Image: Shutterstock

What’s New: Growing awareness of multiple threats from China, including their huge

  • Tactical PNT advantage in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea
  • Strategic PNT advantage to the USA with
    • Ability to attempt to influence policy and actions by threats to GPS signals & satellites
    • Ability to damage US far more by GPS denial than they would suffer from GPS/BeiDou denial

Why It’s Important:

  • China increasingly assertive with soft and hard power
  • 74 year-old unmet goal of “reunifying” Taiwan with mainland
  • Huge imbalances in capability invites taking advantage.

Action Needed:  Government must follow through on two decade-old commitment to establish a National Resilient PNT Architecture. This will help:

  • Contain China, prevent war, protect Taiwan
  • Protect GPS by making it a less attractive target
  • Protect Americans during GPS disruptions, regardless of cause (Russia, China, hackers, severe solar weather, accident… – space is dangerous)


Defense Strategies Institute Assured PNT Summit, 10 & 11 May 2023Click here for agenda.

GPS & China’s “Unforgettable Humiliation”

Opening remarks by Moderator, Mr. Dana A. Goward, President, Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation

It was 1996, the year of The Unforgettable Humiliation. Outraged at Taiwan’s moves for international recognition of its independence, China mobilized 150,000 troops to Fujian Province on the shores of the Taiwan Strait. It conducted live fire exercises, a mock amphibious landing, and aggressive naval maneuvers. The United States immediately became involved and sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the area in what became known as the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis.

As part of its show of power, China fired three missiles into the Strait. The first landed as intended about 18 kilometers from Taiwan’s Keelung military base. The other two missiles were lost.

China said this was because the United States had altered or denied the GPS signals which the missiles used for guidance.

For the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) it became known as “The Unforgettable Humiliation.” But China plays the long game.

The Unforgettable Humiliation birthed a 24-year effort that resulted in BeiDou, a satellite navigation system superior in many ways to all others. Along the way it created a Chinese space industry worth tens of billions a year, unmanned trips to the far side of the moon, the PLA Strategic Support Force and Rocket Force, and a whole inventory of new cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic missiles.

And their efforts were not just in space. Having once been stung by the fragility of space systems, China also reinforced and built terrestrial GPS-like systems to provide essential positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) services. Precisely measured fiber runs enabled easy transmission of hyper-accurate time for future 5G networks and autonomy corridors. A high power, low frequency Loran system that reached across the country and 1,000 miles offshore was upgraded. In the words of one research paper, ‘we must have this in the event signals from space are no longer available.’

The creation of BeiDou and these other systems were China’s declaration of technological independence. No longer would the PLA or the rest of China be reliant on the west or on space for these crucial services.

For 5,000 years China was the most advanced and sophisticated society on the planet. Then came 150 years of oppression by the west with Opium Wars, military defeats, and unfair trade.

BeiDou and a space program challenging America’s showed “The Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation” was working. Finally, a great leap forward. President Xi was so pleased he moved the deadline for finishing the Great Rejuvenation up from 2049 to 2027.

And here we are in 2023 with a 70-year-old President Xi who, like his 70-year-old friend Vladimir Putin, is keenly aware that leaders don’t establish legacies in their 80’s. And like Putin, Xi has a highly prosperous breakaway province that has been a long-time thorn in his side and that needs to be brought back into the fold.

China is no longer emergent. It is back. And it still has scores to settle. Lots of them.

China has the world’s most resilient PNT architecture, a combination of space and terrestrial systems, while the U.S. relies almost entirely on fragile GPS signals. Such a huge strategic imbalance is dangerous. It is an open invitation to take advantage.

2024 is the Year of the Dragon, symbol of power, honor, luck, and success. President Xi very much wants to be China’s modern-day dragon.

October of 2024 also marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. 75 years of struggle and success. And 75 years of failure to reunify Taiwan with the mother country.

2024 could be a propitious year for China to give one of its perpetual critics and adversaries its own Unforgettable Humiliation.

America should be concerned and have a sense of urgency. We need to eliminate our huge strategic PNT imbalance as a part of maintaining regional and global stability. As part of deterring armed conflict.

We must do what the government has promised for almost 20 years. Promptly protect GPS and the nation with our own resilient PNT architecture and system of systems.

Else we risk humiliation. Or worse.