (possibly hundreds, by some Western estimates).

“Any time you have stuff going up, there’s a possibility it’s going to come down where you don’t plan for it,” says Victoria Samson at the Secure World Foundation. “So there’s a reason why you don’t fire over populated land.” That’s why most countries launch over water.

So why doesn’t China? “This entire issue is down to geography,” says Thomas Roberts, a former aerospace security fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All three of China’s main spaceports are located in the mainland, including the Xichang site. They all save money by flying missions east (which requires less fuel to get into space), but that route takes them over vulnerable populations.

China issues evacuation notices to communities downrange, but even if people aren’t harmed or killed by the physical impact of a crash or by direct exposure to rocket fuel (which can lead to severe organ failure or cancer), the wreckage could pollute nearby rivers and streams used for irrigation and drinking water. Launches from the Soviet Union’s old Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, built in 1955, have caused more than 2,500 tons of debris to rain down on the surrounding region, leading to health problems for thousands.

So the issue isn’t new, but the space industry is expanding rapidly. “The more launches you have, the more chances you have for something to go wrong,” says Samson.

Luckily, the solutions aren’t complicated—they just require political will. China can launch over the water if it wants, through its spaceport on the island of Hainan in the South China Sea. Operational since 2014, it’s been seldom used because of launch failures and a less developed infrastructure. But these issues are fixable with enough investment.    [FULL  STORY]

Good for China. Bad for America.

The National Interest
Date: September 16, 2019
By: Robert Farley

Will the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ever take the leap into nuclear propulsion for its aircraft carriers? Credible reports confirm that the PLAN is already building at least one conventional carrier in the 80,000-ton range. Given how quickly Chinese shipbuilding has accelerated, does it make sense for the PLAN to think nuclear for its next generation of ships?

Current Carriers

China has taken huge steps forward in the past decade, acquiring and modifying an old Soviet carrier, and building a new ship to the same design. China will follow up the Type 001— essentially a half-sister to Liaoning, itself a half-sister to Admiral Kuznetsov—with the Type 002. Reportedly already under construction, the Type 002 is expected to use conventional propulsion, along with a series of technological advances such as an EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) catapult system.

It is unclear how many Type 002 carriers Beijing will build, although a one-off would be uncharacteristic of Chinese shipbuilding. It makes sense that the PLAN would want a pair of ships; operating the CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) Type 002 carriers will require a significantly different skill set than the first two, and it will be easier to produce that skill set with two carriers than with one. Moreover, the construction of only a single carrier could make that ship a white elephant, sitting uneasily in China’s larger strategic plan.    [FULL  STORY]

The PLAN is quickly becoming a blue water naval force.

The National Interest
Date: September 7, 2019 
By: Kyle Mizokami

With all of this shipbuilding capacity (and shipbuilding jobs on the line) the obvious question is what the shipyards will build next. Submarine construction is one possibility, as well as smaller amphibious craft, particularly LSTs capable of carrying a dozen or so tanks and armored vehicles. China’s military opacity means outside observers just don’t know. Whatever the ultimate goal, China is already a major military power in the Asia-Pacific.

The breakneck pace of Chinese naval construction makes the People’s Liberation Army Navy a force to watch. The PLAN is not only in the process of modernizing but also expanding, with shipbuilding schedules not seen since the height of the Cold War. From carriers to corvettes, the Chinese Navy is expanding faster than any other navy on the planet. As a result, it’s often useful to check in and see the current state of the navy, and wonder what it’s all meant for.

China’s aircraft carrier program marches on, with two carriers completed and a third ship under construction. In 2017 the first carrier Liaoning, as the Pentagon’s recently released 2018 China Military Power Report (PDF) noted, made two high profile voyages to Hainan Island and Hong Kong. That having been said, despite being in operation for more than three years it has yet to travel to a foreign country.

At the same time China’s second carrier, the unnamed Type 002 ship, is currently portside at Dalian and undergoing shore-based systems testing. Type 002 is very similar both dimensionally and in outer appearance to Liaoning, retaining conventional propulsion and a ski-jump for assisted takeoffs. The ship differs in having minor changes to the superstructure, including new advanced electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, and can carry twenty-four to thirty J-15 fighters—slightly more than Liaoning.

Meanwhile, China’s third carrier, the also-unnamed Type 003, is under construction at Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard. Unlike the Type 002 ship the shipyard is building the 003 in modules (known as “superlifts” in American shipyards) to be assembled in drydock, just like the U.S. Navy’s supercarriers. Construction won’t be the only thing 003 shares with her American counterparts—the ship will reportedly be the first Chinese surface ship to rely on nuclear propulsion, and will use either steam or electromagnetic catapults to launch aircraft.    [FULL  STORY]

GROWING THREAT: The defense ministry said that the PLA has been expanding its arsenal to achieve its strategic goals and increase its force projection in the region

Taipei Times
Date: Aug 31, 2019
By: Aaron Tu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Chinese armed forces could soon have full-fledged “tactical nuclear power” to counter any major nuclear-armed

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force Xian H-6 bomber flies outside Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Dec. 18 last year.
Photo courtesy of the Ministry of National Defense
nation, according to the Ministry of National Defense’s People’s Liberation Army Report for this year.

Such capabilities could allow China to attain its strategic goals of ending calls for independence within and outside of its borders; combating hegemony; establishing control of its border with India; and stabilizing its frontiers, said the report, which was delivered to the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could by next year establish an arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons sizeable and powerful enough to deter a nuclear war and protect China’s borders, it said.

By 2050, China could complete the infrastructure necessary to launch nuclear-armed aircraft for strategic bombing, it added.    [FULL  STORY]

The dragon has no wings?

The National Interest
Date: August 2, 2019
By: Michael Peck

China’s new defense white paper has been eagerly awaited by Western analysts searching for clues to Beijing’s national security strategy.

The 2019 white paper (the last one was in 2015) lays out general principles of China’s defense policy. It avows the new face of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Cyberwarfare, more flexible command and control, long-range naval operations. Change the names and numbers, and you could be forgiven for thinking this was a planning document from the U.S. military or an American thinktank.

But before we fear the onslaught of the Dragon, take a look at the problems that the white paper says China’s military must solve.

The most glaring is corruption, which has led to numerous senior officers being punished for crimes such as selling promotions. “China’s armed forces are tightening political discipline and rules, investigating and dealing strictly with grave violations of CPC discipline and state laws,” the white paper says. “China’s armed forces punish corruption in strict accordance with CPC [Communist Party] discipline and relevant laws, and rectify any malpractice in key construction projects and the procurement of equipment and material…They have worked to implement full-spectrum audit, intensify the audit of major fields, projects and funds, and perform strict audits over the economic liabilities of officers in positions of leadership. Active efforts have been made to monitor the cost-effectiveness of applied funds, conduct whole-process audit, and combine civil and military efforts in auditing.”

The U.S. military has no shortage of faults. Careerism, inflated prices for military equipment, weapons that don’t work as advertised, the revolving door between the Pentagon and the defense industry. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine the Pentagon having to cite corruption as a major impediment to military efficiency.    [FULL  STORY]

The numerous overlapping sovereign claims to islands and reefs have turned the South China Sea into an armed camp. Beijing now has 27 outposts in the sea.

Date: July 1, 2019
By: Amanda Macias, CNBC and Courtney Kube

Chinese dredging vessels in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in 2015.U.S. Navy / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — China has been conducting a series of anti-ship ballistic missile tests in the hotly contested waters of the South China Sea, according to two U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter.

The Chinese carried out the first test over the weekend, firing off at least one missile into the sea, one official said. The window for testing remains open until July 3, and the official expects the Chinese military to test again before it closes.

While the U.S. military has ships in the South China Sea, they were not close to the weekend test and are not in danger, the official said, adding that the test however is "concerning." The official, who was not authorized to speak about the testing, could not say whether the anti-ship missiles being tested represent a new capability for the Chinese military.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC's and NBC's requests for comment.

The development comes as the United States and China have paused tensions in their ongoing trade battle. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed over the weekend at the G-20 summit in Japan to not impose new tariffs on each other's goods. A trade deal between the two countries fell through in the beginning of May.

The South China Sea, which is home to more than 200 specks of land, serves as a gateway to global sea routes where approximately $3.4 trillion of trade passes annually.

The numerous overlapping sovereign claims to islands, reefs and rocks — many of which disappear under high tide — have turned the waters into an armed camp. Beijing holds the lion's share of these features with approximately 27 outposts peppered throughout.

In May 2018, China quietly installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its fortified outposts west of the Philippines in the South China Sea, a move that allows Beijing to further project its power in the hotly disputed waters, according to sources with direct knowledge of U.S. intelligence reports.    [FULL  STORY]

Date: Jan 18, 2019
By: Ciaran McGrath

CHINA’s “imperial” ambitions represent a major threat to world security, with the South China Sea a potential flashpoint, an expert in US-China relations has said, just days after analysts suggested Beijing was drawing up plans for wars with United States and India.PUBLISHED: 20:27, Fri, Jan 18,

China's People's Liberation Army is estimated to have more than two million soldiers on active duty (Image: GETTY)

And Professor Michael Cullinane, Professor of US History at the University of Roehampton, said NATO was in danger of becoming an “anachronism” as it struggled to adapt to the new world order of the 21st century. Mr Cullinane told he was particularly concerned at the attempts by the Philippines to alter the terms of the 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty with the US, which critics fear could result in Manila allying itself with Beijing. China’s President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to the country in November, during which he and controversial Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte agreed a joint oil and gas exploration.

Days earlier, at the ASEAN summit Singapore, Mr Duterte, told reporters: “China is already in possession of the South China Sea. It’s now in their hands,”

“So why do you have to create frictions that will prompt a response from China?

“China is there, that’s a reality, and America and everybody should realise that they are there.”

Prof. Cullinane warned such attitudes would present major challenges for the West going forward, especially coupled with China’s ongoing trade dispute with the United States.

Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Emphasising that he was talking about the regime as opposed to the Chinese people, he said: “China has bases on many of the islands in the South China Sea and the Philippines is under pressure to go along with that.

“China supposedly has this 1,000 year history of not invading places but this is anything but that – this is old school imperialism.

“This is looking more and more like a 19th century world we are living in, where power talks, and that’s largely why Donald Trump was elected of course.    [FULL  STORY]

EAST-WEST tensions are set to tighten amid reports China is considering purchasing advanced Russian fighter jets, once again ignoring US sanctions.

Date: Jul 2, 2019
By: Brian McGleenon

President Xi of China is considering purchasing advanced Russian fighters (Image: GETTY)

China is demonstrating its closer ties to Russia at a time when its relationship with the US is deteriorating by purchasing ”modern weapons and military equipment manufactured in Russia, including additional batches of Su-35 fighter jets". In September, the US State Department announced it would be sanctioning the Equipment Development Department of China's Central Military Commission over its acquisition of Russia's "Su-35 combat aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment". The Diplomat's senior editor Franz-Stefan Gady also commented on the potential purchase, explaining on Thursday that the Chinese Su-35 "can reportedly be with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, unguided rockets, guided bomb units, unguided bombs and anti-ship missiles."

The aircraft is an upgraded version of the Sukhoi Su-27 and Beijing already bought two dozen for some $2.5billion (£1.9billion).

Official China Central Television column Weihutang issued a report of its own Saturday suggesting that a second batch could help to further modernise the Chinese air force's ageing fleet.

On Sunday, however, Chinese air defence expert Fu Qianshao told Chinese Communist Party tabloid The Global Times that there would likely be another reason for the purchase.

Fu argued that, rather than simply bringing China's aerial capabilities up to date, such an acquisition would secure more spare parts and dedicated personnel involved in the Su-35 program.

Advanced U.S. weapons are almost entirely reliant on rare-earth materials only made in China—and they could be a casualty of the trade war.

Foreign Policy
Date: June 11, 2019
By: Keith Johnson, Lara Seligman

Sailors aboard the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) prepare to moor at the historic submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam June 6, 2019 following their latest deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Patrick Dille)

The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii prepared to moor at the historic submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on June 6. Each Virginia-class submarine uses nearly five tons of rare-earth materials. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Patrick Dille

President Donald Trump has often argued that China has much more to lose than the United States in a trade war, but critics say his administration has failed to address a major U.S. vulnerability: Beijing maintains powerful leverage over the warmaking capability of its main strategic rival through its control of critical materials.

Every advanced weapon in the U.S. arsenal—from Tomahawk missiles to the F-35 fighter jet to Aegis-equipped destroyers and cruisers and everything in between—is absolutely reliant on components made using rare-earth elements, including critical items such as permanent magnets and specialized alloys that are almost exclusively made in China. Perhaps more worrisome is that the long-term U.S. supply of smart bombs and guided munitions that would have to be replenished in a hurry in the event of U.S. conflict in Syria, Iran, or elsewhere are essentially reliant on China’s acquiescence in their continued production.

But is it too much for him to at least show some foreign-policy common sense?

Chinese threats to cut off U.S. supplies of rare earths, first floated by Beijing in late May, haven’t abated. Over the weekend, Chinese state media suggested that high-end, finished products using rare earths that the U.S. defense industry requires could be included in China’s technology-export restrictions, themselves a response to U.S. pressure on the telecoms giant Huawei. “China is capable of impacting the US supply chain through certain technical controls,” said an editorial in China’s Global Times that pointedly referred to processed rare earths.    [FULL  STORY]

Business Insider
Date: June 12, 2019
By: Ryan Pickrell

A F-35C Lightning II

 US Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe

China says it has developed an over-the-horizon maritime early warning radar that can detect stealth aircraft beyond visual range.

Liu Yongtan, the team leader for the radar project, told Chinese media that the radar emits high-frequency electromagnetic waves with long wavelengths and wide beams that stealth assets are not protected against.

The radar, known as China's "first line of defense," is said to be immune to anti-radiation missiles that can detect the point of origin for electromagnetic waves and are capable of eliminating radar targets.

While the system strengthens China's anti-access, area-denial capabilities, experts argue that there are certain limitations to its effectiveness against stealth fighters.    [FULL  STORY]