In case you haven’t noticed, China just put its very own GPS network into service. Dubbed the Beidou system, it recently went active, providing positioning, navigation and timing services to Asian users.
Its not nearly as advanced or robust as the United States’ GPS II system, yet. China is investing heavily in space tech and this year it overtook the U.S. in number of space launches. Beijing rightly sees space tech, particularly systems like GPS and satellite comms as critical to operating on a global scale, in both military and economic terms.
While Chinese officials say the Beidou system is meant for civilian purposes, it’s obvious that the system — planned to consist of 35 satellites by 2020 — will free China from a reliance on U.S. GPS tech. I’ve got to wonder, how much of China’s GPS tech was developed from espionage against the U.S. system?