China has big ambitious with the Silk Road strategy. Muhammad Furqan, satellite industry writer and analyst, shares his opinion on this fascinating subject.
The United States withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership of 12 economies, comprising 40% of World’s total GDP, has created a void of leadership and has made the future of the free trade alliance uncertain. This withdrawal of the biggest economy of the world cannot be related to the British exit from the European Union but both scenarios create equal opportunities for the 2nd largest economy of the world, The People’s Republic of China. Initially covering most of the Asia, Europe and Africa, China’s trade initiative ‘One Belt, One Road’ may also cover Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and Latin America. China buckles up in the driving seat of the TPP.
On 27th of December, 2016 China issued its Space Policy in a whitepaper, titled “China’s Space Activities in 2016”. The paper reviewed achievements of Chinese space activities and outlined major activities for the next five years. (Source: Xinhua)
The paper briefly covers success stories of all aspects of Chinese space activities with emphasis on the positioning and navigation system BeiDou. With 14 satellites in the orbit and working towards a total of 35 in the constellation, the navigation system will surpass other GNSS; the US’ GPS, EU’s Galileo and Russia’s GLONASS. The navigation system will complement the marine and land trade routes initiative of the Chinese government’s ‘One Belt, One Road’, covering most of the globe with heavy investment on the routes and associated industries. Most member countries of the route, and developing economies, will easily adapt to the BeiDou system and other Chinese space initiatives. The whitepaper mentions in ‘Key areas for future cooperation’;
‘Construction of the Belt and Road Initiative Space Information Corridor, including earth observation, communications and broadcasting, navigation and positioning, and other types of satellite-related development; ground and application system construction; and application product development’.
One Belt, One Road (Source: http://www.dw.com/en/chinas-ambitious-silk-road-strategy/a-18933290#)
The ‘Space Information Corridor’ is a broad term for a bouquet of potential multidimensional services of variable magnitudes. Since this trade initiative spans most populated as well as culturally diverse regions, with unpredictable economic and political circumstances, designing and managing such an information corridor will be a complex task. Considering the rising interest of most of the member countries in space related activities, a potential space alliance like that of ESA is quite possible. Although some countries have a space programme and even their own satellites orbiting the planet at different altitudes, manufacturing and launching of such spacecraft is not indigenous to most of such programmes.
These trade activities will create multiple opportunities for government and private sector institutions including but not limited to; commercial, financial, power, manufacturers, import/export entities etc. to extend their presence along the routes. All of the benefitting organisations are already upgrading their processes in line with development in technologies like Cloud Computing, IoT (Internet of Things), Artificial Intelligence, Fleet Management etc. This will result in generation of bits and bytes in the magnitudes of mega and giga, every second. Considering marine routes and large areas of varying terrains of the regions of the land routes, satellite communication will be the only viable solution for communicating and managing such amount of data. Moreover, China, like any other leadership, will safeguard its own interests in these regional trade routes and will complement it through close monitoring, secure communication and accurate navigation. Again, all of of these can only be served by special purpose satellites.
The Middle East, like any other geopolitical situation will perform a pivotal role for the future of the proposed Space Information Corridor for plenty of reasons, the main being;
- With expatriates outnumbering the local population in most of the countries, this area is one of the most multicultural regions in the world, with huge amount of different video and broadcasting content from almost every part of the world
- The economic rollercoaster ride of the fossil fuel dependent economies due to wide range of oil prices fluctuations in 2016 will make these economies shift the burden to other verticals as well
- Proposed Martian expedition of UAE and other space initiatives
- Expansion of mainstream media and broadcast services in the region leading to the opening of China’s state owned CCTV bureau in Dubai (http://www.thenational.ae/business/media/china-central-television-opens-regional-bureau-in-dubai)
- Disaster and relief management as a result of regions in political turmoil including Syria, Iraq and in larger region Afghanistan and Libya
- Opening of the potential for commercial activities in the new market of Iran
- Two way traffic of trade activities among Middle East, Eastern Africa and China through CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor). China and Pakistan already have an agreement to monitor the route and provide communication through satellite based services. (http://www.dawn.com/news/1290894)
About Muhammad Furqan:
With around a decade of experience in the satellite communications industry, Muhammad Furqan is a renowned writer and analyst with multiple publications and keynote appearances at different international platforms. He has been advocating for innovation in satellite communications in accordance with development in terrestrial technology. For the same purpose he recently established a technology wisdom platform; Datellite, for multidimensional integration of communications satellites with data related technologies. Currently based in Australia, he has worked in different regions including Middle East and Asia Pacific. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @furqan_satcom
Muhammad created an online survey regarding this ‘Space Information Corridor’. Feel free to submit your valued feedback.