Both the 2003 and 2004 editions of the U.S. Pentagon's Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China cite a January 2001 Hong Kong newspaper article that claims China has developed and tested an advanced anti-satellite (ASAT) system. This ASAT is described as a "parasitic microsatellite," that is, a small satellite that attaches itself to a larger satellite to disrupt or destroy the larger satellite on command.
The existence of such a system is clearly an important issue to the U.S. military and the Congress.
Yet an examination of the January 2001 newspaper story, which is the only source the Pentagon report gives for this claim, casts strong doubts on the credibility of the story.
We do not take a position on whether or not China might be developing such a weapon. However, the Pentagon's continued use of this article raises important issues about the quality of information that is being presented to Congress and the public on this and other issues. Such concerns are especially relevant given recent revelations about intelligence failures and the implications such failures can have.