- China's Beidou satellite navigation system aims for autonomy and enhanced military operations
- The Beidou system is sparking considerable economic growth, estimated at $156 billion by 2025
- China leverages Beidou data with its infrastructure exports and 5G offerings, boosting its global influence
A marvel of modern science, the Global Positioning System (GPS) claims a hefty user base of six billion worldwide, standing as the most prevalent satellite navigation system globally. The U.S. government oversees its operation, delegating its administration to the Space Force, an autonomous military division within the U.S. Air Force. Initially, GPS was conceived as a military asset, utilized in missile guidance and drone operations. However, over time, civilians have come to rely heavily on this technology.
Addressing potential threats to GPS, Representative Mikie Sherill (D-N.J.) forewarns of the cataclysmic impact an attack on the system could have. She highlights the catastrophic consequences, including paralysis of our logistics, supply chain, farming practices, transportation systems, and even air traffic control.
But the U.S. isn't the lone ranger in the realm of global navigation satellite systems. Russia has GLONASS, while the European Union operates Galileo. The most recent addition to the navigation tech scene is China's Beidou constellation. Historically, countries have cooperated on this front, allowing free access to their respective systems.
According to Sarah Sewall, former Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, China recognized the crucial need for an independent global navigation system years ago. This came after a wake-up call during the Taiwan Straits crisis when China lost the ability to track their own launched missiles. This sparked the need for autonomy, accuracy, and less reliance on other nations, especially in matters as critical as military operations.
China's Beidou system is not only about flexing its military muscle. Mirroring what GPS has done for the U.S., Beidou has ignited significant economic growth in China. Chinese state media projects that by 2025, this development could be valued at $156 billion. Beyond the economic sphere, it is also bolstering China's global standing. As Sewall notes, China integrates Beidou data with other infrastructure exports, including 5G offerings, which it promotes through its Belt and Road and Digital Silk Road initiatives.
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