Space Geopolitics: Why ISS is Off-Limits to Chinese

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 6/08/2015 01:30:00 AM
Chinese, keep out! Aboard the (reds-free) "International" Space Station.
In an age of specialization, there's an academic journal for everything. Did you know there's one entitled Space Policy? I've written something for Transport Policy, but I haven't reached the final frontier (yet). At any rate, I may be inspired to do so after reading this fascinating article in TIME concerning why the International Space Station (ISS) remains off-limits to Chinese astronauts (or taikonauts to use the Chinese term for these folks). Is it because of the perceived "rivalry" between the US and China?
[T]he International Space Station (ISS) [is] the biggest, coolest, most excellent tree house there ever was. Principally built and operated by the U.S., the ISS has welcomed aboard astronauts from 15 different countries, including such space newbies as South Africa, Brazil, The Netherlands and Malaysia. But China? Nuh-uh. Never has happened, never gonna’ happen.

China has been barred from the ISS since 2011, when Congress passed a law prohibiting official American contact with the Chinese space program due to concerns about national security. “National security,” of course, is the lingua franca excuse for any country to do anything it jolly well wants to do even if it has nothing to do with, you know, the security of the nation. But never mind.

Few people in the U.S. paid much attention to the no-Chinese law, but it’s at last taking deserved heat, thanks to a CNN interview with the three Chinese astronauts—or taikonauts—who flew China’s Shenzhou 10 mission in 2013. The network’s visit to China’s usually closed Space City, which will air on May 30, is a reporting coup, especially because of the entirely familiar, entirely un-scary world it reveals: serious taikonauts doing serious work with serious mission planners—every bit what you see behind the scenes at NASA or Russia’s Roscosmos
Ah yes, "national security"--that all-purpose cover for anti-foreign acts. This position is supposedly bolstered by "findings" from studies by US agencies and academic institutions:
The 2011 law draws a sort of ex post facto justification from a study that was released in 2012 by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, warning that China’s policymakers “view space power as one aspect of a broad international competition in comprehensive national strength and science and technology.” More darkly, there is the 2015 report prepared by the University of California, San Diego’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, ominously titled “China Dream, Space Dream“, which concludes: “China’s efforts to use its space program to transform itself into a military, economic, and technological power may come at the expense of U.S. leadership and has serious implications for U.S. interests.”
Why is it that Chinese taikonauts represent a "national security" threat to the United States while Russian cosmonauts do not? Does it have something to do with not being able to get to the ISS without Russian help ever since the Space Shuttle program was discontinued? Don't ask me. Space politics are weird, and probably provide endless fodder for writers contributing to Space Policy.