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May 23, 2024

China-Argentina Space Engagement

By R. Evan Ellis

This work examines China - Argentine Space Collaboration, with a focus on the PRC Operated Deep Space Radar Facility in Neuquén. It argues that in interest of national development, and in the context of hopes for benefit from Argentina’s broader relationship with China, in an era of less pronounced strategic competition between the PRC and the U.S., the prior Peronist government off Cristina Fernández de Kirchner made contractual commitments that provide limited benefits to Argentina, undercut national sovereignty, and create risks of PRC use of Argentine national territory for military purposes against the West in time of war. Argentine governments have worked professionally within significant constraints of a lack of regular access to the facility, to provide technical oversight. The Center-right governments of both Mauricio Macri and Javier Milei have made heightened efforts at control, but have been impeded by the details of the contract signed by the prior Fernández government and the difficulty in making current policy decisions about possible future PRC behavior regarding the military use of PC-operated space facilities in Argentina. The case study also showcases a broader set of risks and dilemmas for other governments in the region tempted to leverage PRC interest in engagement in the space domain to further real and symbolic national technical development.

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Keywords: People´s Republic of China (PRC), Argentina, Space Cooperation, Deep-Space Radar, Neuquén

Background photo of China and Argentina’s deep space ground station antennas from Wikimedia, April, 2022 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Estaci%C3%B3n_de_Espacio_Profundo_de_la_CLTC-CONAE-NEUQUEN_en_abril_2022_02.jpg)