Archive for ‘Chindia Alert’

17/06/2019

China rockets to forefront of global space race with sea launch success

  • China has become the first nation to fully own and operate a floating launch platform for its space missions
China has successfully launched a rocket into space from the Yellow Sea, making it the first nation to fully own and operate a floating sea launch platform. Photo: China National Space Administration
China has successfully launched a rocket into space from the Yellow Sea, making it the first nation to fully own and operate a floating sea launch platform. Photo: China National Space Administration
China successfully launched a rocket into space from a civilian cargo ship at sea on Wednesday, becoming the first nation to fully own and operate a floating sea launch platform, a technology expected to significantly reduce the cost and risk of space missions.
A Long March 11WEY rocket blasted off from the ship in the Yellow Sea at noon Beijing time, according to the China National Space Administration.
About six minutes later, five commercial satellites and a pair of “technical experiment” probes – called Bufeng, or Wind Catchers – reached their designated orbits.

The Wind Catchers will work together to detect winds on the surface of the world’s oceans. They will boost China’s ability to monitor and forecast typhoons and other extreme weather events, according to the administration.

“Launching a rocket from the sea has the advantages of high flexibility, good adaptability for specific tasks, and excellent launch economy,” said a statement on the administration’s website.

“It can flexibly select the launch point and touchdown area to meet the needs of various payloads for different orbits, and provide better aerospace commercial launch services for countries along the belt and road,” it added, referring to the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s plan to grow global trade.

The Long March 11 is a four-stage, solid fuel rocket with a design similar to a ballistic missile. It can carry a payload of about 700kg to the Earth’s lower orbit.

The first two stages of the rocket dropped in open waters in the northern Pacific Ocean, according to the administration. The rocket was equipped with a flight suspension system in case of any abnormal situation, but none occurred.

“The rocket debris will not cause damage to surrounding waters,” the administration said.

The world’s first ocean rocket launch platform, the Sea Launch, was jointly built by companies from Russia, the United States, Norway and Ukraine in the late 1990s. Its operation was halted in 2014 after military conflicts broke out between Russia and Ukraine.

Li Hong, president of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, told state media in March that the Chinese rocket and launch platform were designed and owned entirely by China, so it would not have similar problems caused by international disputes as the Sea Launch.

The launch was expected to encounter many technical and engineering challenges, including simplified procedures for pre-launch testing, the rocking motion of the ship and heat dissipation in a confined space.

But Chinese space authorities have argued the inconvenience would be offset by numerous advantages. For instance, the technology would allow China to move its launch site to as far away as Hawaii for quicker, cheaper satellite insertion to certain orbits, according to Xinhua.

Preparations get under way for Wednesday’s successful Chinese space launch from the northern Pacific ocean. Photo: China National Space Administration
Preparations get under way for Wednesday’s successful Chinese space launch from the northern Pacific ocean. Photo: China National Space Administration

A maritime launch is also expected to reduce the risk of rocket debris falling into densely populated areas.

Chinese space launch sites are typically located inland for defence purposes.

China has built its sea launch capability mainly to bolster the commercial space sector, according to Chinese space authorities.

In this mission, the rocket was sponsored and named after WEY, a young luxury car brand by Chinese sports utility vehicle manufacturer Great Wall Motor.

Chang’e 4 landing marks start of new China-US space race
Some cutting-edge car technology, such as new paint materials, will go into space for testing in the most extreme environments, according to state media reports.
The payloads include the Jilin 03A, the latest addition to a high-definition Earth observation satellite network, according to Changguang Satellite Technology Corporation, the satellite’s owner.
The company said the constellation, which will eventually comprise more than 20 satellites, would achieve global coverage for commercial applications.
One of the satellites launched on Wednesday belongs to Shanghai-based LinkSure Network, which has ambitious plans to provide free Wi-fi to everyone on the planet. The company has said it plans to eventually launch more than 200 satellites as part of the project.
Source: SCMP
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17/06/2019

China rolls out rules to guide development of SpaceX-style commercial rocket research in the country

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping has made becoming a “space flight superpower” a priority for his government
Chinese space authorities prepare to launch a rocket from a commercial cargo ship at sea. Photo: Handout
Chinese space authorities prepare to launch a rocket from a commercial cargo ship at sea. Photo: Handout
China has rolled out its first rules to regulate the manufacture of commercial space rockets and test flights in a move to guide healthy development of the commercial space sector, mirroring similar moves by the US in recent years.
As a rising number of start-ups set out to be China’s version of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the guidelines are the first since China’s space industry was opened to the private sector in 2014. They require companies to obtain official permission before carrying out rocket research and development as well as production, according to a notice published on the web site of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense on Monday.
The new rules also require a confidentiality system to be established among commercial rocket companies and asks them to follow state export control regulations when in doubt about whether they can provide overseas services and products.
The detailed regulations come as the number of private companies engaged in the commercialisation of China’s space industry increased to almost 100 in 2018 from 30 a year earlier, and as Beijing puts more emphasis on private sector involvement to boost its space ambitions.
China rockets to forefront of global space race with sea launch success

“The specifics give clear direction for China’s commercial space industry, clarifying the qualifications, operational boundaries and national guarantees, which will be conducive to the sector’s healthy and orderly development,” Shu Chang, CEO of Beijing-based commercial rocket pioneer OneSpace Technology, was quoted as saying to state media Global Times on Tuesday

Since coming to power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made becoming a “space flight superpower” a priority for his government. Since 2014, Beijing has encouraged more private investors to participate in its space push to bolster commercial space technology development, including policies directed at investment and providing land for launches.

The guidelines issued on Monday said commercial rocket development had the potential to lower the cost of space sector development, improving China’s space power and competitiveness globally. It also encourages private companies to partner with state-backed organisations to take full advantage of the latter’s resources in research development, production and launch facilities.

Trump criticises Nasa moon mission after previously promoting it
The move by China mirrors similar efforts by the US in recent years to shift the burden of space exploration and technology development away from the state and into the private sector, leading to space rocket development by the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.

Military interests still weigh though. President Donald Trump has championed a return to the moon, calling for a lunar gateway that would allow a continuous stream of spacecraft and people to visit the moon, and serve as a leaping off point for Mars. Trump has also called for the creation of a “Space Force”, a sixth branch of the military that would be focused on defending US interests.

China accounts for roughly 3 per cent of the US$16.1 billion invested in private space companies and partnerships since 2009 in the world. But investments have increased rapidly since 2016, and the country led the world in the third quarter of 2018, according to Space Angels, a US investment firm that specialises in private space ventures.

Source: SCMP

17/06/2019

Are China and US racing towards inevitable military confrontation in outer space?

  • Beijing is still behind in terms of its space-based military capabilities, but the gap is closing fast, experts say
  • US law now prohibits Nasa from communicating with China’s space agency
Illustration: Kaliz Lee
Illustration: Kaliz Lee

This story is part of an ongoing series on US-China relations produced jointly by the South China Morning Post and POLITICO, with reporting from Asia and the United States.

A top Chinese general has a warning for any US leaders planning an arms race in space: be prepared to lose.

Outspending a rival power into economic exhaustion might have helped the US win the cold war, said Qiao Liang, a major general in the Chinese air force who co-wrote the book Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America. But he said it would not work against a wealthy manufacturing powerhouse like China.

“China is not the Soviet Union,” Qiao said in an interview with the South China Morning Post, a news partner of POLITICO. “If the United States thinks it can also drag China into an arms race and take down China as it did with the Soviets … in the end, probably it would not be China who is down on the ground.”
Qiao’s words come as both Washington and Beijing are pouring money and resources into an increasingly militarised space race that some security specialists and former US officials fear is heightening the risk of war. The aggressive manoeuvres include US President Donald Trump’s proposal for a stand-alone 
Space Force

– which Qiao dismissed as “an unwise move” – and efforts by both countries to develop laser and cyber weapons that could take out each other’s satellites.

The rivalry is plainly on the minds of leaders at the Pentagon, which cites “space” 86 times in a new threat assessment of China’s military. It also warns that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is working on “enabling long-range precision strikes” and developing directed-energy weapons for use in orbit.
Sea launch rockets China to forefront of global space race

Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and a slew of US military leaders have cited China’s military space programmes as a key rationale for proposing the Space Force, which would gather nearly all the defence department’s space-related programmes into a new military branch – similar to the one China created four years ago. Congress is considering the administration’s plan, although some defence hawks are sceptical.

Pence has also expressed alarm at China’s success in

landing uncrewed probes on the moon

, a place US astronauts last visited in 1972.

“Last December, China became the first nation to land on the far side of the moon and revealed their ambition to seize the lunar strategic high ground and become the world’s pre-eminent spacefaring nation,” Pence said at a meeting of the National Space Council in March.

China and the US are pouring money into an increasingly militarised space race that some observers fear is heightening the risk of war. Photo: Shutterstock
China and the US are pouring money into an increasingly militarised space race that some observers fear is heightening the risk of war. Photo: Shutterstock

Even more worrying, neither country seems interested in placing the issue on the diplomatic agenda to lower the tensions, some security advocates say. That is in contrast to the decades of space cooperation that have existed between the US and Russia.

“One of my biggest concerns is that for all the talk about how horrible an armed conflict with China would be for everyone, all the current US policies and actions seem to be preparing for armed conflict instead of avoiding it,” said Brian Weeden, director of programme planning at the Secure World Foundation, which advocates for using space in a peaceful and sustainable way.

“There is not a lot of dialogue between the US and China,” he said.

But other space experts say China is a greater threat to the United States than most people realise – and even an “imminent threat”, according to independent analyst Namrata Goswami.

“If anything, it [the threat from China] is underappreciated and underplayed in the US,” she said. “I suspect that is because the US military might not want to call attention to its own vulnerabilities regarding its space assets.”

Chang’e 4 lunar probe sends first photo of far side of the moon

Qiao said China was not seeking a space war but was preparing to counter any nation, including the US, that sought to pose a threat to its national security.

China’s economic prowess left it well positioned to prevail in an expensive contest with the US, he said.

“When the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in the cold war and the arms race, the United States was the largest manufacturing country, and the Soviet Union was not even the second,” he said. “But today it is China who is the world’s top manufacturer.”

A full-size model of the core module of China’s space station goes on show at Airshow China in November. Photo: Xinhua
A full-size model of the core module of China’s space station goes on show at Airshow China in November. Photo: Xinhua

Recent reports from US spy agencies and think tanks indicate that China’s efforts are advancing quickly. Those include estimates that China will soon be able to field high-powered lasers designed to attack objects in low-Earth orbit – and evidence that its weapons can already attack targets much further from the Earth than the United States can.

China’s reliance on space assets is also expanding: it has more than 120 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance satellites of its own – second only to the United States.

About half of them are owned and operated by the military and could be used to track and target US forces around the world, the report warns.

Will China’s new laser satellite be ‘Death Star’ for submarines?

The threat getting the most attention is the danger China’s orbiting weapons might pose to the satellites the United States relies on for communications, navigation and surveillance – for both military operations and economic well-being.

China is heavily investing in so-called counterspace technology, including the development of at least three antisatellite missile systems, according to an April report from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. It is also developing satellites that can make physical contact with other satellites in orbit, the report said.

While that technology can be used for repairs in orbit, it can also be used to disable a satellite or tear off a solar array to impact a satellite’s power source.

China is developing satellites that can make physical contact with other satellites in orbit. Photo: Xinhua
China is developing satellites that can make physical contact with other satellites in orbit. Photo: Xinhua

The Pentagon’s “China Military Power” report found that China is also pursuing new jamming and “directed energy” weapons that can interfere with satellites. In a conflict, that technology would probably be used to “blind and deafen the enemy”, the report said.

China also reorganised the PLA in 2015 to create a Strategic Support Force, a military branch dedicated entirely to space, electronic and cyberwarfare. The new branch was designed to bring space assets from across the military under one organisation, similar to the goal of the US Space Force.

The space-centric branch, which reports directly to the Central Military Commission, is focused primarily on satellite launches and intelligence, navigation and communication operations, but also conducts research and development on new counterspace capabilities, according to the US Defence Intelligence Agency report published in February.

China ‘has overtaken Russia’ as a maritime power

Chinese military units are also training with missiles that could damage or destroy satellites, the agency also reported in February, adding that China will probably have a ground-based laser that can blind optical sensors on satellites in low-Earth orbit by 2020.

Unlike the United States or Russia, China is also believed to have the capacity to use missiles to attack satellites in the more distant geosynchronous orbit, or 35,000km (22,000 miles) above Earth.

If any country were to launch a physical strike in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), the debris field would make the area, which is today used for critical missions like early missile warning and weather observations, unusable.

“We have much more to lose in GEO than any other country,” said Kaitlyn Johnson, an associate fellow who specialises in space security at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “We wouldn’t want to have a first strike capability.”

Chinese military units are training with missiles that could destroy satellites. Photo: Reuters
Chinese military units are training with missiles that could destroy satellites. Photo: Reuters

Military experts also worry that China could try to seize areas of the moon that contain strategic resources including ice that could be used for rocket fuel or life support.

But they say it is much more likely China will want to use dominance in space to influence conflicts on Earth. For instance, being able to threaten the military’s GPS or communications satellites might deter the US from getting involved in a conflict in the South China Sea, Weeden said.

The US Space Force is intended to close some of those gaps by grouping space assets together to build expertise and giving the new service autonomy over its budget requests. One of the biggest goals of the new branch is to speed up space acquisitions, allowing new technology to be fielded faster, and to develop a space “doctrine” that would oversee how the US fights conflicts when space platforms are at stake.

China adds new satellite to rival US global positioning system

The Chinese government insists that it is merely responding to aggressive US moves to dominate space militarily. Qiao called it “bullying and hegemonic” for the United States to insist that other countries cannot follow suit.

“The US space troops have long existed,” he said. “They just did not become an independent force … moreover, the US possessed anti-satellite capabilities as early as the 1970s and 1980s. China only developed anti-satellite capabilities at the end of the 1990s and even in the first decade of this century.”

China had little choice but to enhance its capabilities, he said.

“China’s purpose to develop space capabilities, firstly, is we do not want to be blackmailed by others,” Qiao said in the interview. “Second, we hope to use space peacefully. But if others want to oppress us by occupying the heights of space and opening up a ‘fourth battlefield’, China will certainly not accept it.”

Qiao Liang, a major general in the Chinese air force, says it is “bullying and hegemonic” for the United States to insist other countries cannot develop a space force. Photo: Handout
Qiao Liang, a major general in the Chinese air force, says it is “bullying and hegemonic” for the United States to insist other countries cannot develop a space force. Photo: Handout

Still, China remained far from surpassing US dominance, he said. “We cannot overtake the US in the next decade or two, but we will narrow the gap in a comprehensive way. And it is possible we may take the lead in some individual areas.”

Weeden agreed.

“China is developing many of the same space capabilities the US did decades ago, while the US is focused on sustaining its capabilities and making them more resilient,” he said.

“On the whole, the US is still far more capable than China is but the relative advantage is narrowing.”

What is space junk and why is it a problem?

The two nations have some diplomatic channels through which they could cooperate in space, including the United Nations’ Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, of which both are members. In 2015, the Obama administration established a dialogue with China on space safety, which is quietly continuing under Trump, although Weeden said the meetings were mostly high-level talks.

But the Wolf Amendment, which was first passed in a Congressional appropriations bill in 2011, forbids the US government from working with China and prohibits any bilateral cooperation between the China National Space Administration and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration on national security grounds. And there is virtually no collaboration between the militaries of the two nations today.

To open the door for conversations that could ease tensions and avoid miscommunication, the US and China must “crawl before we walk”, Audrey Schaffer, the director of space strategy and plans at the defence department, said at a March event on US-China space relations hosted by the Secure World Foundation.

Some potential first steps include the two countries sharing information like their national defence strategies, providing launch notifications of space vehicles or opening routine, secure communications channels between diplomats. Each step would help build trust and transparency, Schaffer said, pointing to the strong relationship between the US and Russia in space as evidence that it could be done.

“Even then when the relationship was just as strained, if not more so, we did manage to work bilaterally and multilaterally with the Soviets to really create mechanisms that would help reduce the risks of conflict and enhance stability,” Schaffer said.

Source: SCMP

15/06/2019

China, Qatar pledge to deepen political trust, boost cooperation

TAJIKISTAN-DUSHANBE-XI JINPING-QATARI EMIR-MEETING

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, June 15, 2019. (Xinhua/Zhang Ling)

DUSHANBE, June 15 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani here on Saturday, pledging to deepen political mutual trust and boost cooperation between the two nations.

Voicing his appreciation for Tamim’s commitment to promoting the bilateral ties, Xi recalled the emir’s state visit to China in January this year during which the two heads of state had an in-depth exchange of views and reached extensive consensus on developing the China-Qatar strategic partnership under new circumstances.

During Saturday’s meeting on the sidelines of the fifth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, Xi said China and Qatar should consolidate their political mutual trust and continue understanding and supporting each other on issues involving their core interests.

The two sides should accelerate the all-round cooperation in energy, trade and economy, infrastructure construction, investment, the fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications and other areas, said the Chinese president.

On the cooperation on fighting terrorism, Xi expressed gratitude to the Qatari side for its support for China’s counter-terrorism and de-extremization efforts, stressing that the Chinese side stands ready to step up coordination and cooperation with Qatar in multilateral affairs.

Tamim hailed the strategic significance of the Qatar-China relationship, calling his China visit in January a great success.

The Qatari side is ready to work with China to boost cooperation in key areas including investment and energy, as well as increase cultural and people-to-people exchanges, Tamim said.

Qatar firmly supports China’s push to safeguard sovereignty and fight against terrorism, said the emir. He spoke highly of China’s fair stance on international affairs, where the Chinese side upholds that disputes should be resolved through dialogue between nations, and pledged to increase coordination with the Chinese side in multilateral affairs.

Source: Xinhua

15/06/2019

Lessons from an old trade war: China can learn from the Japan experience

  • In the last half of the 20th century US worries about a rising Japan led to tariffs and technology mistrust
  • Differences in the Chinese experience may predict a different outcome
Toshiba was one of the companies affected by US actions to prevent the rise of Japan in a trade war that echoes in today’s tensions between the US and China. Photo: Reuters
Toshiba was one of the companies affected by US actions to prevent the rise of Japan in a trade war that echoes in today’s tensions between the US and China. Photo: Reuters
If history is a mirror to the future, the similarities between the spiralling technology stand-off between China and the US and the economic wars waged by the US with Japan – which peaked in the 1980s and 1990s – may be instructive. But there are differences between the two which may predict a different outcome.
The US-Japan economic tensions started in the 1950s over textiles, extended to synthetic fibres and steel in the 1960s, and escalated – from the 1970s to 1990s – to colour televisions, cars and semiconductors, as Japan’s adjusted industrial policy and technology development moved it up the industrial chain.
Boosted by government support, Japan’s semiconductor industry surpassed the US as the world’s largest chip supplier in the early 1980s, causing wariness and discontent in the US over national security risks and its loss of competitiveness in core technologies.

The Reagan administration regarded Japan as the biggest economic threat to the US. Washington accused Tokyo of state-sponsored industrial policies, intellectual property theft from US companies, and of dumping products on the American market.

The US punished Japanese companies for allegedly stealing US technology and illegally selling military sensitive products to the Soviet Union. It also forced Japan to sign deals to share its semiconductor technologies and increase its purchases of US semiconductor products.

“The Trump administration is using similar tactics against China that were used against Japan in the 1980s and 1990s,” said an adviser to the Chinese government, on condition of anonymity, adding that the US was continuing its hegemony to curtail China’s tech development and was trying to mobilise its allies to follow suit.

After talks to end the US-China trade faltered last month, Huawei – a global leader in the 5G market – is now standing at centre stage of a protracted technology stand-off between Beijing and Washington, which has grown increasingly wary of the rising competitiveness of Chinese tech companies.

Zhang Monan, a researcher with the Beijing-based China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, does not foresee an easing of the rivalry between the US and China.

“The current US-China conflicts are more complicated than those between the US and Japan,” she said.

“The US will only get more intense in its containment of China and the tech rivalry won’t ease, even if China and the US could reach a deal to de-escalate the trade tensions.”

Huawei is at the centre of a technology stand-off between Beijing and Washington. Photo: AP
Huawei is at the centre of a technology stand-off between Beijing and Washington. Photo: AP

Back in 1982, the US justice department charged senior officials at Hitachi with conspiracy to steal confidential computer information from IBM and take it back to Japan. IBM also sued Hitachi. The two companies settled the case out of court and Hitachi paid 10 billion yen (US$92.3 million) to IBM in royalties in 1983, while accepting IBM inspections of its new software products for the next five years.

Toshiba, a major electronics producer in Japan, and Norway’s Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk secretly sold sophisticated milling machines to the Soviet Union from 1982 to 1984, helping to make its submarines quieter and harder to detect. This transfer of sensitive military technology in the middle of an arms race between the US and the Soviet Union was not revealed until 1986.

The US issued a three-year ban on Toshiba products in 1987 and the company ran full-page advertisements in more than 90 American newspapers apologising for its actions.

In 1985, the US imposed 100 per cent tariffs on Japanese semiconductors. A year later, in its five-year semiconductor deal with the US, Japan agreed to monitor its export prices, increase imports from the US, and submit to inspections by the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

A display of chips designed by Huawei for 5G base stations on show at the China International Big Data Industry Expo. Photo: AP
A display of chips designed by Huawei for 5G base stations on show at the China International Big Data Industry Expo. Photo: AP

This was followed by a second five-year semiconductor deal in 1991, in which Japan agreed to double the US market share in Japan to 20 per cent. In yet another bilateral semiconductor deal in 1989 Japan was required to open its semiconductor patents to the US.

Meanwhile, the US government boosted its efforts to help American businesses cement their industrial leverage in the chip sector and unveiled rules to protect its domestic chip industry.

The two countries were irreconcilable in 1996 on how to measure their respective market share. Overall market circumstances had also changed by then, with the US becoming competitive in microprocessing, and South Korea and Taiwan emerging as strong rivals to Japan.

Its dominance in semiconductors lost, Japan reached out to Europe for a range of cooperative technology deals.

Cooperate, don’t confront: academic advises Beijing on trade war tactics

“History can tell that high technology matters greatly to national security strategies. It is not a process of mere market competition. It follows the law of the jungle,” Zhang said.

The US has intensified its investment scrutiny by rolling out the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernisation Act last year, which extends the regulation to key industrial technology sectors.

Zhang predicted the US would continue to contain China’s technological development in key sectors such as AI, aerospace, robots and nanotechnology – all of which are of great importance to Beijing.

The US has said Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE present a national security risk. Last April it cut US supplies to ZTE, citing violations of sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The ban was removed three months later after ZTE paid US$1.4 billion in fines.

It was a wake-up call for China to develop its own core technologies. The subsequent US ban on Huawei added to the urgency to do so, observers said.

Wang Yiwei, a professor in international relations with Renmin University, said China had to develop its own hi-tech know-how while continuing the opening up process.

“China has paid a price to learn whose globalisation it is,” he said.

“We may see some extent of disengagement with the US in technology and dual-use sectors, but China can speed up cooperation with European countries, and other countries such as Israel, to offset the risks from the US.”

In December, the US filed criminal charges against Huawei and its chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, alleging bank fraud, obstruction of justice and technology theft.

The squeeze continued last month with the US blacklisting Huawei, restricting its access to American hi-tech supplies and putting pressure on its allies to freeze the company out of the 5G market. So far, those allies, including Germany and Japan, have remained hesitant about meeting the US request and refrained from siding with either country.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Monday that Huawei had obtained 46 commercial contracts in 30 countries as of June 6, “including some US allies and some European countries that the US has been working hard to persuade out of the contracts”.

For Zhang, the differences between Japan’s experience of US concerns of technological advancement and China’s may offer some hope for Chinese ambitions.

“Dependent on US for security protection, Japan was limited in [its ability to] push back and was already a developed country,” she said.

“But China has huge domestic market potential to address the imbalance [between] economic and technology development. This remains a big attraction to multinational companies, which would enable China to integrate into global innovation and technology cooperation, but China has to figure out how to dispel the doubts on its growth model.”

Source: SCMP

13/06/2019

Could Chinese scientists have found evidence of world’s first stoners in 2,500-year-old Xinjiang graveyard?

  • Findings support earliest record of cannabis use, written in 440BC
  • Researchers speculate psychoactive THC had role in grim funeral rites
Researchers say their findings at a burial site in Xinjiang about cannabis use 2,500 years ago back up a Greek record written around 440BC. Photo: Handout
Researchers say their findings at a burial site in Xinjiang about cannabis use 2,500 years ago back up a Greek record written around 440BC. Photo: Handout
Scientists say a burial site in mountainous northwestern China contains evidence that cannabis smoke was used there as far back as 2,500 years ago, corroborating the earliest record of the practice, written by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus.
They said the evidence was found in a wooden bowl containing blackened stones unearthed at a Scythian cemetery in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Chemical analysis showed traces of THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – the potent psychoactive component in cannabis.
Yang Yimin, lead author of a paper published in the journal Science Advances on Thursday, said the discovery at Jirzankal Cemetery, close to the border of Tajikistan, Pakistan and India, was “jaw-dropping”.

Scythians were horseback warriors who roamed from the Black Sea across central Asia and into western China more than 2,000 years ago. Herodotus wrote in The Histories around 440BC that they used marijuana, the earliest written record of the practice.

Scientists in Xinjiang found hemp had been burned on stones inside these wooden bowls 2,500 years ago. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute
Scientists in Xinjiang found hemp had been burned on stones inside these wooden bowls 2,500 years ago. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute

“The Scythians take the seed of this hemp and … they throw it on the red-hot stones. It smoulders and sends forth so much steam that no Greek vapour-bath could surpass it.

The Scythians howl in their joy at the vapour-bath,” Herodotus wrote.

Yang, who led an international team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and the University of Queensland, said that until now there was no evidence to back up the Greek historian’s account.

“There was never any archaeological proof to the claim. We thought – is this it?” Yang said.

The discovery posed a question for the research team: where would the plants have come from? While hemp was commonly found in many parts of the world and was used for fabric, cooking and medicine, most wild species contained only small amounts of THC.

Ruins of 2,000-year-old coin workshop found in central China’s Henan province

Yang and his colleagues speculated that the altitude, 3,000 metres (9,843 feet) above sea level, and strong ultraviolet radiation might have resulted in a potent plant strain with THC levels similar to those in marijuana today.

“From here it was selected, probably domesticated and then went to other parts of the world along ancient trade routes with the Scythian nomads, forming an enormous ring of culture that shared the ritual of smoking cannabis,” Yang said.

Archaeologists said the site, with its 40 circular mounds and marked by long strips of black and white stones, could have been a burial ground for tribal members, with human sacrifice and cannabis part of the last rites.

Researchers suspect a potent strain of cannabis grew close to the Xinjiang burial site. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute
Researchers suspect a potent strain of cannabis grew close to the Xinjiang burial site. Photo: Chinese Academy of Sciences and Max Planck Institute

So the early pot party might not have been the kind of celebration Herodotus described, the study’s authors suggested.

While the Scythians might have been inhaling the smoke to try to communicate with the dead in the next world, evidence suggested that a sacrifice – perhaps a war captive or a slave – was struck repeatedly on the head with a sword and the body hacked to pieces nearby, the researchers said.

Source: SCMP

12/06/2019

China to send defence minister to Singapore security conference as tensions with US rise

  • Observers will be watching to see if General Wei Fenghe holds talks with his American counterpart
  • Forum comes as Beijing and Washington are at odds over issues ranging from security to trade
General Wei Fenghe will be the first Chinese defence minister to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in eight years. Photo: Reuters
General Wei Fenghe will be the first Chinese defence minister to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in eight years. Photo: Reuters
China is sending its defence minister to a leading Asian security forum next week, the first time in eight years that a high-ranking Chinese general will represent the country at the conference.
General Wei Fenghe, a State Councillor and China’s defence minister, will speak at the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, a gathering that comes as Beijing and Washington are at odds over issues ranging from security to trade.
“In a highly anticipated speech, General Wei Fenghe will speak on China’s role in the Indo-Pacific at a pivotal time for the region,” the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an organiser of the conference, said on Monday night.

Chinese military sources said that Wei would lead a “relatively big” delegation to the gathering, which starts on May 31 and is co-organised by the Singaporean government.

South China Sea stand-offs ‘a contest of wills’
The last time Beijing sent a high-ranking officer to the event was in 2011 when General Liang Guanglie, then the defence minister, attended.
Acting US secretary of defence Patrick Shanahan will also attend the conference and deliver a speech.
The spoils of trade war: Asia’s winners and losers in US-China clash

Beijing-based military specialist Zhou Chenming said observers would be watching to see whether the two senior defence officials held talks.

“The whole world will keep a close eye on any possible encounters between the Chinese and the Americans … At least now China has shown its sincerity in sending Wei to attend the conference, who is of equal standing as Shanahan, if the latter is willing to hold talks with him in good faith,” Zhou said.

But he said a meeting between Wei and Shanahan would be difficult because of the current distance between Beijing and Washington on major issues.

How Trump’s tweets bested China in the trade war publicity battle

“It’s not realistic to expect they will make a breakthrough because both sides will just sound their own bugles. The … mistrust between China and the US is actually growing every day,” Zhou said.

Just on Sunday, the USS Preble, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Scarborough Shoal, an area in the South China Sea claimed by both China and the Philippines.

The 

Chinese foreign ministry responded on Monday

by strongly urging “the US to stop such provocative actions” and saying it would “take all necessary measures” to protect its “national sovereignty”.

Military analysts said the size of the Chinese delegation at the conference would underscore the importance of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) attached to the event this year.
One military insider said the delegation would also include Lieutenant General He Lei, former vice-president of the Academy of Military Science, who headed China’s delegation in 2017 and 2018; and Senior Colonel Zhou Bo, director of the defence ministry’s Centre for Security Cooperation. In addition, the PLA would send a number of Chinese academics to speak at various sessions of the forum.
China tries to go one on one with Malaysia to settle South China Sea disputes

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will deliver a keynote speech on the opening day of the annual dialogue.

Japan and South Korea are also sending their defence ministers, according to a report by The Korean Times on Tuesday. The report also said South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo was keen to hold one-on-one meetings with his Chinese and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the conference.

Source: SCMP

12/06/2019

China’s new high-frequency radar system could spot stealth aircraft from a long distance, creator says

  • Radar expert Liu Yongtan says surface wave system could track ships and planes from hundreds of kilometres away and is protected from anti-radiation missiles
Stealth aircraft like the US F-35 are less well protected against high-frequency surface wave radars. Photo: AP
Stealth aircraft like the US F-35 are less well protected against high-frequency surface wave radars. Photo: AP
China has developed a radar system that could detect stealth fighters from a long distance, its creator has told state media.
Liu Yongtan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Naval and Merchant Ships that the new high-frequency surface wave radar (HFSWR) was also masked from anti-radiation missiles which can detect and destroy radio waves from other early warning systems.
The interview with the monthly magazine, which is published by the China Shipbuilding Engineering Academy, was reprinted by state-owned tabloid Global Times on Monday.

Liu, an 83-year-old who has dedicated his life to studying radar systems, said the new radar features “high-frequency electromagnetic waves that have long wavelengths and wide beams”.

Unlike microwave or skywave signals, surface waves travel along the spherical surface of the earth.

“A land-based version of the system can detect naval and aerial hostile objects from hundreds of kilometres away, which helps expand the range of China’s maritime early warning and defence systems,” Liu said.

He also said the long wavelength could help detect stealth aircraft, which use special protective materials and designs to make them “invisible” to microwave radars, but have no such protection against high-frequency surface waves.

Chinese navy’s new ‘compact’ radar will allow it to keep watch over an area the size of India
Another advantage of the maritime radar system is what Global Times described as “immunity” to attack from anti-radiation missiles, which track and destroy the origin of the electromagnetic waves.

Liu said that anti-radiation missiles would need huge antennas to track high-frequency surface waves because their beams are too wide for the antennas currently in use to track.

Plenty of practical challenges – such as signal loss and noise interference – need to be overcome to use high-frequency surface waves in radar.

Liu Yongtan was given China’s top scientific honour for his work on the radar. Photo: Weibo
Liu Yongtan was given China’s top scientific honour for his work on the radar. Photo: Weibo

However, Shi Lao, a Shanghai-based military commentator, said Liu’s team must have overcome those challenges.

Shi said he believed that as Liu’s technology developed it could be used as a low-cost coastal monitoring system that could protect the coastline within a range of 400km (250 miles).

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The technology can also be used in conjunction with skywave radar systems, which usually have a longer monitoring range of 1,000km (621 miles).

“HFSWR could work 24 hours in all weathers, which would be much cheaper than operating early warning aircraft,” Shi said.

“They can be deployed relatively quickly with high mobility if they are mounted on vehicles, and may be loaded onto warships in the future.”

State broadcaster CCTV has previously reported that China has built a high-frequency surface wave radar test centre in Weihai, on China’s east coast in Shandong province.

In January 

Liu was awarded the State Pre-eminent Science and Technology Award

, China’s highest award for scientists which includes prize money of 8 million yuan (US$1.2 million), for his work on the radar system.

Source: SCMP
12/06/2019

Chandrayaan-2: India unveils spacecraft for second Moon mission

Lander of Chandrayaan-2Image copyright PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU, INDIA

India’s space agency has unveiled its spacecraft that it hopes to land on the Moon by September.

If successful, India will be the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, following the US, the former Soviet Union and China.

Chandrayaan-2 will be the country’s second lunar mission.

Its first mission, Chandrayaan-1 which launched in 2008, was an orbiter and did not actually land on the surface of the Moon.

Rover of Chandrayaan-2Image copyright PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU, INDIA

This mission will focus on the lunar’s surface and gather data on water, minerals and rock formations.

The new spacecraft will have a lander, an orbiter and rover.

These are photos of the craft in the Indian Space and Research Organisation’s (ISRO) lab, where scientists have been busy getting the spacecraft ready:

Lander of Chandrayaan-2Image copyright PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU, INDIA

Media caption Is India’s prime minister right when he calls his country a space superpower?

If all goes according to plan, the lander and rover will touch down near the lunar south pole in September. If successful, it would be the first ever spacecraft to land in that region.

The rover is expected to operate for 14 days on the Moon, ISRO chairperson K Sivan told the Times of India newspaper. “The rover will analyse the content of the lunar surface and send data and images back to the earth,” he said.

Source: The BBC

10/06/2019

Why China struggles to win friends and make itself heard

  • Beijing has to reconcile the competing needs to appear tough to the Chinese public and conciliatory to an international audience
  • China feels US has long had the advantage in shaping global opinion but it now needs to make itself heard
China must appear tough for an increasingly nationalistic audience at home and be conciliatory to an international audience wary of China’s assertive foreign and defence policy. Photo: Xinhua
China must appear tough for an increasingly nationalistic audience at home and be conciliatory to an international audience wary of China’s assertive foreign and defence policy. Photo: Xinhua
In just the last week, a Chinese official posed a question that would resonate among his fellow cadres: as China rises, why are we not making more friends and why are our voices not heard?
The question has gained weight as the trade war with the United States has deepened, and Chinese officials have scrambled to win the battle of public opinion at home and abroad.
It also came to the fore at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore on the weekend, when Chinese officials were faced with balancing the need to appear tough for an increasingly nationalistic audience at home and being conciliatory to an international audience wary of China’s assertive foreign and defence policy.
Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo, a senior fellow at the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Sciences and a public diplomacy veteran for the military, said the expectations clashed in Singapore.
“Currently there are two parallel worlds in the public opinion landscape, one domestic and another international, and the two of them are basically split and in two extremes,” Zhao said.
“[The Shangri-La Dialogue] is a place where the two worlds clash. As the Chinese delegation [at the forum] we need to show our position, but it is becoming more difficult to balance [the expectations of the two sides].
“If you are tough, the domestic audience will be satisfied, but it won’t bode well with the international audience. But if we appear to be soft, we will be the target of overwhelming criticism at home.”
China asks state media to pick battles carefully with long US trade war looming, sources say

Zhao said this was an unprecedented challenge for Chinese cadres, who must also satisfy the expectations of the leadership.

“Our task was about diplomacy and making friends. But [with the tough position] you may not be able to make friends, and might even exacerbate the tension,” he said.

The pressure was immense when Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe took to the stage on Sunday in a rare appearance at the forum. Concerned about how Wei’s performance would be received at home, Beijing ordered Chinese media to minimise their coverage of acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan’s address in case it made China appear weak, according to a source familiar with the arrangements for Chinese media.

In his speech, Wei struck a defiant tone, vowing that the PLA would “fight at all costs” for “reunification” with Taiwan and that China was ready to fight the US to the end on the trade front.

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe makes a rare appearance at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Reuters
Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe makes a rare appearance at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Reuters

Major General Jin Yinan, from the PLA’s National Defence University, a member of the Chinese delegation to the Singapore summit, said Wei’s speech defied expectations that China would show restraint with the US, and demonstrated China’s confidence on the world stage.

The public response at home was immediate and positive. Tens of thousands of Chinese internet users flooded social media platforms such as the Twitter-like Weibo service to express their approval for Wei’s hard line.

“This is the attitude that the Chinese military should show to the world,” one commenter said.

“I am proud of my country for being so strong and powerful,” another said.

Over the past year, Beijing’s propaganda apparatus has tightly controlled the domestic media narrative on the trade war, barring independent reporting on the tensions. But since the breakdown of trade talks in early May, the authorities have gone one step further by escalating nationalistic rhetoric in newspapers and on television.

How Donald Trump’s tweets outgunned China’s heavy media weapons in the trade war publicity battle

China has also tried to make its case to the world with an official statement. On the same day that Wei addressed the gathering in Singapore, the State Council, China’s cabinet, put China’s side of the dispute in a white paper, saying the US should bear responsibility for the breakdown of the trade talks.

A Chinese delegate at the forum said Beijing felt Washington had long had the advantage in shaping global opinion and there was an urgent need for China to make itself heard.

“We should get more used to voicing our position through Western platforms. The US has been criticising us on many issues. But why should the Americans dominate all the platforms and have the final say over everything?” the delegate said.

Before Wei’s appearance at the dialogue, China had not sent such a high-ranking official for eight years. It had long sought to play down the importance of the forum, seeing it as a platform wielded by the US and its Western allies to attack China.

In 2002, China set up the Beijing Xiangshan Forum to rival the Singapore gathering and amplify its voice on security issues.

But Chinese officials are well aware that Xiangshan does not have the same impact and profile as the Shangri-La Dialogue, according to Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

“[At the same time, the long absence of high-level Chinese representation to the Shangri-La Dialogue also] raises the question of whether it might be sustainable in the long run for [the dialogue] if they continue to not have such ministerial representation [from China],” Koh said.

Zhao, who is also the director of the Xiangshan forum’s secretariat office, agreed that China lagged the US in promoting the image of the military and in winning public opinion.

“China has not fought a war in 30 years. We have only built some islands in the South China Sea and yet have received so much criticism from the international media. The US has engaged in many wars but they are seldom criticised. This reflects that China is in a disadvantaged position in international discourse,” he said.

Expectations collided at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore this month. Photo: AFP
Expectations collided at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore this month. Photo: AFP
In a rare conciliatory gesture – and just days before the 30th anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square – Wei took questions from a room of international delegates on a range of sensitive issues, including the crackdown and China’s mass internment camps in Xinjiang. While he largely toed the official line in his reply, his presence at the forum and willingness to address the questions raised hopes that China would become a more responsible partner in global affairs despite its continuing disputes with the US.
Andrea Thompson, US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said Wei’s attendance at the Singapore gathering was a “positive sign” and she hoped that China would be more open and transparent in addressing issues such as arms control and cybersecurity.
“I appreciate that he is here. I think it’s important to have a dialogue … There will be areas where we will agree, and some areas where we disagree, but you still have to have dialogue,” Thompson said.
Source: SCMP
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