On October 26, 2014, Wang Jing, the Chairman of Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group ‘‘‘ held a press briefing to announce the launch during the previous month of a low-earth orbit satellite from Inner Mongolia in a joint venture with Tsinghua University. According to Mr. Wang, the satellite will be the first of at least 32 satellites that will form a mobile communications constellation. This project will reportedly make Xinwei the first private enterprise to invest in China‘s space industry. Specifically, Mr. Wang stated, ‘‘‘We’re planning to launch four satellites on one rocket over three years, to eventually set up a mobile communications constellation of at least 32 satellites.” Mr. Wang anticipates this project to be completed “ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China” in 2019. The satellite constellation project is reportedly designed to provide a cheaper alternative to foreign satellite communication providers in China as well as services priced at levels similar to terrestrial telecommunication services.
Mr. Wang is a well-known Chinese billionaire, with other high-profile businesses and projects, including a reported 50-year concession granted by Nicaragua in 2013 to build and operate a controversial new canal through the country that will link the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and compete directly with the Panama Canal. That project reportedly gives Mr. Wang considerable control over large swathes of Nicaraguan territory, as well as a number of related sub-projects, including two ports, a free trade zone, an airport and several high-end hotels.
The significance of the satellite constellation project is three-fold: 1) the space industry has traditionally been tightly controlled by China‘s military establishment; 2) Mr. Wang is reported to have ties to the Chinese military, which he denies; and 3) Mr. Wang has a history of business endeavors that have apparent strategic purposes or, at minimum, the potential to serve as ‘‘‘dual use‘ capabilities (i.e., with military as well as civilian applications). With regard to this latest announcement, Mr. Wang said that ‘‘‘no financial rewards‘ were expected from this investment over the short term and declared, ‘‘‘I made the decision because it was useful for the country‘‘_I did not really care about the company’s valuation.”