Why is it that for almost every launch from China, western analysts say that the satellite has a military purpose, even when Xinhua says that, for example in this case, Chinasat 2A "will be used to meet the demands for China's radio and TV broadcasting and broadband multimedia transmissions."?
So in the West, the headline invariably reads that yet another military satellite was launched for China.
They can't all be military! And who exactly are these western analysts?
- Ed Kyle
Ed - I'm one of them ;-)
Here's the funny thing: if you go to the web page of Chinasathttp://www.chinasatcom.com/en/News_Info.aspx?m=20110329113845577061&n=20110329133705937193
they list the satellites they operate, and the ones that are rumored to be really military are - surprise - not on their list.
So I'm pretty comfortable with the conclusion that ZX-22, 20, 22A, 20A, 1A and 2A are not really Chinasats.
It's been a pretty good guide for the former USSR and for China that if they don't talk about it in detail, it's probably military. (Now we can 'look up the answers in the back of the book' for the USSR, seems like the UK amateur BIS/Kettering analysts did a pretty good job in figuring out what was what,) One can also conclude from behaviour and orbit sometimes... pretty clear most of the FSW recoverable satellites were recon.
Of the sats launched this year, ZY-3 and TH-1 are under civil management
, but there's some dual use component there FY-2F is known to be civilian under weather bureau control, I am agnostic about the Beidous - like GPS, it's a dual use system and I don't agree with many other analysts that one has to assume it's mainly military. GPS is a great example of the difficulties of labelling everything as either one or the other - mil vs not-mil.
The Yaogan satellites, however, seem to me to be clearly military. Yaogan seems to be almost comparable to the Soviet Kosmos as a cover name for a wide range of different programs about which little is released - a giveaway. The mix of low orbit imaging, radar and infrared satellites strongly suggest that Yaogan is an operational military/intelligence series.
You are right that one does have to be careful to avoid the general paranoia common in US policy circles that label all Chinese activities with the most aggressive interpretation possible. But I think there's no question that a substantial subset of the Chinese space program involves military/intel objectives and assets. Just as ours does - seems like the Chinese government would be remiss if they did NOT have military intelligence, comms and nav systems for their national defense, although I would hope that both they and we refrain from further testing of space weapons and cut back on ballistic missile deployment and testing.