Roundtable: Space, China’s Tactical Frontier

A Roundtable Discussion with Matthew Durnin

In January 2012, NBR hosted a roundtable discussion with Matthew Durnin from the World Security Institute. Mr. Durnin’s presentation focused on the stunning progress China has made in its satellite reconnaissance capabilities in recent years. Starting from almost no capacity for live surveillance ten years ago, today the Chinese military (the PLA) has gained the capability to support real-time tactical naval operations from space. China’s suite of electro-optical, synthetic aperture radar, and electronic intelligence satellites are key to its anti-access/area denial capabilities, through which the PLA could deny the United States military the capability to operate with impunity close to its shores. Furthermore, these achievements suggest a shift towards more military-dedicated space assets and form the contours of a crucial support system for expanded PLA operations. His presentation introduced advanced modeling techniques through which China’s reconnaissance capabilities can be quantified and traced the organizational structure that has made these rapid advances possible.

The roundtable discussion was organized by NBR’s Next Generation Leadership in Asian Affairs Fellowship Program as part of the Leadership Forum, a professional development program for NBR staff, fellows, and interns designed to cultivate leadership through a curriculum of seminars and discussion forums. The views expressed in Leadership Forum activities are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of NBR or institutions that support NBR.

About the Speaker

Matthew Durnin is a Beijing-based researcher with the World Security Institute’s China Program and associate editor of the policy journal China Security. The Naval War College awarded Matt and co-author Eric Hagt the 2009 Hugh G. Nott Award for their article “China’s Antiship Ballistic Missile: Developments and Missing Links.”

Read Mr. Durnin’s recent paper “Space, China’s Tactical Frontier.”