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China's Space Odyssey: What the Antisatellite Test Reveals About Decision-Making in Beijing

Courtesy Reuters

Since China's destruction of one of its weather satellites with a ballistic missile this past January, experts around the world have puzzled over the move's purpose. One widespread view is that the antisatellite (ASAT) test was a shot across the bow of U.S. military power. Beijing's strategists have argued for years that it needs to develop asymmetric capabilities in order to close the widening gap between the United States' military might and China's own and prepare for a possible conflict in the Taiwan Strait. With the United States now depending so heavily on assets in space for real-time communications, battlefield awareness, weapons targeting, intelligence gathering, and reconnaissance, the Chinese rocket launch may have been an attempt to show Washington how Beijing can overcome its handicap in a relatively simple way.

Other analysts have argued that the test was a ham-fisted attempt to focus international attention on the need to

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