It shouldn’t be news to anyone that countries such as China and India are now big guns in the world economy, yet with that economic success experts are keeping a careful eye on how Asia is shaping up to flex that financial muscle in space.
Cold War competitiveness once fueled the developing programs of the United States and Soviet Union and what is of utmost concern is that this new space race could take on a distinctly militarized character without enough cooperation between countries.
"Where there's close cooperation in ESA [European Space Agency], there's very little peer-to-peer cooperation in Asia," [James Clay Moltz, an associate professor in the department of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School] said. "Asia really stands out as countries that are pursuing nationalistic policies in space. The major spacefaring nations in Asia simply don't cooperate, and I think that's a real problem. They also don't have a tradition of engaging in regional security dialogues and arms control. If the current Asian space race turns more into a military space competition, I see great instability."
China, Japan and India are the major players at this point, but Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan, are also expanding their involvement in space research projects, some in coordination with the major powers such as China’s Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization and Japan’s Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum. Despite these cooperative efforts, though, some see great potential for these technological advancements to exacerbate already-existing tensions, rather than fostering a larger scientific community in the region.
On the other hand, seeing that these programs are still relatively young, their future is not yet certain, according to Victoria Samson of the Secure World Foundation:
"A lot of it may be growing pains," she said. "When we look at it, we have the advantage of over 50 years of experience on space cooperation and space efforts. A lot of these countries are new at it, and it could be a bunch of independent actors now, but 15 or 20 years down the road, maybe things will solidify more into cooperative agreements."