In an article in the current issue of the Washington Quarterly entitled "Averting a Sino-U.S. Space Race," William C. Martel, a professor at the Naval War College, and Toshi Yoshihara, of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, discuss the Taiwan Strait scenario. China, they say, "will increasingly need military space capabilities if it is to improve its ability to coerce Taiwan in a conflict and counter U.S. intervention to defend the island in a crisis or conflict."
"China could, for example," they write, "pre-emptively attack U.S. assets in space prior to the outbreak of conflict in the Taiwan Strait in an effort to prevent the United States from coordinating military intervention."
I asked House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, whether Americans should see China's space program as a military threat. "Absolutely," he said.
He pointed to the 1999 findings of a special committee chaired by Republican Rep. Chris Cox of California that studied the military implications of unauthorized U.S. technology transfers to China. "If you read the Cox Report," he said, "what some of our biggest companies did was give information to the Chinese missile program, the launch vehicle program, with respect to satellite launches, which was relevant to not only space launches but also to military launches, because the same boosters carry the warheads that are aimed at American cities as carry satellites."
The Cox Report cited both Loral and Hughes Space and Communications as having transferred information that aided China's launch program. Since then, both companies have agreed to pay fines to settle their cases with the State Department.
The Rumsfeld Commission warned of complacency about the threat to the U.S. in space. "History is replete with instances in which warning signs were ignored and change resisted until an external 'improbable' event forced resistant bureaucracies to take action," the commissioners concluded. "The question is whether the U.S. will be wise enough to act responsibly and soon enough to reduce U.S. space vulnerabilities. Or whether, as in the past, a disabling attack against the country and its people -- a 'Space Pearl Harbor' -- will be the only event able to galvanize the nation and cause the U.S. government to act.
"We are on notice," they said, "but we have not noticed."