Does China want to replace the Outer Space Treaty?

Bloomberg published a somewhat cryptic article yesterday citing comments by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson suggesting that China wants “a new global treaty to govern the use of outer space.” The spokesperson offered no other details other than to say that Chinese representatives would be attending a UN COPUOS subcommittee meeting in Vienna next month.

The official transcript of the briefing doesn’t offer much additional detail, other than the fact that, nearly two weeks after China’s ASAT test was first report, it remains a hot topic for journalists attending the Foreign Ministry’s briefings. Rather than replacing the OST, it’s more likely that the spokesperson was referring to previous efforts by China to back a treaty that would ban space weapons. “China is willing to make efforts with other countries to formulate a binding outer space treaty so as to effectively prevent the weaponization of the outer space,” she said.

Speaking of the OST, the treaty turns 40 this year and its anniversary will be marked by a number of events, including a one-day symposium in early March at that hotbed of space policy debate, the University of Nebraska.

2 comments to Does China want to replace the Outer Space Treaty?

  • China has long been leading a push for a new host of space treaties that favor developing space nations. Space law professor Joanne Gabrynowicz noted that this is one of the main challenges in international space law regime that will be argued over the next decade. China feels, rightly or wrongly, that the OST is outdated and limits developing countries like itself a chance to join as an equal in more recent international space regimes like GEOSS. China has been pushing for a stronger role for COPUOS where they, and other developing countries, can have a stronger voice.

  • Professor Robyn Lim

    Anyone in the US these days ever heard of the 1922 Rapallo Treaty? Lenin’s little masterpiece, harnessing the shared resentment of defeated Germany and Bolshevik Russia about the Versailles Treaty in general, and about the rebirth of Poland in particular. Among other things, Rapallo led to the establishment of the illegal “Black Reichswehr” in Germany, allowing the Germans to do all kinds of things supposedly illegal under the Versailles Treaty.

    Probably not, since too many in the US seem to agree with Henry Ford that “history is bunk”.

    Today, China has conceded the victory of capitalism over socialism, but retains resolutely Leninist. And has not forgotten that Lenin taught that “arms control” could be used as an instrument of arms control by a Leninist state. And also that the Leninists could count on a never-ending supply of Useful Idiots in the democracies. Indeed, in the US as elsewhere, there are still those who think “moderation breeds moderation”. That the US should set a “good example” etc etc. As Tony Blair, a Labor Prime Minister of Britain, has just said – if Britain gave up its nuclear deterrent, would others follow? Not exactly likely, is it?

    The propaganda purpose behind China’s ASAT test is clear enough. Even though China’s diplomats do seem to have been left out of the loop, and there are questions to be asked about what Hu knew and when he knew it.

    China is also seeking to show the US that the cost of defending satellites is far greater than the cost of knocking them down. And understands that the vulnerability of satellites represents the soft underbelly of current US air/maritime/space dominance.

    Does anyone know how the Chinese read Sputnik and its aftermath?

    Robyn Lim

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