What if China Controls Outer Space?

It is a race to control the future of humanity. Control of outer space means control of the $trillions upon $trillions worth of resources in the solar system. It means controlling orbiting communications and observation satellites. It means controlling all space launches both orbital and sub-orbital.

With a space economy nearing a valuation of one trillion dollars a year and believed to be worth as much as ten trillion dollars by the middle of this century, any power that dominates space stands to potentially gain the most. This does not include the considerable geostrategic benefits that would accrue from such space dominance with outsized geopolitical and astropolitical influence that likely will be intolerable for others.

Whether it’s a liberal (or even libertarian) civilisational order led by the United States and its SpaceX and Blue Origin commercial proxies, or a centralised statist civilisational order led by China (with Russia as a junior partner), the stakes in the contemporary space competition seem much larger than in its Cold War predecessor. That space race, while carried out by earlier versions of the civilisational state, aimed for ideological dominance on Earth rather than permanent dominion in space. In today’s competition, the civilisational state that comes out ahead with habitable lunar bases and space-based infrastructure to exploit economic opportunities will hold considerable sway in defining the terms and conditions for the future of spacefaring for everyone else.

Getty Images via Forbes

China’s plans for outer space are ambitious. The communist dictatorship understands that if it wants to become the political controller nation of Earth, that it must demonstrate that it can seize control of the high ground.

China intends to send crewed missions to Mars in 2033, 2035, 2037, 2041 and 2043, said Wang Xiaojun, the head of state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology during a conference.  

Ultimately, Wang said, China envisages building a permanent presence on Mars and large-scale development of its resources, with a fleet of vessels running between it and Earth.

Robotic missions to scout possible base locations, sample the surface and build resource-extracting equipment will precede the crewed missions.


It is of interest that China’s major competitors for control of the space future include two American billionaires — Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

There are two people on the planet who seem to have figured out how to spend their multiple double-digit billions without much trouble. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, who have swapped places back and forth on the mantle of richest person on earth over the past year, are in the midst of a multibillion-dollar space race that is literally helping them burn through their fortunes while trying to be the first to make it to the final frontier. (A third person, Bezos’s ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, has also figured it out, giving away a round of grants worth $2.74 billion last week, on top of the nearly $6 billion she gave away last year.)

While the space races of the past were waged between the U.S. and the USSR, wrapped up in the blanket of the Cold War and nuclear threats and international espionage, today’s space race between Bezos and Musk is quite different, comprising a few media- and Twitter-obsessed billionaires who some argue have too much money for their own good.

The two come at the race with different perspectives. Bezos thinks the world is a wonderful place that we’re going to destroy with industry and pollution, and if only we can get that stuff on the moon, or Mars, we’ll be just fine here on this big blue dot. Musk, always the pessimist, thinks the earth is well and truly fucked from climate change and that the only way to save us humans is to escape to another planet, preferably Mars, and get a sort-of do-over. And then there’s the other guy in all this, Richard Branson, who just wants to have a good, thrill-seeking time on a flight to space. While their goals are all different, their unmitigated ambitions are not, with some worrying they’re pushing the boundaries of safety and logic all just to be first.

Vanity Fair

In China and Russia, being an ambitious billionaire can get you killed or disappeared without explanation. And nothing says “ambition” louder than trying to grab the high ground of outer space. No wonder the Russian and Chinese billionaires are leaving the space industry for their respective governments and political party heads.

China’s mythic space propaganda outreach — Note that in the free world, there are a million viewpoints as to the proper uses of outer space. In China, there is only what the party state says is permissible. Otherwise, it’s to the organ transplants for you.

If China ends up controlling the strategic high ground, expect most of the world to resemble Xinjiang, in terms of human rights. In such a case, be prepared to live most of the rest of your lives from that time on, under COVID-style lockdown — or worse.

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2 Responses to What if China Controls Outer Space?

  1. bob sykes says:

    The wealth of Bezos and Musk, billions, are irrelevant for projects that cost trillions. Space belongs to very large countries like China and the US or to consortiums like the EU. Moreover, the resources in space are illusory. The distance between asteroids and the energy levels between Earth and orbits means that the costs of space resources is prohibitive. Consider how much gold is dissolved in the ocean, too expensive to extract.

    We are stuck with Earth and its resources.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Your comment is quite sensible.
      I might suggest that many things which were once too expensive to achieve, are now being done routinely.
      The costs of many things — including economic extraction of ocean water gold and the mining of solar system asteroids, comets, and planets — are truly prohibitive, as you say. But for how long?

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