The crucial support offered to Ukraine by Elon Musk‘s SpaceX Starlink satellite internet service amid the Russian invasion may have garnered massive praise in the West, but China is seeing it differently.
What Happened: According to a Financial Times report, China, a critical growth market for Musk’s business empire, is probing Tesla Inc TSLA for its U.S. military links.
The company is under increasing pressure from Beijing’s national security and data regulator, threatening its access to the world’s biggest consumer market amid the rising tension between the Joe Biden administration and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Founder of specialist space technology research group Orbital Gateway, Blaine Curcio, told the publication that “significant alarm in China” had been caused because SpaceX and Starlink were considered critical parts of the “U.S. space military-industrial complex.”
Starlink currently has more than 2,000 satellites in low-earth orbit, and the world’s richest man, Musk, is planning to add more.
Why It Matters: The U.S.-China space race has accelerated amid the mounting fear on Beijing’s military planners that thousands of Musk’s satellites are being deployed to surveil China.
China had previously filed a complaint to the United Nations claiming its space station narrowly avoided being struck by SpaceX satellites.
The criticism intensified after Musk came to rescue Ukraine when its war with Russia left it bereft of internet service. An official publication of the People’s Liberation Army, China Military Online, last month criticized SpaceX’s deep links to the U.S. armed forces, including commercial contracts with the military.