4. What kind of space capabilities is China developing?
China is becoming increasingly proficient in space. The report mentions that China is assembling its own GPS-style satellite network, blasted the Tiangong-1 spacelab into orbit in 2011, and has developed a ground-launched anti-satellite missile to improve its counter-space capabilities. But the Pentagon neglects to mention one of China's most ambitious space programs: the development of the Shenlong spaceplane and the possible associated development of advanced propulsion systems, whose existence increases the risk of a military space race with the United States.
It is not yet known whether Shenlong is anything more than a hi-tech experiment. But because of Shenlong's military potential, any information about it could allay or exacerbate growing fears within the U.S. military that the PLA Air Force has more than a passing interest in space operations.