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The Moon: A New Front in China’s Ambitions and Its Implications for Global Security

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In recent years, the Moon has transitioned from a distant object of fascination and exploration to a potential strategic military vantage point. Amid this shift, concerns have been raised about China’s ambitions in space, particularly regarding its lunar exploration program. Reports indicate that the United States Space Force is alarmed by the possibility that China may use the Moon as a base to disrupt or destroy US satellites, highlighting a new dimension of terrestrial geopolitical tensions extending into the cislunar space.

China’s space program, marked by the successful launch of the Long March-5B Y3 rocket and the deployment of the Queqiao-2 data relay satellite, showcases its technical prowess and ambition in lunar exploration. These advancements are not merely scientific milestones but are perceived by some military analysts as strategic moves in a burgeoning space race with significant military implications.

Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, a commander within the US Space Forces Indo-Pacific, has voiced concerns over potential new attack vectors that China’s lunar presence could facilitate, emphasizing the strategic importance of cislunar space — the region encompassing the orbits and trajectories between Earth and the Moon. The concept of “xGEO,” referring to outer space beyond geosynchronous orbit, and the development of lunar infrastructure by China, signals a paradigm shift in how space is viewed in terms of strategic military utility.

US military officials, including Gen. Stephen Whiting of the US Space Command, have expressed apprehension over China’s rapidly advancing military capabilities in space. This growing prowess is feared to enable China to neutralize American and allied space assets at will, suggesting an escalating arms race beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

China’s ambitious goal of sending astronauts to the Moon by the end of the decade further underscores the dual-use nature of space exploration technologies. While the overt purpose is scientific research and exploration, underlying military utilities cannot be ignored. The deployment of systems like the Queqiao-2, which facilitates communication with lunar landers on the Moon’s far side, demonstrates China’s commitment to establishing a robust presence in lunar space, potentially enabling it to surveil and, if necessary, target critical satellites in deep space.

Critics argue that the militarization of space, particularly through the establishment of offensive capabilities on the Moon, poses significant risks of conflict and escalation. The idea of space becoming a battleground, once the realm of science fiction, is increasingly being taken seriously by military strategists and policymakers.

Yet, the feasibility and practicality of militarizing the Moon are subjects of debate. Some experts caution against overestimating the immediate threat posed by lunar military bases, citing the enormous technical, economic, and political challenges such endeavors would entail. Furthermore, international treaties, such as the Outer Space Treaty, complicate the militarization of celestial bodies, although the effectiveness of such agreements in deterring militarization remains to be seen.

The prospect of a Moon militarized by China should make anyone shudder. And much like the “Star Wars” weapons that were proposed and started under the Reagan administration, this will force massive spending in this realm by both sides – even if it comes to nothing.

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