According to the Wall Street Journal, China’s government uses a fleet of US-made satellites for policing its people and supporting its military. This is happening despite the growing concern in Washington regarding the power of Beijing.
The United States does not allow China to purchase the US-made satellites for the sake of national security; however; it does sell them to the partly China-controlled, Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Communications. Asia Satellite Communications then leases out capacity to customers including the Chinese.
Because of this arrangement, China’s Ministry of State Security that is responsible for overseeing domestic and international intelligence gathering has been using the US-built satellites for carrying out communications during emergencies. This includes how the government tackled the anti-government protests that were orchestrated by minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang in 2008-2009.
Starting in 2013, a Chinese state telecommunications firm also made use of capacity on an AsiaSat satellite for providing Internet and mobile services to China’s military while they were busy building permanent installations on islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Why is it such a big deal? The islands and reefs are contested, and even Washington does not recognize China’s claims to those installations. They have, however, allowed China to extend its military reach.
AsiaSat is jointly controlled by US investment bank Carlyle Group and China’s big government-backed investment bank Citic Group. AsiaSat is about thirty years old and is a publicly listed company that has launched a total of nine satellites created by US aeronautics and space forms SSL and Boeing.
AsiaSat has stated that China’s military made use of the satellite services via telecoms operators that contained bandwidth for disaster relief. Carlyle – strongly linked to the US political and security establishment – has stated that AsiaSat customers are Chinese phone and internet companies, who have their own customers.
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