China promises state support to keep BeiDou satellite system at cutting edge

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The Ford badge and E-Transit logo are seen on a vehicle at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre in Dunton

The BeiDou-3 System (BDS) was officially commissioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday and is intended to compete with GPS of the United States, Russia’s Glonass and the European Union’s Galileo.

BeiDou spokesman Ran Chengqi said China’s “conquering of core technologies” and its attainment of self-reliance were the top achievements in the decades-long development. Speaking in Beijing on Monday, he said more than 500 key components for BDS had been “100 per cent made in China”.

China launches last piece of BeiDou Navigation Satellite system into orbit

Ran said China would continue to encourage Chinese enterprises to produce computer chips and other components for the BeiDou system through the use of tax policies, provisions of loans and the protection of intellectual property rights.

BDS is the latest stage of China’s satellite navigation system which has been in development for at least 30 years, gradually extending from domestic coverage, to the Asia-Pacific region and now to global positioning to within 10cm (four inches).

Ran said BeiDou products – including services for “smart ports” or surveying projects – had been sold to more than 120 countries. The overall output value for the system is expected to reach 400 billion yuan (US$57.3 billion) by the end of 2020, up around 16 per cent of the 345 billion yuan produced in 2019.

The launch of BDS will expand China’s global footprint in providing technological products to the world, and likely fuel China’s intensifying competition with the United States, which has long accused China’s rising tech firms like Huawei of competing unfairly with Western firms.

Though Ran made no mention of specific rivals, a commentary from state news agency Xinhua last month said the development of BDS indigenous technology would help China guarantee its own national security, against Washington’s “descending technological iron curtain”.

Ran said BDS was developed in cooperation with other international systems from the US, Russia and the European Union. “Of course, this is only the first stage,” he said.

“In the future, we must further promote cooperation in the application [of the system], technology, and further development. China has the confidence, strength and desire to continue to promote cooperation with other systems.”

Despite competition with existing services, BeiDou operators have worked with existing systems to ensure compatibility. US and Chinese officials have met regularly since 2014 to ensure interoperability between BDS and GPS, according to state department documents published last year.

Information exchange between the Galileo and BeiDou systems were part of the architecture of the EU-China strategic agenda for cooperation 2020, a document that has guided relations between the two parties for the past five years.

  • Beijing will continue to encourage development of components for home-grown global positioning system
  • More than 500 key components ‘100 per cent made in China’ as self-reliance and conquering of technology celebrated

Tony Simon

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