The Forgotten First Iteration of the ‘Chinese Space Threat’ to US National Security

Cameron Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Existing analyses of US-China relations in matters of space policy have overwhelmingly focused on the contemporary relationship, with a tendency to represent the interaction between the 2 states as primarily competitive for its entire existence. By making use of American archival materials, this article argues that these characterisations are misleading. Instead, the historical evidence shows that an iteration of a ‘Chinese space threat’ predates contemporary threat perceptions by almost 5 decades. Crucially, however, this first iteration of a ‘Chinese space threat’ was side-lined to such an extent in the 1970s that cooperation in space policy became possible, leading to some significant technology transfer. This cooperation lasted until the modern articulation of a ‘Chinese space threat’ began to make such exchanges controversial once again. Analysis of these archival materials, therefore, shows that, while contemporary tensions between the United States and China in outer space are not new, they are also not the norm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-165
Number of pages8
JournalSpace Policy
Early online date5 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • China
  • Cooperation
  • Security
  • Technology transfer
  • Threat
  • United States

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