NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
Air Force Gen. John Raymond, chief of the newly created Space Force, says he supports efforts by the Biden administration to reach a U.N.-sponsored agreement on military activity in space, something past administrations have rejected as an arms control ploy by China and Russia to limit the American power in space.
The four-star general also endorsed the Biden administration’s recent unilateral declaration of a ban on anti-satellite tests that create debris in space. Gen. Raymond said he backs the idea of trying to deter conflict in space through arms agreements to establish international “norms” for military space operations.
Critics say both China and Russia have regularly violated such international norms by building multiple space weapons and conducting destructive anti-satellite (ASAT) tests. Gen. Raymond acknowledged that enforcing military space rules would be difficult.
“But if we had a set of rules and you run through the red light, we can say, ‘You ran through the red light,’” he said. “It helps identify bad behavior.”
Gen. Raymond also praised the Pentagon’s newly announced but vaguely defined strategy called “integrated deterrence,” which seeks to prevent war through more than military power by adding additional means and international allies.
“I think it’s clear that if deterrence were to fail and we were to get into a conflict, maybe the first place where that conflict might start is in space,” Gen. Raymond said in remarks to this week’s Aspen Security Conference in Colorado.
The four-star general did not mention the fact that the Space Force currently has a single declared space weapon: an electronic jammer. China and Russia, by contrast, have deployed several types of missiles capable of destroying satellites in multiple orbits, ground-based lasers and electronic jammers that can disrupt or destroy satellites and orbiting robot satellites that can grab and crush enemy satellites.
Instead of space weapons, the Space Force is working to protect and defend satellites from attack, Gen. Raymond said.
Russia blew up a satellite with a missile in November, creating an estimated 1,500 pieces of space debris traveling at 17,000 miles per hour that can damage other orbiting systems, he said. China also blew up a satellite with a missile in 2007, leaving an estimated 3,000 pieces of debris still orbiting at high speeds.
Gen. Raymond said China “has gone from zero to 60 very quickly” in its arms buildup, including space warfare capabilities. Beijing strategists regard U.S. space systems as a key military vulnerability that could be targeted in a conflict.
But instead of seeking to match Russian and Chinese space capabilities, Gen. Raymond said the U.S. is “really working hard [to promote] the rules-based order if you will in space,” he said.
“And today one of the challenges is there are no rules or very few rules,” Gen. Raymond said. “It’s the wild, wild West.”
The Biden administration is trying to develop norms of behavior for what is “safe and professional” in space, the general said. In unilaterally banning ASAT tests, Gen. Raymond said the United States wants to demonstrate responsible behavior even if the Russians and Chinese do not reciprocate.
Critics have dismissed the administration’s ban on destructive ASAT tests as a hollow gesture that will do little to prevent both Beijing and Moscow from building more ASAT missile weapons.
“There’s also discussions going on at the United Nations among nations to figure out what are the rules of the road,” he said. “I really believe we need to get those in place.” The rules could delineate such things as the rules of engagement in space and the definition of hostile intent.
It was not clear from the general’s comment if he was referring to the draft U.N. Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, which was proposed by Russia and China but rejected by the United States in the past as unverifiable.
The Pentagon has said in the past that China and Russia are attempting to use the agreement as a way to limit U.S. military space capabilities while both nations press ahead with space weapons programs.
China again demands U.S. not target communist system
China’s government is once again demanding the United States promise not to overthrow the country’s communist system as a precondition for improved bilateral relations, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi presented four lists of demands to Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a July 9 meeting in Bali. A lengthy Chinese statement on the Blinken-Wang meeting said China believes the Trump administration badly damaged relations and that Beijing is “even facing mounting challenges” under President Biden.
Mr. Wang told the secretary of state that the current bilateral relations are facing further decline from mounting “China-phobia.”
“Wang Yi emphasized that since the United States has promised that it does not seek to change China’s system, it should respect the Chinese people’s choice of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and should stop smearing and attacking China’s political system and domestic and foreign policies,” the ministry said.
President Xi Jinping has launched an aggressive propaganda campaign promoting Chinese communism as a alternative for Western democracy.
It was the second time in two months that China demanded the United States halt anti-communist policies.
In June, senior Chinese Communist Party official Yang Jiechi delivered a similar message to White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan during a meeting in Luxembourg.
The official news agency Xinhua said the lists presented to Mr. Blinken included “U.S. wrongdoing that must stop;” a list of key individual cases that must be resolved by the United States; a list of actions by Congress “of high concern to China;” and a list of proposed cooperation in eight areas.
A State Department official rejected the list of demands. “Our diplomacy and engagement with the PRC is based on the interests of the people of the United States, not on responding to lists prepared by the PRC,” the official said, using the acronym for People’s Republic of China.
Leaked document reveals censorship of Xi nicknames
Internal Chinese documents have surfaced in the West revealing how censors block online use of over 500 nicknames used to criticize Chinese President Xi Jinping, including “Personally Commanding the Pandemic,” “Adolf Xitler,” and “Beast Chairman.”
The documents were obtained by China Digital Times, a California-based dissident outlet that has obtained internal Communist Party documents in the past.
The recent documents were obtained from a Chinese social media and shopping platform called Xiaohongshu, which boasts an estimated 200 million users. Chinese who use the social media outlet can share their views in a number of ways, including product reviews and travel reports.
According to one document, Xiaohongshu censors — under the supervision of government propaganda agencies — built a knowledge base to screen content. During the period between February and May 2020, a total of 564 words were added to the database that were deemed offensive to the Chinese leader.
In China, censoring criticism of Mr. Xi is considered a very high priority — often more important than blocking content about China’s human rights abuses or the 1989 military crackdown on unarmed protesters in Beijing, according to China analysts.
Censors that reviewed online content found 271 cases using the well-known tactic of using nicknames and homonyms in Chinese to circumvent censors in criticizing the party leader and president.
The nickname “Personally Commanding the Pandemic” is based on Mr. Xi’s public statement in 2020 that he was overall in charge of China’s widely-criticized response to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in Wuhan, China.
The list of banned words also includes “Pooh’s History” – a reference to Mr. Xi’s supposed resemblance to the well-known A.A. Milne character Winnie the Pooh, whom Chinese dissidents frequently use as a surrogate in criticizing Mr. Xi. Government censors banned all online references to Winnie the Pooh as a result.
Other censored references to Mr. Xi include “Mr. S—t Pit,” “People’s Leader,” “Xi Foreskin,” “Be the Emperor Clown,” “Legal Heir of Tiananmen” and “Unlimited Re-election.”
The last nickname refers to Mr. Xi’s elimination of term limits for China’s most senior leader, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. That action is expected to be further solidified at a major gathering of the Party set for this fall.
— Bill Gertz can be reached on Twitter at @BillGertz.