Xi announces the PLA Aerospace Force

Special to CosmicTribune.com, April 24, 2024

By Richard Fisher

As President Donald Trump revealed the new flag of the United States Space Force, on May 20, 2020, Chinese state media Global Times intoned, “China upholds the ideals for peaceful use of outer space and opposes weaponizing it or seeking out a celestial sprint to arms.”

However, the reality is that for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) there has never been any attempt to separate the military, or the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), from control of all space activities, whereas as the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) historically has stressed civilian missions.

From the beginning of the Chinese space program, the PLA has exercised overall command, systems development and leadership, but this has rarely been acknowledged.

On the day the new PLA Aerospace Force was announced, April 19, 2024, images appeared on the Chinese Internet for the first time of the PLA Air Force H-6N bomber carrying the WZ-8 hypersonic unmanned drone. / Chinese Internet

For example, on Oct. 21, 2021, Chinese state media Xinhua may have slipped when in a biography of female astronaut Wang Yaping, she was described as being part of the “Astronaut brigade of the People’s Liberation Army.”

But on April 19, the CCP finally came clean as CCP leader Xi Jinping presided over the reorganization of the former PLA Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) into three new arms, including for the first time, the PLA Aerospace Force.

Now that its ambition has been made more “open,” it can be expected that the CCP will pursue the political as well as military benefits from its full force weaponization of space.

Previously under the PLASSF, space functions were controlled under the Space Systems Department, which represented a victory for the for General Equipment Department (GED), directly subordinate to the Central Military Commission (CMC) the CCP body that controls the PLA.

The GED, in turn, represented the “rocket boys,” that commanded the PLA’s space launch bases, developed and delivered China’s space launch vehicles, controlled the PLA’s and China’s satellite networks and controlled China’s manned space program.

Just before the December 2015 revelation of the PLASSF, some Chinese media would comment on the competition between the GED, the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and the PLA Second Artillery missile force, for control of the future PLA “space force.”

On Nov. 12, 2014, the South China Morning Post commented, “All of the major space stakeholders in the PLA are vying for leadership of a future space force as they all build their respective capabilities, but it does not appear that the Chinese political leadership is ready to make fundamental decisions just yet.”

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