Show an ad over header. AMP

China looks to dominate commercial space industry amid global race for tech supremacy

China’s commercial space ambitions stretch far beyond the industry’s current domestic focus, with plans to use private space capabilities to help bring Chinese influence to the world.

Why it matters: Space is a cornerstone of the global race for tech supremacy, and China wants to dominate from both a governmental and commercial standpoint.


  • China's future in space could be, in part, defined by private companies that help to wield the country's soft power and influence on Earth.

The big picture: SpaceX and other providers have made launches affordable for some nations and companies, but space remains out of reach for others.

  • Chinese launch companies and manufacturers see that gap in access as an opportunity.
  • "Space, as the Chinese like to phrase it, contributes to all aspects of comprehensive national power ... so absolutely commercial space if it's done by the Chinese has several advantages," Dean Cheng, a space analyst focusing on China at the Heritage Foundation, told Axios.

Where it stands: At the moment, the Chinese space industry is mostly focused on working to get a foothold regionally and provincially before potential global expansion, experts say.

  • "There is a sense that there's more entrepreneurship and innovation that could come from the private sector," Bhavya Lal, of the Institute for Defense Analyses, told Axios.
  • "Many in policy circles believe that the Chinese need to develop this commercial space sector because there isn't as much innovation in state-owned enterprises."
  • In December, the space industry in China established the China Commercial Space Alliance to help advocate for new policy, research and regulation, and to help foster international collaboration among nations involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Between the lines: According to a 2019 report, there are about 80 commercial space companies in China.

  • The industry may be due for a shakeout in the coming years, with about 20 launch providers like LandSpace, LinkSpace and others competing in similar markets, according to the report.
  • Lal, one of the authors of that report, expects that culling could occur within the next 5–10 years.
  • "I think that maybe we are at a stage that the Chinese government is just letting these companies fight it out," Lal said, adding that once the consolidation occurs, the Chinese government may then try to find new ways to exert influence and support those that rise to the top.
  • Rocket launches were delayed from earlier this year due to orders limiting the spread of COVID-19, potentially straining the growing industry.

Background: Chinese companies have been able to move faster after learning from U.S. successes in commercial space.

  • SpaceX's first successful orbital launch occurred about six years after its founding; the Chinese launch company iSpace performed its first successful orbital launch three years after it started.

The bottom line: China is already using its state-owned enterprises to peddle influence around the world when it comes to space, but in the future, private space companies could add a new dimension to that power.

New Energy Department roles look to animate Biden's campaign themes

The burst of Biden administration staffing picks announced yesterday revealed that the Energy Department (DOE) has newly created roles that reflect what President Biden called campaign priorities.

Driving the news: One new position is "director of energy jobs," which is being filled by Jennifer Jean Kropke. She was previously the first director of workforce and environmental engagement with Local 11 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Keep reading... Show less

Stuart Haselden steps down as CEO of luggage startup Away

Stuart Haselden is stepping down as CEO of smart luggage-maker Away, Axios has learned. He'll be succeeded on an interim basis by company co-founder Jen Rubio, and an outside search firm has been retained to find a permanent successor.

Why it matters: Haselden, formerly with Lululemon, appeared to have established executive stability at Away, whose co-founder Steph Korey previously resigned as CEO before retaking the reins alongside Haselden and then resigning again.

Keep reading... Show less

2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance as Japan's COVID-19 cases surge

10 months ago, the Tokyo Olympics were postponed. Now, less than six months ahead of their new start date, the dreaded word is being murmured: "canceled."

Driving the news: The Japanese government has privately concluded that the Games will have to be called off, The Times reports (subscription), citing an unnamed senior government source.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden's centrist words, liberal actions

President Biden talks like a soothing centrist. He promises to govern like a soothing centrist. But early moves show that he is keeping his promise to advance a liberal agenda.

Why it matters: Never before has a president done more by executive fiat in such a short period of time than Biden. And those specific actions, coupled with a push for a more progressive slate of regulators and advisers, look more like the Biden of the Democratic primary than the unity-and-restraint Biden of the general election.

Keep reading... Show less

Review of Trump ban marks major turning point for Facebook

Facebook's decision to ask its new independent Oversight Board to review the company's indefinite suspension of former President Trump is likely to set a critical precedent for how the social media giant handles political speech from world leaders.

What they're saying: "I very much hope and can expect … that they will uphold our decision," Facebook's VP of global affairs Nick Clegg tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

What we know about the Apple car

Apple's moves toward breaking into the market for self-driving cars have come in fits and starts, but it has big ambitions for the space and is moving forward both with its own efforts and with potential partnerships with automakers.

Why it matters: Apple has great businesses in phones and computers, but its long-term growth potential will depend on conquering an entirely new market. Improving health care and playing a role in autonomous vehicles appear to be its two biggest bets on that front.

Keep reading... Show less

Banks cash in as Wall Street blows out Main Street

America’s big banks capped off a winning year, led by soaring Wall Street-facing business lines.

Why it matters: Banks cashed in on the white-hot IPO market, record debt issuance, and sky-high trading volume — all of which played out as economic peril softened the consumer side of their businesses.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden to sign more executive orders to provide economic relief

President Biden will continue his executive action blitz on Friday, issuing two more orders in an attempt to provide immediate relief to struggling families without waiting for Congress.

Why it matters: In his second full day in office, Biden is again resorting to executive actions as he tries to increase payments for nutritional assistance and protect workers' rights during the pandemic.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories