Advancing China's space program is a priority for Beijing,
with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish
itself as a space power.
China insists its program is for peaceful purposes, but the U.S.
Defense Department has highlighted its increasing space
capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed to prevent
adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.
Apart from its civilian ambitions, Beijing has tested
anti-satellite missiles, and the U.S. Congress has banned NASA
from engaging in cooperation with its Chinese counterpart due to
Xu Dazhe, the chief of the China National Space Administration,
promised China's space plans would become "increasingly
"When I saw the U.S. film 'The Martian', which envisages China-U.S.
cooperation on a Mars rescue mission under emergency
circumstances, it shows that our U.S. counterparts very much
hope to cooperate with us," Xu told reporters at a briefing.
"However, it's very regrettable that, for reasons everyone is
aware of, there are currently some impediments to cooperation,"
China's space program would continue to serve national security
and economic interests, in what Beijing calls a "military-civil"
development strategy, Xu said, but added that such efforts would
be used in support of "world peace".
"I believe that on this matter, China is more and more open, and
I hope our American friends can take note," Xu said.
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China's space budget was still only about one-tenth of the United
States' outlays, Xu said, but he did not elaborate. According to
Chinese state media, China spends about $2 billion a year on its
space program, though details are vague.
Despite Washington's ban on cooperation, the two governments held
their first civil space talks in September to discuss each other's
plans and policies.
China said this week that it would launch a "core module" for its
first space station some time around 2018, part of a plan to have a
permanent manned space station in service around 2022.
China was also preparing to launch a Mars probe in 2020, which would
reach the planet in 2021, the official Xinhua news agency has said.
"The Martian", which depicts China supplying a rocket to launch a
NASA rescue package into orbit as part of a harrowing mission to
save a U.S. astronaut stranded on Mars, was a big success at the
Chinese box office.
(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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