Friday April 3, 2020


September 18, 2013

On September 16, a five-day workshop on human space technology opened in Beijing. This international workshop is co-organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA). It is tied to the United Nation’s Human Space Technology Initiative (HSTI). There are 150 participants, representing at least 20 countries, taking part in this workshop.

The workshop aims to bring together experts and leaders in space exploration to facilitate information exchange, increase awareness about the value of space technology, promote research, engage with other countries, and find opportunities for cooperation. Topics include space programs and their accomplishments and plans, education and capacity building, microgravity science, and human space exploration. The meeting also hopes to foster the participation of “new space-faring and emerging countries” in space exploration endeavors.

During the workshop, Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut and deputy director of China Manned Space Agency, gave remarks. He said China would be interested in training foreign astronauts, helping develop their space programs, and inviting them to do work at China’s future space station.

CMSA Director General Wang Zhaoyao said of space cooperation: “Cooperation should be either bilateral or multilateral, with diversified and flexible models based on peace and a win-win cooperation.”

China has cooperated with other nations’ space programs in the past. China has conducted training and worked on creating new technology with Russia, completed various experiments with France, and has visited the European Space Agency training facility.  In addition to these forms of cooperation, China would also like to help other developing countries achieve space flight. Developing countries are already lining up to work with China’s space program. A representative from Pakistan said, “If China starts taking foreign astronauts to outer space, we would like to be the first candidate.”

UNOOSA Director Mazlan Othman commented on China’s role in the development of space exploration: “Many nations have realized that space is very important in the context of development, both globally and nationally, and China is a good example of how space can become a vital and crucial aspect of economic development.” He also said, “I think China can lead in the international community’s exploration of space. It has the political will to expand its manned space endeavors, and based on that will, China has ensured and set aside enough resources.”

While China’s space program is still well behind that of the long-established space powers such as the U.S. and Russia, China became the third independent country to send a human into space in 2003. China completed its latest successful manned space mission this past June and is preparing to launch a moon rover later this year.

China is now the third big independent player in space exploration. A new actor, especially one so motivated to develop its capabilities, has the potential to change space dynamics. For example, China is hoping to build its own manned space station that would offer an alternative to the International Space Station. An article in The Diplomat points out another consequence of China’s space program—more hazardous space debris.

With regard to China’s new projects, Wang assures China “will consistently adhere to the principle of peaceful use, equality, mutual benefit and common development in the construction of its manned space station,” but questions of motivations and security remain.

The Stimson Center recently published a collection of essays discussing the U.S.-China space relationship. The essays discussed nuclear and space deterrence, cyberspace, anti-satellite technology, and potentials for crisis, competition, and cooperation. The authors pointed out the difficulty of avoiding military space competition, the need for an international code of conduct, and the potential dangerous consequences of space warfare.

According to Michael Krepon, who edited the collection, “The essays reflect pretty accurately the lack of a U.S. consensus on this set of issues. This is perfectly appropriate, given how early we are in the U.S.-China space competition and how opaque China is about its activities in space.”

In his own article, Krepon argues for space diplomacy: “China and the United States are increasing their capabilities to engage in space warfare… Beijing has been reluctant to engage bilaterally with Washington on space diplomacy. One path forward leads to sensible rules of the road for space. Another leads to warfare in which every space-faring nation loses.”


For more information on China’s Space Program, see the following news articles:

UN Office for Outer Space Affairs– “Information Note: United Nations/China Workshop on Human Space Technology

China Manned Space Engineering– “United Nations/China Workshop on Human Space Technology” (website)

China Daily– “China’s space station to open for foreign peers

The Diplomat– “The Rise of Chinese Space Junk

Aviation Week– “China, Others Made Space Progress Despite ITAR– “China National Space Administration: Facts & Information

PR Newswire– “Stimson Center Essays Examine U.S.-China Space Relations

Stimson Center– “Anti-satellite Weapons, Deterrence and Sino-American Space Relations

Reuters– “China says aim to train astronauts from other countries

Defense One– “Can the U.S. and China Get Along in Outer Space?

For Chinese language news on the Human Space Technology Workshop, see the articles below:

China News Service (中国新闻网)– “联合国与中国首次共办载人航天技术国际研讨会

Voice of America (美国之音)– “美国称中国太空行为比以往更负责

Taikung News (大公网)– “王亚平:梦想就像太空星辰 努力就定能触摸到

People’s Daily (人民网)– “64届国际宇航大会:多国航天局长将汇聚中国

Xinhua (新华网)– “学习和梦想–“太空教师”王亚平致全国中小学生的一封信

People’s Daily (人民网)– “科研进步离不开国际合作 科学大师呼吁政府支持

Compiled and edited by Ariane Rosen