When President Obama visited China earlier this month, the US and China issued a joint statement that included a passage about space cooperation, including “starting a dialogue on human space flight and space exploration”. Cooperation would be a good thing, right? Not necessarily, according to some.
In an Aviation Week op-ed last week, Eric Sterner warns cooperation could lead to more technology transfer, something that, in the 1990s, led to stiffened export control regulations that transferred commercial satellites and their components to the US Munitions List. Such transfer is worrisome, he argues, not only because it could aid Chinese military modernization but also because China is a “serial proliferator” who could then transfer such technologies to places like Iran and North Korea. “Until China’s intentions are clearer and its behavior has verifiably and persistently changed,” he concludes, “close cooperation entails risks that far exceed the potential benefits.”
In this week’s issue of The Space Review, Taylor Dinerman raises concerns about the appearance of cooperation between the US and China. If the US looks like it’s trying too hard to cooperate with China (or other countries, for that matter), it could give the appearance of weakness. He also notes that previous models for international cooperation, such as Apollo-Soyuz and ISS, don’t fit the current situation, in part because of the lack of knowledge about what is motivating China’s human spaceflight program. “If the US presents itself as too eager for partnership agreements or too weak to explore the solar system without assistance, then the world and the American people will only see softness.”