11. People’s Republic of China

Since its first successful launch in 1970, the People’s Republic of China (hereafter “China”) has extended its capabilities in all types of space activities. It is one of only three countries to have sent humans into orbit. While traditionally government-controlled, an increasing number of private actors are appearing in the sector. The China National Space Administration, under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are responsible for civil and military space activities, respectively. Other important actors include the National Space Science Centre of the Chinese Academy of Sciences as well as the state-owned enterprises China Aerospace Science Technology Corporation (CASC) and the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).

It is conservatively estimated that China allocated some USD 9.3 billion to space activities in 2017 (guide to the profiles). This takes into account considerable investments in spacecraft technologies and human spaceflight, such as the work to finalise the Chinese Space Station, planned to be operational in 2022, and developing the super-heavy launcher Long March 9, destined for Mars and lunar missions in the 2030s. With thirty-nine orbital launches in 2018, a third of all 2018 worldwide launch events, the country conducted more annual space launches than ever before.

Downstream application programmes and science activities are also increasingly ambitious. China now has the second-highest number of operational earth observation missions, after the United States (some twenty national and multilateral missions), and will soon finalise the global extension of the Beidou GNSS constellation. In 2018, it became the first country to successfully land a rover on the far side of the Moon. Also, the quantum physics satellite Micius successfully transmitted entangled photon pairs between ground stations in China and Austria, a first step to ensure long-distance encrypted communications. China’s first mission to Mars may launch in 2020.

China’s most recent five-year plan for economic and social development for 2016-20 sets as priorities the accelerated construction of a national civil space infrastructure for earth observation, broadband mobile communications and GNSS, and space technology development (People’s Republic of China State Council, 2016[1]). There is also an increased focus on socio-economic returns of space investments with reinforced efforts to develop space applications for government, civil and commercial use (People’s Republic of China State Council, 2016[2]).

China has government-led activities in all segments of the space industry. CASC and CASIC are the major actors in manufacturing and in the commercialisation of products and services abroad. The commercialisation of space activities is a growing priority in China. In 2014, the government opened the space sector to private capital. Dozens of companies have been created, mainly targeting the growing market of very small satellites. This includes for instance the launch vehicle manufacturers LandSpace, iSpace and OneSpace and the nanosatellite manufacturers MinoSpace and Spacety. Funding is provided both by private venture capital funds and local and regional government administrations. LandSpace made its first orbital launch attempt in October 2018, with the small satellite launcher Zhuque-1, carrying a payload manufactured by MinoSpace. This was China’s first private space launch. In 2016, the Chinese manufacturing sector, dominated by state-owned and state-controlled enterprises, reported some CNY 22.9 billion (USD 3.4 billion) in revenues (Chinese National Bureau of Statistics, 2017[3]).

In the downstream segment as well, China has seen a growth in the number of private actors, such as the earth observation satellite operator Chang Guang Satellite Technology, with the Jilin constellation. Start-ups are also active in other downstream segments, including data analytics. In satellite telecommunications, the CASC subsidiary China Satcom is a key actor, with some USD 220 million in revenues recorded in 2016 (Henry, 2017[4]).

China’s share of scientific production in the OECD space literature dataset and space-related patent applications (see guide to the profiles) has significantly increased in the last 10-15 years, and is surpassed only by that of the United States. This is part of a more general trend of increased Chinese scientific publishing and patenting activity in all domains at the same time. China was the recipient of several space-related official development assistance projects between 2000 and 2016, mainly focussing on environmental management and agriculture and rural development. The main donors were the United Kingdom and Germany.

Figure 11.1. People’s Republic of China – Fast facts
Figure 11.1. People’s Republic of China – Fast facts
Figure 11.2. Revenues of Chinese companies involved in spacecraft manufacturing
In CNY billion (current), 2000-16
Figure 11.2. Revenues of Chinese companies involved in spacecraft manufacturing

Note: Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.

Source: Chinese National Bureau of Statistics (2017), China Statistics Yearbook on High Technology Industry: 2017.

Figure 11.3. Scientific production in space literature, per country
Share of total space publications, 2000, 2008 and 2016
Figure 11.3. Scientific production in space literature, per country

Source: OECD analysis based on Scopus Custom Data, Elsevier, July 2018.

Figure 11.4. Top applicants of space-related patents
IP5 patent families, by priority date and applicant’s location, using fractional counts, 2002-05 and 2012-15
Figure 11.4. Top applicants of space-related patents

Note: Patent families are compiled using information on patent families within the Five IP offices (IP5). Figures are based on incomplete data from 2014.

Source: OECD STI Micro-data Lab: Intellectual Property Database, http://oe.cd/ipstats. March 2018.

Figure 11.5. Space-related official development assistance projects conducted in China
Share of space-related commitments directed to China, 2000-16
Figure 11.5. Space-related official development assistance projects conducted in China

Source: Calculations based on OECD DAC database (2018).

References

[3] Chinese National Bureau of Statistics (2017), China Statistics Yearbook on High Technology Industry: 2017, China Statistics Press, Beijing.

[4] Henry, C. (2017), “China Satcom poised to support China’s ‘Belt and Road’ trade initiative”, in Space News, 18 May, https://spacenews.com/china-satcom-poised-to-support-chinas-belt-and-road-trade-initiative/ (accessed on 12 October 2018).

[1] People’s Republic of China State Council (2016), The 13th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China (2016-2020), Central Compilation & Translation Press, Beijing, http://en.ndrc.gov.cn/newsrelease/201612/P020161207645765233498.pdf (accessed on 10 July 2018).

[2] People’s Republic of China State Council (2016), White Paper on China’s Space Activities in 2016, Beijing, http://english.gov.cn/archive/white_paper/2016/12/28/content_281475527159496.htm (accessed on 10 July 2018).

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