The People’s Republic of China’s “Long View” space-tracking and telemetry system enhances space situational awareness and operations while offering military potential. Yet this sea-based approach suffers from inherent dependencies and liabilities. The program appears at a crossroads, with the development of additional overseas ground stations a tempting alternative. How Beijing proceeds will shape its capabilities critically; the United States should monitor related developments closely.
China relies on space-event support ships far more than does any other power today—its fleet is rivaled only by that of the United States. But in contrast to the United States, Russia, and other modern global military powers, a regionally focused China has no overseas military bases and only limited space and domestic ground-based assets on which to rely. The country’s Yuanwang (Long View) ships fill this void by performing a variety of useful roles in peacetime, including monitoring and tracking space vehicles such as rockets, spacecraft, and missiles; as well as communicating and coordinating with ground assets.